By Mirsaid Ibrahimzade
The long-awaited Formula 1 SOCAR Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2019 will be held in the streets of the country's capital on April 26-28. Usually held in spring, the racing event in Baku may change its season in future.
Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sports, has stated that Azerbaijan is negotiating to change the time of Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“At present, the Formula 1 World Championship consists of the 21 stages. The first competition in our country took place in June. We are negotiating to hold competitions in subsequent years in June. Currently, 4 countries are waiting for their turn to hold the Grand Prix,” Rahimov said.
The minister stressed that among the CIS countries, Formula 1 competitions are held only in Azerbaijan and Russia.
Meanwhile, Samir Dubendi, Chairman of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Azerbaijan, has recently noted that in connection with this grand event, 90-95 percent of Baku hotels are fully booked and a number of big hotels located in the center of the capital have received many tourists.
“Density of 65-75 percent is observed in some small hotels. This is a high figure for the season,” he said.
The chairman stated that Formula 1 is a very important event for hotel business and tourism.
“Such large-scale events like Formula 1 attract extra tourists to the country. Azerbaijan opens up to the world as a new tourist destination. Thanks to the event, there is a revival in the country's tourist infrastructure, including in the hotel and restaurant services, entertainment, taxi services, souvenir sales etc.,” Dubendi said.
He added that Formula 1 is also important in terms of promotion of tourism opportunities in Azerbaijan.
“Tourists come before the races, stay after the races and get acquainted with the touristic opportunities of Azerbaijan. Formula 1 is an elite sport and its fans are wealthy. We must present them new touristic products, in particular, tours to the regions,” Dubendi stressed.
Chairman of the Association emphasized that the expectations of the tourism industry from Formula 1 are high.
"We hope that the race will also impact the increase in the number of tourists. The tourism sector of the country has set a goal to achieve the number of 4.5 million tourists by 2020," he said.
Baku first hosted F1 in 2016, with its street circuit running in part along the shoreline of the city’s historic center, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It soon grabbed the attention of motor fans and for the last two years running has been voted as the best race of the season in the annual survey by the F1 Fan Voice community.
Baku, being a host to the one of the fastest street circuits in Formula 1 racing, gathers more viewers from year to year.
Moreover, Baku City Circuit offers fans one of the most exciting live music line ups. Pop stars of world scale such as Chris Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Nicole Scherzinger, Christina Aguilera, The Black Eyed Peas band and DJ Afrojack performed in Baku.
Although the city has already hosted F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Baku is still a relatively new page in the history of Formula 1 races, and 2019 is not the last time when the roar of motors will be heard in the beautiful capital.
Mirsaid Ibrahimzade is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @MirsaidIbrahim1
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