‘At one point in time, we do feel leaving a legacy behind.’- Emil Ibakov from Jyrgalan, Kyrgyzstan got committed to this thought.
Jyrgalan is a remote village nestled in the mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan. It was once a thriving mining community but was abandoned after the Soviet Union collapsed. Emil had seen his hometown at the peak of its prosperity and also experienced the downfall of the destination. Although the town had gone through the crisis, it had not lost its charm.
Despite its dwindling population and his children’s protests, Emil’s love for his land and a thought of turning Jyrgalan into a most desirable tourism destination provoked him to move back to Jyrgalan, his hometown, after feeling called back.
There, he set out on an unlikely one-man social media campaign to lure tourists to its stellar backcountry lines and uncrowded mountain terrain, setting the wheels in motion for changes that not everyone was prepared for. He returned with an aim to turn Jyrgalan into the most desirable destination for tourists.
Now, Jyrgalan hosts more than 500 tourists a year who enjoyed the adventure activities, food and culture, and its outstanding hospitality. The key factor of Jyrgalan’s success has its balance between sharing culture and staying relevant to the changing world. Infrastructure, experiences, communication – each element was curated with the help of locals but ensured the best global standards were inculcated in the offers.
Destination Jyrgalan is more than an organization, it’s a community-led movement to use tourism as a force for positive change. The members of the Jyrgalan community have created a growing tourism industry that benefits the entire community while also giving tourists a unique chance to experience rural life in Kyrgyzstan. These efforts of connecting back to the destination and its people, making them part of new economic activities, and sharing its story with the right audience have given Jyrgalan its new identity.
Once a mining town, now known for skiing, trekking, cultural stays, food, and community experiences. This is the legacy of Jyrgalan.