By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan plans to make its tourism sector more attractive by opening Tourism Bureau and Department of Strategic Studies. The Land of Fire seeks to become a world-renowned tourist destination and already works to develop this industry by, among other things, developing its service industry.
To further promote the sector, the Association of Hotels and Restaurants established the Department of Strategic Studies for the hospitality and tourism industries.
Chairman of the Association Board Samir Dubendi noted that, today, the government pays special attention to the development of the non-oil sector.
“In recent years, an extensive tourism infrastructure was established in the country, due to oil revenues, new hotels were constructed, and projects carried out to increase gas, electricity and water supplies, and international airports and highways were built and commissioned. These have created opportunities for the development of tourism in the country,” said Dubendi.
He went on to add that, in this situation, there is an urgent need to better understand the industry, and explore and apply the most appropriate tourism technologies.
“The Department will conduct research in the hospitality industry and tourism field, identify strengths and weaknesses in the industry, without knowledge of which it is impossible to develop,” he said.
It was also noted that there are a number of gaps in the hospitality industry, tourism and service sectors. Pricing policies, taxation, licensing, statistical figures, the lack of professional staff, poor vocational education and other existing problems hinder the development of the industry. The Department of Strategic Research, conducting various surveys and studies, will try to determine how to find solutions to existing problems.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association Muzaffar Agakerimov said the Bureau is conducting two-month training courses for tour guides.
“The free courses will train specialists in the tourism area, providing knowledge about different foreign languages, including the languages of the East, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, English, Spanish, and many others. At present, there is a shortage of new staff in this area. Azerbaijan needs educated and competent guides. It will be more appropriate if tour guides provide foreign guests and tourists with services in their native languages,” said Agakerimov.
He went on to add that 25 people were selected out of 150 who wanted to work in the Bureau.
“Not only must applicants have language skills, but also a degree of familiarity with Azerbaijan, as their knowledge about culture and art, architecture and geography is assessed during the selection,” he stressed.
After completing the course, the prospective guide will have to pass a certification exam from the Culture and Tourism Ministry. With this certificate, the guide is able to work in the tourism industry.
The training of guides will continue in the future due to the fact that professional guides are the best options for tourists who seek to explore a country in-depth.
At present, Azerbaijan is one of the most attractive countries in the region, due to its location and developing infrastructure. The country attracts mostly tourists from Russia, Turkey, Georgia, and Iran, who make up roughly 95 percent of Azerbaijan’s tourist base.
Over 2.5 million tourists arrived in Azerbaijan in 2014. The country is expected to increase its flow of tourists to up to 5 million per year in the future.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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