By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan is keen to redesign its tourism sphere to meet new challenges in the contemporary world suffering economic instability and security problems.
The government regards tourism a priority area of economy, making a major focus this year on attracting large number of tourists to the country.
Vugar Shikhmammadov, Official at Culture and Tourism Ministry, said that attracting foreign investors to the country, and facilitating the visa regime will be the key steps in this regard.
Inexpensive hotels are under construction in the regions of the country to turn them into the favorite tourism destinations, he said adding the interest of entrepreneurs both local and foreign in this sphere. “The first action in this connection is abolishing licenses for tourism and hotels activities."
Reducing time for proceedings in an application from 10 to 5 days could significantly simplify the visa procedures, Shikhmammadov added.
In addition, simplified visas to several countries are planned to be issued in the airport.
Azerbaijan, that is in the process of switching to the non-oil sector of economy, has been developing tourism potential of its beautiful nature and captivating history for years now.
Entrepreneurs working in the tourism sector in Azerbaijan can develop mass tourism, said Advisor to the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association Muzaffar Agakerimov.
Mass tourism is a form of tourism that involves tens of thousands of people going to the same resort often at the same time of year.
The country has not seen price increases in tourist services, he stressed.
“Travel companies are now recommended not to pursue higher income,” he noted. “First and foremost we have to attract tourists to the country. Then, income can be increased through offering additional services.”
The experience of other countries shows that they use a variety of advertising and marketing techniques to attract tourists, the adviser added.
For instance, Turkey, that has a profound experience in successful tourism, uses a variety of services to increase tourism revenue. These services include souvenirs and different types of tourism, Agakerimov explained.
He noted the need in building more budget hotels that provide services at low prices for budget travelers.
Currently, Azerbaijan hosts a series of luxury hotels – Jumeirah, Excelsior, Hilton, Four Seasons, Fairmont, JW Marriott, Kempinski – as well as many budget hotels for cost-conscious travelers.
However, five star hotels in Azerbaijan are now facing with the low occupancy rate.
Prices for accommodation in the country start from $15 and increase depending on the hotel class and amenities provided.
The necessity of budget hotels both in Baku and in regions of the country has been discussed for a time. Such budget hotels would be attractive not only for foreigners but also for local tourists, as more and more Azerbaijanis now prefer to spend holidays and vacations in the country.
This was most noticeable during the New Year holiday, when thousands of Azerbaijanis headed to the mountain resorts in the north of the country.
The rooms in the hotels of the country were booked for 75 and even 90 percent ahead of the favorite holiday.
Along with local resorts, the most popular destinations for Azerbaijanis are Turkey and Georgia. However, after depreciation of the manat, the number of tourists from Azerbaijan in the Georgian resorts has strongly reduced, according to Georgian media.
Despite the unstable economy, people continue to travel and Azerbaijani experts believe, that depreciation of the national currency can be advantageous for foreign tourists, as the prices has decreased in manat with regard to dollar.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’ staff journalist. Follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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