Mr. Dean Reeder, former National Tourism Director for the U.S. National Park Service and ecotourism expert visited Uzbekistan from September 8-14. Supported by Embassy Tashkent, Mr. Reeder led seminars on “Ecotourism Development” for Government of Uzbekistan officials at the Zaamin National Park and at the headquarters of the Main Forestry Department in Tashkent. He also met with the staff of the Ugam-Chatkal National Park in Bostanlyk, the staff of the Main Management of Gaming and Hunting in Bekobod, and led a discussion with the Chairman and staff of Uzbektourism. During the seminars and meetings, Mr. Reeder shared his experience, thoughts, and views for the future of ecotourism in Uzbekistan.
Drawing upon his experience at the U.S. National Park Service, Mr. Reeder highlighted to interlocutors that ecotourism is a low-impact (social, environmental and economic), small-scale alternative to standard commercial tourism which involves visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas. The principles that underlie ecotourism, he told participants, should be “the maintenance of essential ecological processes, bio-diversity, and non-renewable resources,” and to make sure that touristic activities are compatible with the heritage and character of Uzbekistan.
Mr. Reeder’s seminars reached a number of interested stakeholders, including park officials, ministry representatives, forestry specialists and scientists, journalists, local government authorities, and operators of local tourism enterprises. In addition to a clear understanding of what ecotourism is and what it is not, seminar participants learned about the role of state and local government and public-private partnerships in park management, conservation, and environmental issues in the U.S. Officials generally agreed that Mr. Reeder’s seminars were an important contribution to Uzbekistan’s ongoing dialogue on diversifying its tourism sector, and expressed interest to continue to develop ecotourism in the country.
Mr. Reeder’s visit was sponsored by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs’ (IIP) Speaker Program, and supported Embassy Tashkent’s initiative to help to improve environmental awareness in Uzbekistan. In 2015, Embassy Tashkent plans on hosting two additional speakers on environmental issues through the IIP program.