LONDON — Borat, the spoof blundering reporter from Kazakhstan, actually boosted tourism in the central Asian country, a Kazakh tourism minister said.
Kenzhebay Satzhanov, deputy chairman in Kazakhstan’s tourism and sports ministry, told AFP that British comic Sacha Baron Cohen’s character had helped put the country on the map.
“It was free of charge advertising and lots of people want to come and see our country,” he said through a translator at the four-day annual World Travel Market tourism industry fair in London, which closes Thursday.
“The rise (in tourists was) maybe not so huge like we expected but in any case we saw interest.”
The 2006 smash hit film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” offended some by portraying the country as full of backward quasi-mediaeval racists who drink horse urine.
Kazakhstan’s government was initially angered by the film, but its response softened amid the publicity it brought.
“The first glance was not of course positive, it cannot be because you see a lot of not so good things,” Satzhanov said.
“But then, after that, when we start seeing interest in our country, it was of course reflected better, it was positive.
“People, after looking at this film, they will like to come and see: ‘is it real, is it the same or not?’ It helps to learn more about our country.
“Every year they organise a familiarisation trip for international journalists and they had around 15 trips and they could see by their eyes how the country is, is it like Borat told?
“This film was made in Romania, it’s a very poor country.”
Satzhanov said Borat had still not taken up his invite to visit Kazakhstan.
The country’s three major tourist development projects — the completely new Aktau City beach resort on the Caspian Sea coast, Borovoye and Kapchagay lake — were unaffected by the global financial downturn, Satzhanov said.
“The result of six months’ statistics showed that inbound tourism grew by 13 percent,” he said.
“At the moment, no problem.”