Azerbaijan diversifies its tourism sector

The Azerbaijan capital Baku ... a niche destination

The key focus of Azerbaijan’s tourism development strategy is diversification of tourism products and get into the new, untapped and niche markets which could bring thousands of potential tourists to the new emerging destination.

The number of foreign tourists travelling to Azerbaijan has reached more than 2 million. 'We do believe these figures will be higher by the end of 2016 and in the coming years. This will help us increase the country’s tourism competitiveness in the world tourism market,' says Abulfaz Garayev, Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

'Today we can proudly say that Azerbaijan has all the necessary elements for a tourism destination such as hospitality, rich historic and cultural heritage, beautiful natural landscape, delicious cuisine and at the same time a very favourable geographical location. Due to the unique characteristics of the all-year round destination now we can host all types of tourism activities in our country,' he says.

Currently, there are projects implemented for the modernisation and expansion of the transportation networks to and from Azerbaijan. One of the major projects worth mentioning is the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad delivering the capability for cargo and tourist transportation to Turkey with further tie-in potential to European railroad networks, he says.

Garayev says understanding the importance of tourism sector, the aim of the government is to achieve the diversification of the economy, ensure balanced regional and sustainable socio-economic development, as well as, bring down unemployment and poverty through the tourism industry.

Garayev ... new destinations

The ministry has also formulated the draft 'Strategy for developing tourism in Azerbaijan for 2016-2025'. This document reflects the current situation in Azerbaijan’s tourism sphere, its development potential and the government’s role in developing tourism, he says.

The minister says creating better infrastructure will enable the country to satisfy even the most demanding of travellers from different parts of the world. Azerbaijan has diverse attractions to offer its visitors. 'So we continuously follow the world market trends, modernise and upgrade our services to make Azerbaijan the ultimate tourism destination offering unparalleled variety of travel and holiday experiences,' he says.

Azerbaijan is a country with a unique climate. The climate enables the country to organise summer and winter holidays. Untouched nature, mineral springs, the world’s only oil field treatment – naftalan, unique ancient architecture, unique culture, cuisine, and more, contribute to the formation of all types of tourism in Azerbaijan.

'We have business, ski, sport, medical, cognitive, hunting, exotic, beach and even gastronomic adventures. World-renowned hotels, recreation, entertainment and sports centres also operate in the regions of Azerbaijan.

'We do understand that for all segments of tourism we need to work a lot on development and improvement of infrastructure. In some segments however, we already did something and this can be seen as the first steps towards this long-term process.'

Examples of this are the Shah-Dag skiing resort which was built in the Northern part of Azerbaijan and planned to be the largest skiing facility in Europe with capability to receive 5,000 at once, and the Tufandag ski centre, the other successful project which was opened in Gabala this year.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is showcasing the country as an upmarket, holiday destination to the trade and to the public at ATM.

The republic is offering visa on arrival for GCC nationals coming to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for the 67th season of the FIA Formula One World Championship happening from June 17 to 19, 2016. It will be the first Grand Prix to be held in Azerbaijan, says Fahad Muhammed, senior marketing officer, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Repulic of Azerbaijan.

Baku City Circuit is the second longest F1 track on the calendar, with a length slightly over six kilometres as an anti-clockwise layout. The specially constructed street track will see F1 cars race around the stunning downtown area of Baku, incorporating its Unesco-protected old city – Icheri Sheher – as well as its modern skyline.