By Nigar Orujova
Economic instability in the world could not prevent a successful tourism season in Azerbaijan, as more than 47,500 tourists visited the Land of Fire this summer.
Azerbaijan was visited by 47,545 tourists from abroad from June 1 to August 31, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
Compared with last summer, this figure grew by 8.2 percent. The spike is related to the major international event the country successfully held in June -- the inaugural European Games.
Earlier the Foreign Ministry reported that over 28,000 foreign tourists visited Azerbaijan during the Baku 2015 Games, which gathered 6,000 athletes from around Europe, to compete in 20 sports on June 12-28.
The majority of the foreigners who obtained tickets to watch the European Games were citizens of Russia, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, the US, and the United Arab Emirates.
There were 608,233 tourists staying in hotels and similar facilities operating in the northern, northwestern, western and southern regions of Azerbaijan in this period, 560,688 of whom were local tourists.
Studies shows that most foreign tourists -- 22,286 in total -- enjoy staying in Shamakhi-Ismayilli region, while local tourists to prefer spend their holidays in Guba-Khachmaz region.
However, despite the increase in the flow of tourists during the summer, in general, a 10 percent decrease has been noted in the tourism sector of the country in the first eight months of the year.
This decline is a result of a decrease in the number of tourists coming from Russia and Georgia, as the Land of Fire is specifically attractive mainly to tourists from the region -- namely Russia, Turkey, Georgia and Iran -- who make 95 percent of Azerbaijan’s tourist base.
Economic difficulties in these countries are affecting the number of tourists. For instance, the number of tourists from Russia fell by about 87,000.
However, the growth of tourist flow from Europe, Gulf countries, and even Africa is a positive sign.
Today, the country can accommodate over 35,000 tourists in its 530 hotels.
Moreover, a number of tourist facilities in Azerbaijan have reduced prices for their services. Roughly 30 percent of hotels operating in the regions of the country have reduced prices by about 10-15 percent by the end of the summer season.
The results for this summer season suggest that hotels in Azerbaijan are filled to at least 92-93 percent capacity on the weekends.
Today, the country is in 36th place among 141 countries in competitiveness in the tourism sector, according to the latest figures of the World Economic Forum.
Last year, Azerbaijan hosted over 2 million tourists, amounting to about one billion manat (over $950,000 million) in revenue from tourism. In the near future, the country seeks to increase its tourist flow up to 5 million a year.
Currently, Azerbaijan is preparing to host global events like the Formula 1 race in 2016, Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017, and the quarterfinals and three group games of the Euro 2020. These world famous competitions will surely promote the country as a tourist destination around the world.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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