16 Aug 2013
When our colleagues from Montenegro shared their experience on communities in rural areas using Foursquare to market their areas and invite tourists, we didn’t think it was feasible to test it in Kyrgyzstan (low smart phone penetration, internet coverage and IT literacy in rural areas - to name just a few reasons).
But good things spread quickly, and over the last year we’ve seen a marked increase of Foursquare usage in capital, Bishkek, and noticed that more tourists use it to get information such as where to go, what to do, how’s the services, and so on (having Kyrgyzstan institute a visa free regime, as a first country in the region to do so, has helped increase numbers of incoming tourists). So now we have a foursquare-plan:
1. More tourists come to Kyrgyzstan on the way to someplace else (e.g. Silk Road) than to stay in Kyrgyzstan- we would like to try and change this by having communities ‘talking’ directly to tourists via Foursquare on what they should see and where they should go. This should address the most prevalent feedback from visitors - difficulty in accessing relevant tourism information.
2. We will test our idea in Naryn city, a place that some of our colleagues from Montenegro called ‘Grand Canyon of Central Asia.’ Despite its central location on the Silk Road (or maybe because of it), according to our tourism experts 63% of all visitors stay one night only in the city. These ‘transit’ tourists miss out on a variety of adventure, culture, and historical tourism stories that Naryn can tell.
3. We will borrow from our Montenegrin colleagues in doing this, but we hope to add few Kyrgyz-specific twists to the idea such as partnering with telecommunication providers for enabling push notifications that would market our “Foursquare stories” to tourists, and organizing a student competition for best stories from Naryn province.
We already have solid support from our UNDP office in Montenegro, and hope to be able to bounce ideas off their digital NGO partners ‘DigitalizujMe’ and Foursquare super-user Bojan Cincur - two major reasons for their success. But more broadly, if YOU have done something similar, if you have tips for us on engaging communities for a more effective story-telling, if you have ideas how to better market our idea to international tourists - we would love to talk to you, so please get in touch! And stay tuned - in our next update, we will be sharing new stories from Naryn province!
UNDP in Kyrgyzstan