By Rashid Shirinov
In recent years, sea cruises have gained increasing popularity among tourists from all over the world. More importantly, they have become more affordable for a wide range of travelers.
The Caspian Sea, the Earth’s largest inland body of water, has good potential to be among the most popular destinations on the cruise tourism map. Therefore, it is important to develop this type of tourism among the countries surrounding the sea.
Azerbaijan started negotiations with Russian partners on the organization of cruises on the Caspian Sea, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Nazim Samadov said on October 18.
He made the remarks during a meeting with members of the Caspian European Integration Business Club (CEIBC) in Baku.
However, the Deputy Minister noted that the biggest problem is the absence of cruise liners.
“Currently, Russia is building two liners. Although other Caspian states also wish to subsequently join this project, Azerbaijan and Russia have already reached an oral agreement on the organization of such cruises,” Samadov said.
How much did the tourists spend in Azerbaijan this year?
The Deputy Minister further touched upon this year’s tourism statistics in Azerbaijan. He noted that during the first nine months of 2017, the number of domestic and foreign tourists in the country amounted to 3.5 million people.
As many as 2,271 million of them were foreign tourists, and the growth was mainly provided thanks to tourists coming from Russia, Iran and Arab countries.
Samadov said that a 20-percent increase was recorded in the tourism sector in the summer season. Only in June-August, 860,000 people rested in the regions of Azerbaijan.
The deputy minister further noted that for the eight months of this year foreign nationals made payment by bank payment cards on 703 million manats ($414 million). This figure is by $59 million greater that the same statistics for first eight months of 2016. Common estimates suggest that foreign visitors spent about $765 million in Azerbaijan this year.
Samadov also pointed out another great statistics – as many as 141 travel companies were registered in Azerbaijan.
Thus, the figures confirm that Azerbaijan is experiencing a boom in tourism, and this positive trend continues to grow. Over the past 10 years, the number of tourists visiting the country increased by five times.
Travelers can explore the famed medieval Old City, hailed as a “must-visit”, which houses the UNESCO-listed Shirvanshah’s Palace, and Maiden Tower. Tourists can also admire the city’s contemporary buildings such as the Heydar Aliyev Center, designed by Zaha Hadid, and the Flame Towers – a trio of skyscrapers covered with LEDs and displaying the mesmerizing movement of a flame.
The country 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.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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