Uzbekistan Reforms Hotel Rules in Effort to Boost Tourism

The Sher-Dor Madrasah is a famous monument located in Samarkand, a popular tourist destination in Uzbekistan. (Flickr)

The Sher-Dor Madrasah is a famous monument located in Samarkand, a popular tourist destination in Uzbekistan. (Flickr)

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev issued a decree on January 5 officially allowing unmarried couples to share a hotel room as part of a reform initiative to promote the country’s tourism industry. The announcement said that the move is intended to secure the “right to private life.”

Previously, as threads on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, and other travel forums indicate, many foreigners were troubled by the rule that unmarried people of different sexes were not supposed to stay in the same hotel room. The recent decree issued by Mirziyoyev now addresses this problem. “Hotel services must be provided regardless of individuals’ permanent addresses, citizenship, or status of their relations, including matrimonial relations,” it states.

This decree is part of the reform initiative Mirziyoyev undertook after coming to power in 2016 following the death of then-President Islam Karimov. As a former member of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan has struggled with ensuring civil rights since the U.S.S.R.’s disintegration. Mirziyoyev has indicated that he has long been planning reforms for Muslim-majority Uzbekistan.

Prior to this decree on unmarried couples, Uzbekistan also implemented other efforts to boost tourism. In 2018, Uzbekistan introduced a new e-visa system, and, according to the Independent, the number of foreign visitors has since doubled. Additionally, citizens from countries like France and South Korea, as well as other former Soviet states, were also exempted from acquiring a visa to enter Uzbekistan. In February 2019, tourists from more than 45 countries—including new additions Germany and the U.K.—can obtain a 30-day tourist visa upon entry.

Furthermore, in an initiative aimed at guaranteeing the rights of Uzbekistanis, the exit visa system was abolished on January 1. Previously, Uzbekistanis were required to obtain a visa if they wanted to leave the country. Critics against this system characterized it as targeting “dissidents and independent journalists.” In mid-2017, Mirziyoyev signed a decree to abolish the system by January 1, 2019, and Uzbek citizens now use the country’s ordinary biometric passport to travel abroad.