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Experts View
 

Statistical figures in Azerbaijan Tourism in 2013, MICE development, latest efforts of the tourism authority, new regulations of visa procedures and more...

Interview with Nazim Samadov, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan

For 2013, how many visitors did Azerbaijan receive?

Statistical figures of 2013, show that Azerbaijan was visited approximately by 200 662 visitors only in March. When it comes to 2012, according to statistics, around 2 484 000 visitors came to Azerbaijan. The growth in numbers of coming visitors was around 10.9 % in comparison with the previous year.
How many of these came from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)? Was there an increase of MENA travelers over 2012?
Talking about annual reports, the numbers of visitors were followed in an increasing way from 2011 to 2012: 
 Year       visitor_
   2011      202 137 
  2012      295 326
As seen from the information above 2012 has demonstrated about 46% increase in number of visitors compared to 2011. Another fact worth to be mentioned is that dominant country in sending travelers to Azerbaijan among MENA countries was Iran. 
The ministry has established the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau to develop its MICE Tourism. Why do you consider MICE a potential market for the country? 
Azerbaijan has significant potential for MICE tourism and socio-economic changes that have occurred over the last 15 years have made Baku as a city of European standard, one of the business centers of the region.  All this is reflected in the infrastructure: the capital of Azerbaijan possesses hotel fund, catering, places for conducting different types of events - negotiations, workshops, conferences, presentations, seminars, congresses, forums, festivals, concerts, exhibitions, and of course, banquets and cocktails. Today centers like Haydar Aliyev Centre, Baku Expo Center, renovated buildings, concert halls and theaters, conference rooms located within brand hotels etc. prove that Azerbaijan is ready to improve of all types of business tourism. Considering this and many other facts he Ministry of Culture and Tourism has established the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau (ACB) to develop its MICE segment. The bureau has been created with the purpose of promoting business tourism.  The ACB's main focus will be the hosting of international events in Azerbaijan, promoting business tourism and participation in international tenders for events. We should also mention that in addition to some steps on construction of new infrastructure, and hosting business events about Azerbaijan, we plan a lot of conventions for coming years as well as of other countries which’s supposed to bring thousands of visitors to our country. For this reason, the Government of Azerbaijan has done a lot of works for convenience of potential visitors organizing international flights in new direction and simplifying of visa procedures.   
A new law in the field of tourism is to be adopted in Azerbaijan. How is it going to differentiate the tourism product and improve tourism services in the country?
A new law in the field of Tourism is about to be ready for adoption. After preparation of its first version it was analyzed by UNWTO specialists and brought back to be modified. Modification of the new Tourism Law which will embrace some new aspects as well as many adjusted ones is expected to be finished very soon. We strongly believe that the final version of the Law will be relevant to all European and World Standards on tourism helping our tourism industry to integrate to them in a rapid way.  
Which are the latest efforts of the authority to attract international tourists and MENA travelers in particular? How does the tourist industry cater for the Middle East customers?
Azerbaijan authorities have done tremendous amount of works for recent years to attract more international tourists from all over the world including MENA countries as well. Some big projects of recent years, hosting of tourism events such as Eurovision Song Contest, followed by the International Gabala Festival of Classic Music, then by the U17 Women Football World Cup in September 2012, International Jazz Festival and International Humanitarian Forum in October, International Mugam Festival held bi-annually, International Theatre Conference in November, International Rostropovich Festival in December, 2nd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and finally Baku 2015 European Olympic Games which will be held in Azerbaijan could be good examples to these works.  Advertisement campaigns at CNN, Euronews, Travel Channel and Eurosport, more than 20 tourism exhibitions that we attend every year and printing materials and publications about the country are other assets of our long term development strategy in this sector. We are participating at around 20 major tourist exhibitions and fairs every year presenting the country in all its varieties, bringing national travel agencies with us, so they can expand their business contacts with tourist organizations from around the world. Also, the e-visa system is currently being implemented allowing visitors to Azerbaijan to obtain their visas via travel agencies within short time frames and without need for going to embassies personally. 
Recently Azerbaijan introduced the electronic visa facility.  How is this expected to boost tourism figures?
First, as in some countries long visa procedures were one of the main reasons preventing possible visits to Azerbaijan from Europe and other regions. With the adoption of new regulations of visa procedures and the launched project on application of electronic visas for tourists traveling to Azerbaijan since 15th March of the current year, it became much easier to attract visitors from foreign countries. Today we can say that the e-visas are successfully issued in Azerbaijan and waiting for its benefits in near future. Besides one of the main advantages of these regulations is that now, tourists can obtain visa without going to embassy or consulate, and all this procedures can be organized via tour agencies.   

Statistical figures of 2013, show that Azerbaijan was visited approximately by 200 662 visitors only in March. When it comes to 2012, according to statistics, around 2 484 000 visitors came to Azerbaijan. The growth in numbers of coming visitors was around 10.9 % in comparison with the previous year.

 

How many of these came from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)? Was there an increase of MENA travelers over 2012?

Talking about annual reports, the numbers of visitors were followed in an increasing way from 2011 to 2012: 

Year         Visitors

2011      202 137 

2012      295 326

 

As seen from the information above 2012 has demonstrated about 46% increase in number of visitors compared to 2011. Another fact worth to be mentioned is that dominant country in sending travelers to Azerbaijan among MENA countries was Iran. 

 

The ministry has established the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau to develop its MICE Tourism. Why do you consider MICE a potential market for the country? 

Azerbaijan has significant potential for MICE tourism and socio-economic changes that have occurred over the last 15 years have made Baku as a city of European standard, one of the business centers of the region.  All this is reflected in the infrastructure: the capital of Azerbaijan possesses hotel fund, catering, places for conducting different types of events - negotiations, workshops, conferences, presentations, seminars, congresses, forums, festivals, concerts, exhibitions, and of course, banquets and cocktails.

Today centers like Haydar Aliyev Centre, Baku Expo Center, renovated buildings, concert halls and theaters, conference rooms located within brand hotels etc. prove that Azerbaijan is ready to improve of all types of business tourism. Considering this and many other facts he Ministry of Culture and Tourism has established the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau (ACB) to develop its MICE segment. The bureau has been created with the purpose of promoting business tourism.  The ACB's main focus will be the hosting of international events in Azerbaijan, promoting business tourism and participation in international tenders for events.

We should also mention that in addition to some steps on construction of new infrastructure, and hosting business events about Azerbaijan, we plan a lot of conventions for coming years as well as of other countries which’s supposed to bring thousands of visitors to our country. For this reason, the Government of Azerbaijan has done a lot of works for convenience of potential visitors organizing international flights in new direction and simplifying of visa procedures.   

 

A new law in the field of tourism is to be adopted in Azerbaijan. How is it going to differentiate the tourism product and improve tourism services in the country?

A new law in the field of Tourism is about to be ready for adoption. After preparation of its first version it was analyzed by UNWTO specialists and brought back to be modified. Modification of the new Tourism Law which will embrace some new aspects as well as many adjusted ones is expected to be finished very soon.

We strongly believe that the final version of the Law will be relevant to all European and World Standards on tourism helping our tourism industry to integrate to them in a rapid way.  

 

Which are the latest efforts of the authority to attract international tourists and MENA travelers in particular? How does the tourist industry cater for the Middle East customers?

Azerbaijan authorities have done tremendous amount of works for recent years to attract more international tourists from all over the world including MENA countries as well.

Some big projects of recent years, hosting of tourism events such as Eurovision Song Contest, followed by the International Gabala Festival of Classic Music, then by the U17 Women Football World Cup in September 2012, International Jazz Festival and International Humanitarian Forum in October, International Mugam Festival held bi-annually, International Theatre Conference in November, International Rostropovich Festival in December, 2nd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and finally Baku 2015 European Olympic Games which will be held in Azerbaijan could be good examples to these works.  

Advertisement campaigns at CNN, Euronews, Travel Channel and Eurosport, more than 20 tourism exhibitions that we attend every year and printing materials and publications about the country are other assets of our long term development strategy in this sector.

We are participating at around 20 major tourist exhibitions and fairs every year presenting the country in all its varieties, bringing national travel agencies with us, so they can expand their business contacts with tourist organizations from around the world.

Also, the e-visa system is currently being implemented allowing visitors to Azerbaijan to obtain their visas via travel agencies within short time frames and without need for going to embassies personally. 

 

Recently Azerbaijan introduced the electronic visa facility.  How is this expected to boost tourism figures?

First, as in some countries long visa procedures were one of the main reasons preventing possible visits to Azerbaijan from Europe and other regions.

With the adoption of new regulations of visa procedures and the launched project on application of electronic visas for tourists traveling to Azerbaijan since 15th March of the current year, it became much easier to attract visitors from foreign countries.

Today we can say that the e-visas are successfully issued in Azerbaijan and waiting for its benefits in near future. Besides one of the main advantages of these regulations is that now, tourists can obtain visa without going to embassy or consulate, and all this procedures can be organized via tour agencies.   

 

Do You Know

  • 1st European Olympic Games
    1st European Olympic Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan during 2015. The European Games is a multi-sport event for athletes from all over Europe and is held every four years. The European Games were created at the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committees on December 9th, 2012 in Rome, Italy, when 84% of the National Olympic Committee of Europe voted for the creation of the European Games. The first edition of the European Games took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, during June 2015. The Opening Ceremony took place on Friday, June 12th, and the closing ceremony on Sunday, June 28th, 2015.
  • Baku Multinational City
    That Baku is one of the most multinational cities in the world. Here, for centuries reside people from more than 50 nationalities - Azerbaijanis, Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Georgians, Jews, Lezghins, Tatars, Germans, Polishs, Greeks, Turks, Tats, Talish and representatives of other nationalities and other ethnic groups.
  • Naftalan Oil
    That the oil is the only oil in the world for medical feature.The deposit is situated 50 km away from the Ganja city of Azerbaijan. Nafthalan oil is famous in the world as the exclusive means with healing properties of bone - joint, skin, gynecological diseases and urological diseases, nervous, gynecological, and urological and skin diseases, as well as liver diseases, rheumatic joints, and soft tissues outside of the support apparatus.
  • Mud Volcanoes
    That Azerbaijan is considered as a homeland of mud volcanoes. Azerbaijan ranks first in the world in the number of mud volcanoes. Mud volcanoes in origin related to oil and gas fields. At the international competition of Swiss non-profit organization of the "Seven Wonders of Nature", mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan took 5th place. The largest mud volcano in the world, located on the territory of Azerbaijan, entered the Guinness Book.
  • highest world’s flag-post
    That the Flag-post of Azerbaijan State Flag is the highest world’s flag-post! That was confirmed by Guinness World Records in May 2010. The height of the supporting block erected in the square of 20000 m² is 162 m, diameter of the foundation - 3,2 m, the diameter of the top surface – 1,09 m. The width of the Flag is 35 m, length – 70 m, total area – 2450 m² and the weight – 350 kg.
  • Salty Mountain
    That the only one in the world Salty Mountain, in the south region of Azerbaijan is famous both for it's pure salt and healing peculiarities. It's natural resources make 90 million tonnes. The salt was extracted here 6 thousand years ago. Before world-wide known “Silk Way” there was “Salt Way” extending from Nakhchivan to the countries of Middle East. Here operates the Salt Mountain Physiotherapy Center which is famous all over the world.
  • Burning Mountain Yanardag
    That as one of the wonders of the world is considered a Burning Mountain Yanardag, is a mountain near Baku that continuously vents flames of fires all year round a process that has been going around for 1000 years. Natural gas vents on the sides of the mountains make sure that the flames don’t subdue inspite of rain.
  • Caspian Sea
    That the Caspian Sea is the world’s largest inland body of water with a surface area of 371,000 km² (143,000 sq. m.), and therefore has characteristics common to both - sea and lake! It is often listed as the world's largest lake, though it is not a freshwater one. The Caspian Sea is unique ecological system with rich natural resources, which include mineral, biological, agro-climatical, balneological, and recreational components.
  • Caspian Seal
    That the only specimen of the pinnipeds that is included into the Guinness Book Records as the smallest seal in the World Ocean. This endemic species is spread only in the Caspian Sea. Caspian Seal is enlisted in “Red Book” of International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • Ashabi-Kahf
    That Ashabi-Kahf in Azerbaijan is one of the world's rare sanctuaries. Ashabi-Kahf is a Sanctuary located in the natural cave between Ilandag and Nahajir Mountains, approximately 12 km away from the city of Nakhchivan of Azerbaijan. Acquaintance with the structure, the natural geographical conditions of the cave allows to say, that it was one of the world’s early settlements.
  • ironwood Demiragach
    That the wonder of nature ironwood Demiragach is growing in the south region of Azerbaijan and is one of the rare plants of the World. It is very interesting that this tree neither burns in the fire and not sink. It is impossible to drive a nail into this tree either. Duration of life of the tree growing in the Talysh woods is more than 200 years.
  • That the most beautiful example of ornamental weaving is "Ardebyl Carpet" or "Sheikh Safi Carpet", which was woven in Tabriz (Azerbaijan) in 1539 by the request of Sephevi Monarch Tahmasib I for Ardebil Mosque. The carpet of 56,12 sq.m. size is stored in "Victoria and Albert" Museum in London and was considered as the largest carpet in the world for a long time.
  • Shirali Muslimov
    That Azeri Shirali Muslimov was one of the long-lived inhabitants of the world (168 years). He was born in Barzavu village of Lerik region in 1805 and died in 1973. Shirali Muslumov was married 3 times and had 23 children. In 1966 Azerbaijani film studio shooted a documentary film about him “Shirali descended from the mountain”. He became a father of his daughter when he was 136 years old. He was included into Guinness Book Records for longevity.
  • Mugham Center
    That the first and the only one in the world International Mugam Center was built in the capital of Azerbaijan Baku. The form of the building has a unique design and reminds one of the ancient musical instruments of Azerbaijan - tar. Equipment necessary for the building constructed using the state-of-the art technology was brought from Italy, Austria, France and Turkey.
  • Azerbaijan Oil
    The facts about Azerbaijan Oil. That here, the first-ever oil well has been drilled, for the first time in world practice the oil recovery project on the sea has been carried out. Since 70th years of XIX century oil industrial extraction begins and to beginning ХХ of century almost half of world's reserves of oil is extracted in Baku. Oil Rocks near Baku are included to the list Guinness World Records as the oldest offshore oil platform. The Nobel Prize consists of Alfred Nobel's capital, achieved from exploitation of the Baku oil.

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