By Amina Nazarli
International tourism, a rapidly growing industry in Azerbaijan,with a contribution of 4.5 percent to the national GDP, is turning into an important component of country’s economy.
Land of Fire, a country of incredible beauty and captivating history, has become a regional tourism hub, during several years
The number of foreign tourists visiting Azerbaijan in the first nine months of the year increased by 20.9 percent compared to 2016, said Abulfas Garayev, Culture and Tourism Minister at the regular meeting of the Council of Tourism.
More than 2.7 million international guests spent time in Azerbaijan this year, which shows growing tourism.
“The result of the tourism infrastructure created over the past few years is that currently 46,000 people are employed in this field. If you add more than 60,000 cultural workers, in general, then tourism sector employs more than 100,000 people,” he explained.
Being the leading sources of income, tourism is crucial to Azerbaijan's economy, bringing 1.3 billion manats revenues from foreign travelers and 1.2 billion manats from domestic tourists.
“In summer, hotels and hotel-type facilities in the regions had more than 860,000 placements, and over the first eight months of this year this figure was more than 1,294 million people,” Garayev said.
Shopping Festival to attract more tourists
The number of visitors flow in summer and winter seasons is quite acceptable for the state, but the situation with autumn tourism is a little bit different. With coming of cool winds and leaf fall, the number of tourists sharply decreases.
In this regard, Azerbaijan intends to increase the number of tourists in this season, which is very pleasant in many parts of the country.
The colorful Shopping Festival, which aims to turn Baku into a regional trading center, between October 15 and November 15 will stimulate rise of the tourist influx. The second edition of the festival, according to Garayev, will be marked by a number of innovations.
“Special tour packages for travel agencies will be presented for the first time during the 2nd Baku Shopping Festival,” the minister said. “The tour packages will include air ticket, transfer, insurance, hotel accommodation, as well as shopping tours.”
He noted that this time there won’t be specially invited stars at the festival like in previous edition.
“A jazz festival will be held at the same time with the shopping festival,” Garayev said. “So we don’t see the need to invite foreign celebrities. In order to stimulate tourists, an instant lottery will also be held, and the Fan Zone of the festival will operate at the Fountain Square. This time, we also decided not to hold concert programs in shopping centers. The concert programs will be held in special concert halls.”
About 578 companies passed registration for participation in the festival, and this is by 2.8 times more as compared to the last festival.
Like in previous year, the Tax Free system will also be applied to the goods purchased.
“If within the framework of the last festival VAT refund was made by 172 participants, then within the framework of the 2nd Shopping Festival, their number has reached 467 companies,” he said.
Another innovation of the event is that for the first time the festival will also involve supermarket chains, as well as pharmacies. “This time, two supermarket chains - Neptun and Bravo – have joined the list of participants. At the same time, VAT refunds will not affect food products,” he said.
In parallel to the 2nd Shopping Festival, the country is also preparing to host the third edition next year.
The minister said that within the framework of the third Baku shopping festival tourists can enjoy special discount cards, enabling visitors of Azerbaijan to receive special discounts in shopping centers.
“We are currently working on this idea. We need to carefully study the issue and analyze the possible turnover on such cards,” the minister said.
During the festival, customers in more than 400 stores of Baku will be able to purchase clothes, electronics, household appliances, furniture, perfumes and cosmetics, as well as other products from leading global brands within special campaigns and with discounts. In addition, during the festival, it is planned to organize interactive games, fashion shows and other entertaining activities.
Azerbaijani and foreign guests, who made purchases worth more than 100 manats in stores labeled with the “Baku Shopping Festival - Tax Free” stickers, get an opportunity to return a certain part of the value-added tax (VAT) from the amount spent. VAT refund is only possible in the stores labeled with these stickers. The certain part of the VAT amount can be refunded in cash or by transfer to a customer’s card/bank account.
Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli
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