By Mirsaid Ibrahimzade
Baku hosted presentation of the agro-ecotourism project entitled “From City to Village” on June 4.
Addressing the event, Inam Karimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Agriculture, stated that in recent years, the export potential of the country has increased.
“The development of agriculture has facilitated high yields. Azerbaijani products are both provided for the domestic market and exported abroad,” he pointed out.
Emphasizing that the “From Village to City” project was aimed at the supply of agricultural products from the village to the city, Karimov said that Azerbaijani citizens already order farm products on the Internet, and currently, there is a need to implement the "From City to Village" project.
The minister added that this project is focused on the further improvement of social welfare in villages by developing rural tourism, opening new service industries, creating alternative sales channels, diversifying the incomes of villagers, owners of small and medium-sized farms, and supporting their family businesses.
Karimov stressed that along with recreation, local and foreign tourists will have the opportunity to buy agricultural products on the spot and this is primarily an agricultural, environmental and tourism project.
In turn, Mukhtar Babayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, said that more than 100 tourist routes have been created in the national parks of Azerbaijan, which are provided with relevant infrastructure.
Babayev stated that in a short time, the number of national parks in the country was raised to 10. Information centers were created in the parks, which were provided with visual aids and information boards, while children's corners were created for young visitors.
He added that in each of the national parks, tourist information is provided about the nearby villages. Babayev noted that visitors are told about the history and features of villages, their gastronomic possibilities are being promoted.
“From this point of view, the project makes necessary the presence of natural areas in it, in particular, national parks. At the same time, the moment to which special attention should be paid during the project implementation is minimization of the negative anthropogenic impact on natural areas,” he said.
In turn, Fuad Nagiyev, Chairman of Azerbaijan's State Tourism Agency, said that negotiations are underway on simplified issuance of visas to increase the number of tourists from EU countries and granting visas directly at the airports of Azerbaijan.
He said that currently, work continues in six directions to attract tourists to Azerbaijan.
Nagiyev added that Chinese and Indian tourists are expected to arrive in Azerbaijan this summer tourist season.
"We already meet them on the Baku streets. This summer European tourists will also come to Azerbaijan," Nagiyev pointed out.
The chairman stressed that the number of tourists is expected to grow by 8-12 percent in Azerbaijan by the end of 2019. He added that this growth will mainly be provided by Chinese, Asian and Israeli tourists.
In addition, he said that an Agency representative office may open in South Korea.
"Employees of Azerbaijan’s State Tourism Agency are in South Korea, and probably a representative office of the Agency will open there soon,” Nagiyev said.
He also emphasized drawbacks in the activities of Azerbaijani travel companies and noted that control mechanisms must be established. So, the State Tourism Agency has prepared relevant proposals for amending current legislation.
Nagiyev said that over 2,000 travel companies operate in Azerbaijan and stressed that after the licensing of tourism activities was abolished in 2015, control over the activities of local travel agencies became more complicated.
Nagiyev believes that, first of all, it is necessary to create insurance mechanisms for the activities of travel agencies.
“The work of travel companies must meet certain criteria, and international experience shows that one of them is the creation of insurance mechanisms. The insurance company must have certain means so that it can cover possible risks, and the state would not take them on itself,” he noted.
This is a very important question, Nagiyev added. “For example, all travel companies operating in the Chinese market are required to provide civil insurance, and only companies complying with this rule can work in the Chinese market.”
The ecotourism and agrotourism are new and quite promising directions of tourism in Azerbaijan. The fact that ecotourism is gradually becoming popular in the country is natural, since there are all conditions for this, first of all, the unique geographic position and nature of Azerbaijan.
Ecotourism is an opportunity to learn something new about the history of a country, region, to get a lot of new impressions, as well as to cultivate a careful attitude to nature and rest on ecologically clean green expanses.
Mirsaid Ibrahimzade is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @MirsaidIbrahim1
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