By Rashid Shirinov
Russia has offered Azerbaijan to create joint tourism packages to attract tourists from China, whose outbound tourists amounted to 120 million in 2015.
Rauf Pashayev, the deputy head at the Tourism Department of Azerbaijan’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, said that Russia and China plan to launch flights to the south of Russia within the cooperation on the New Silk Road project.
Direct flights are expected to be performed from the Chinese province of Sichuan to Sochi and other southern cities of Russia. This is expected to result in increasing of number of Chinese tourists.
“Given the preference of Chinese tourists for package tours, Russia offers us to discuss creation of joint tourist packages that would include, let’s say, the North Caucasus and Azerbaijan,” Pashayev told Trend, adding that this would allow both Azerbaijan and Russia to attract Chinese tourists to the region.
The deputy head noted the issue will be discussed in the Ministry, and the Azerbaijani side will consider its contribution to this project.
Pashayev further said that the Ministry seeks to gradually up the tourist flow in the country from neighboring countries, especially from Russia.
“To this end, we have opened a representative office in Russia in 2016 and we will strengthen the promotion of tourism in Azerbaijan through adds on Russian TV channels, and raise awareness of the Russian population about our country,” he said.
However, Pashayev mentioned that the activities of the office will be felt only in a few years, as it was in the case with the countries of the Persian Gulf.
Azerbaijani representation in those countries was opened in 2011, and its activities brought results only five years later – the number of tourists from the Gulf countries has increased exponentially, he clarified.
“This year we see an increase in the number of tourists from Russia by a few percent, and I think this figure will only grow in the future,” Pashayev said.
Over the past nine months of 2016, the number of foreign tourists visiting Azerbaijan amounted to 1,719,015 people, according to the data of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This number has risen by 169,430 people or 10.9 percent compared with the same period of 2015.
Today, there are about 570 accommodation facilities and 300 travel agencies in Azerbaijan. The prices for hotels and hostels became even more attractive for the foreign visitors due to the devaluation of the national currency in 2015.
The provided accommodation establishments are of any price range, starting from just $6-7 per night in hostel and $25 in hotels.
Azerbaijan's revenues from tourism amounted to 2,678 billion manats ($1,569 billion) last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Its experts predict that Azerbaijan will generate 2,848 billion manats ($1.668 billion) this year, or 6.4 percent more compared to 2015.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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