In late 2016, six families from Jyrgalan village joined together to form the Jyrgalan Destination Management Organization (DMO). These families shared a common mission: build a tourism industry that would bring economic opportunities to the local community, create jobs, and increase the quality of life for local residents.
This was a tall order when the organization was first founded — tourism did not even exist in Jyrgalan in 2015. Jyrgalan was once a prosperous mining town during Soviet times, but had fallen on hard times during the 1990s and 2000s. Locals had few job prospects — herding was the sole economic activity open to most. The village was a place many hoped to escape. It hardly seemed the ideal location for a tourism development project.
Yet the founding DMO members and stakeholders believed the valley’s natural beauty provided the perfect opportunity to develop and promote the numerous year-round outdoor activities available. And as a small village, the community could also offer travelers the unique opportunity to experience Kyrgyz hospitality and traditions.
From the start, the organization prioritized two things:
The DMO is an inclusive rather than exclusive organization, meaning it believes in community involvement and engagement, and understands that to boost tourism they need engagement of many, rather than few. All activities are designed to empower people within the local community, and the DMO has a mandate to increase economic livelihood opportunities associated with the tourism sector. Even more, the DMO runs as a social enterprise, which means a percentage of all tourism revenues in the town are used to further the organization’s mission to create projects and opportunities that benefit the community. This unique structure ensures that every family involved in the DMO sees benefit on an individual basis, but also collectively as a group, and as a community. To accomplish these goals, the DMO collects 20% from equipment use and rental, and 10% from guesthouse bookings.
Since its founding, the DMO — operating as “Destination Jyrgalan” — has effectively marketed and promoted Jyrgalan to external markets, both domestic and international. Numerous outreach campaigns throughout 2017 have successfully positioned Jyrgalan as an emerging destination of choice for adventure tourism in Kyrgyzstan. During its first year-and-a-half of operations, the DMO was fully supported and made possible by the support of the American people through the United