By Amina Nazarli
Tourism is steadily growing in Azerbaijan and it’s no wonder that more than a million travelers visited the sunny country on the shores of Caspian Sea in the first half of 2017.
The figure for six months shows an increase in the number of visitors by almost a 25-percent, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry. The country welcomed 1,199,667 guests in the first six months of the year.
Russian tourists are leading among the visitors of the Land of Fire. The number of travelers from the northern neighbor soared 17 percent this year making up 374,491 people.
Georgia comes next with a four-percent increase (254,425 tourists). Southern guests from Iran made significant jump in 2017. Their number increased by 89 percent (180,103).
However, the most active influx was observed from tourists from the UAE - 338 percent (44,196). The number of Ukrainian and Iraqi tourists rose by 14 percent (27,342) and 75 percent (19,355), accordingly.
In turn, the number of Turkish tourists visiting Azerbaijan dropped compared to last year. During this period 138,692 people came from Turkey, which means a decrease of 7.6 percent.
Moreover, compared to the first half of 2016, 16-fold jump was recorded in number of tourists arriving in Azerbaijan from Oman in the first six months of 2017, eight-fold - from Kuwait, six fold- from Saudi Arabia, five-fold - from Qatar and Morocco, 4.4-fold - from the UAE, 3.5 –fold -more from Pakistan and Algeria, 2.2 fold- from Jordan, two-fold from Turkmenistan and about 1.5 times more tourists from Iraq.
The number of foreign nationals who arrived in Azerbaijan from CIS countries (12 percent), EU countries (13 percent), Gulf countries and Middle Eastern states (117 percent), Asian countries (64.4 percent), Africa (72 percent), the U.S. and Australia (22.8 percent) also increased.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry says there is also a growth in the number of European tourists in the last six month, and the majority of guests are coming from the UK (16,323). German tourists are following in a number (7,787) leaving behind Italians (4,462) visiting the Land of Fire.
Experts say that every tourist chooses own way for rest. Arab tourists, for example, prefer to relax in a good hotel, take a walk in the city, do shopping and go to restaurants. As for Russian and European tourists, they are more interested in sightseeing tourism, cultural cognitive and culinary tourism.
The development of tourism industry as well as necessary infrastructure, positively influence the influx of tourists not only from neighboring countries, but also from European countries, said Nahid Bagirov.
The Chairman of Azerbaijan Tourism Association (AzTa) told local media that there are several reasons for this.
“The first reason is that promotion of Azerbaijan in foreign countries plays significant role. Another reason is interest of European citizens in travelling. Also, there are Azerbaijanis who live in Europe. These play significant role in promoting our country,” he said.