By Mirsaid Ibrahimzade
Opening direct flights between Azerbaijan and many Russian cities, lack of language restrictions and the opportunity of visa-free travel are important factors for the development of tourism between the two countries.
The regional government of Russia's Sverdlovsk Region has said in a statement that to enhance mutual tourist traffic, Azerbaijan and the region plan to increase the number of direct flights on Yekaterinburg-Baku route, explore the possibility of forming package tours to reduce the cost of travel, organize a permanent exchange of industry information, and open a representative office of the tourist bureau of Azerbaijan in the Urals.
These steps aimed at expanding bilateral cooperation in tourism were discussed at a meeting of Vice Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexei Orlov with Chairman of Azerbaijan's State Tourism Agency Fuad Naghiyev held within the 7th International Tourism Forum "The Big Urals-2019".
Naghiyev highly praised the potential of the city of Yekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region in tourism industry.
"Your region has the enormous potential in the sphere of tourism. We came to find mechanisms for increasing mutual tourist traffic. We are ready to position the Urals in our country as an interesting route to visit and consider the possibility of opening a representative office here," he said.
The Agency chairman noted that Azerbaijan is looking forward to the arrival of Russian tourists, adding that there is necessary infrastructure and no language barrier for them in the country, and that not a single Russian-language school was shut down in Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Orlov, in turn, thanked the guests for initiating the open partnership dialogue. Having emphasized close business and friendly relations established between the Sverdlovsk Region and Azerbaijan, he spoke about the plans to develop partnership contacts with Azerbaijan.
"At present, a draft agreement on cooperation between the Sverdlovsk Region and the Azerbaijani government for the next 10 years has been jointly developed. It opens the door to many initiatives including conducting joint events and developing tourism. We believe that this industry will continue to grow and become a full-fledged sector of the economy," said Orlov.
According to the Azerbaijani side, starting from July, Irkutsk Airlines airline company begins to make regular flights from Yekaterinburg to Baku twice a week, which will increase the total number of the flights to three times in a week.
Touching upon Azerbaijan as a destination for Russian tourists, it should be pointed out that Azerbaijan is becoming a recognizable and attractive tourist destination for Russian citizens in both summer and winter. The presence of nine climate zones in Azerbaijan allows tourists to ski in the snowy mountains, as well as relax in fine sandy beaches, participate in interesting festivals and sports events.
In 2018, Russia was the leader in the tourism market of Azerbaijan. Thus, as many as 2,849,600 tourists from 196 countries arrived in Azerbaijan during the year and Russians made up the largest share of the tourists - 30.9 percent (about 900,000).
Also, Azerbaijan and Russia are establishing active cooperation between the ski resorts of Azerbaijan and North Caucasus. The possibility of the connection the Azerbaijani and North Caucasian resorts of Russia by a single ski pass was discussed during a business forum entitled "Invest in the Caucasus" in Grozny in December 2018.
Russia and Azerbaijan also intend to create a trans-Caspian transport line, as well as to develop cruise tourism in the Caspian Sea.
As for Russia as a travel point for Azerbaijani tourists, it is noteworthy to mention that Moscow and St. Petersburg keep the status of most popular Russian cities among Azerbaijani tourists. Additionally, Azerbaijani tourists began to choose the Russian city of Zheleznovodsk more often for rest and treatment. As many as 1,500 Azerbaijani tourists visited this Russian city last year.
Mirsaid Ibrahimzade is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @MirsaidIbrahim1
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