Last year, Azerbaijan received more than 1.6 million international visits – 103 per cent more than 2021.
“Although the numbers are around 50 per cent below 2019, some countries and regions show as high as 99 per cent recovery rate,” said Florian Sengstschmid, Chief Executive Officer of Azerbaijan Tourism Board.
Among top 15 visiting countries were United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Germany and UK, along with other neighbouring countries.
“Three countries among top 15 show very high recovery rate, such as Turkiye -98 per cent recovery, Saudi Arabia- 91 per cent recovery, and India – 90 per cent recovery. Overall, South Asian market shows 99 per cent recovery,” he added.
“To further strengthen our support to Middle Eastern tourists, we have signed an MoU with Flynas airlines to promote activities and exchange experiences between Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan. Currently, there are thrice-weekly flights between Baku and Riyadh. Next summer, Flynas is planning to double their flights and bring more Saudi tourists to Azerbaijan. Moreover, there are four flights to Baku from Riyadh and three flights from Jeddah and Dammam.
“Since we have been reinforcing so many activities and plan for more in the next couple of years, we are considering activating regional airports together with our airline partners in GCC,” Sengstschmid tells TTN.
One of the trends that Azerbaijan Tourism Board would like to focus on is winter tourism, which lately has been very popular among tourists.
Sengstschmid says: “While Middle Eastern travellers are already quite enthusiastic about winter resorts in Azerbaijan, we hope to see an increase in numbers and hope that more tourists can discover the beauty of winter tourism in Azerbaijan in 2023. The range of icy-colours, and luxury resorts with all the necessary equipment are perfect to get away in winter for skiing in Shahdag and Tufandag Mountain Resorts.
“The resorts are constructed in such a way that everything you are looking for is located in one place: scenic views with high-class hotels, spas, restaurants as well as different thrilling sports and leisure activities. Everyone from the beginner to professional skier can relish over kilometres of pistes. Non-skiers can also have fun choosing among a number of activities such as off-road tours, paragliding, cycling, trottinette and cable car rides overlooking the majestic mountains.”
In 2022, Shahdag Mountain Resort added a new Gaya Residence to their complex in order to welcome more visitors. The infrastructure work has been executed for the extension of the skiing slopes leading to the overall length of 30 kilometres.
In 2022, restoration and conservation works have been implemented at important national attractions in the realm of the protection and sustainable management of national heritage. This included extensive infrastructure update in heritage sites, such as the UNESCO site Sheki, Basgal, Khinalig and Diribaba complex.
Also in 2022, the breath-taking Khinalig village was included in UNESCO’s Tentative list. Khinalig is one of the highest villages in Azerbaijan and its people are considered one of the most ancient ethnic groups in Azerbaijan and have their own unique Khinalig language, spoken exclusively in the village.
“We are happy to share that this year Shamakhi has been declared the touristic capital of the Turkic States. Shamakhi is a family-friendly destination with many outdoor touristic experiences, including Shamakhi Safari Park, Shamakhi Alpaca farm and the largest astrophysical observatory in the Caucasus. We are sure that adding Shamakhi to your itinerary would be a win-win situation for all the members of your family. Our colleagues are planning more interesting activities in Shamakhi this year, which will be soon shared with the public,” says Sengstschmid.
Furthermore, the development of hiking routes will continue in 2023 with new additions to the list. New hiking routes in Ismayilli, Tovuz, Guba-Gusar-Gabala route, Goygoy as well as in newly liberated territories – Shusha and Kalbajar-Lachin route are expected to open this year.
“We continue to build our brand focusing more on authentic and sustainable experiences in Azerbaijan. With the growing interest in eco-tourism, we have been working on ways to create sustainable tourism experiences. Slow Food Travel Azerbaijan launched in 2021 in the northwest of Azerbaijan will be expanded to the south of the country in 2023.
“Additionally, we focus on reinforcing outdoor and adventure activities in the regions. One of the new additions has been a paragliding spot at Beshbarmag, which has been actively utilised by travellers since its launch in 2022.”
In December 2022, The Ritz-Carlton opened in Baku. In 2023, the opening of other internationally recognized hotels such as Mövenpick Winter Park Baku and Mercure Baku is expected. As part of the domestic tourism strategy, tremendous progress has been made in evaluating and developing the tourism potential of the liberated territories in Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. Opening of new hotels in these regions, specifically Shusha and Aghdam, is also planned to be carried out in 2023.