By Leman Mammadova
The growing influence of Azerbaijan in the global tourism market promotes the flow of revenues to the country as well as facilitates job openings.
Tourists spent over $2 billion in Azerbaijan in 2018, spokesman for the Azerbaijani State Tourism Agency Kanan Guluzade told Trend.
“More than 2,280,000 tourists visited Azerbaijan in 2018,” he said. “Over 360,000 tourists have already visited Azerbaijan this year.”
"Most of the tourists arrived from Russia and Georgia,” Guluzade said. “Moreover, a lot of tourists have been recently arriving from the Middle Eastern countries. According to the data of the last two months of this year, many tourists from the South Asian region arrived in Azerbaijan. In general, 70 percent growth is observed, specifically in the South Asian region compared with the same period last year - 30 percent increase in the number of tourists. In general, an increase in the number of tourists in 15 tourist markets is recorded.”
He added that the main goal is to double the number of tourists arriving in Azerbaijan till 2023.
Guluzade stressed that Azerbaijan’s tourist potential will be showcased at almost 20 international exhibitions soon.
Regarding the Iranian tourists, Guluzade noted that 33 percent decrease was observed in the number of Iranian tourists arriving in Azerbaijan in 2018.
"The reason for this decrease was the new taxes applied in Iran,” he said. “Earlier, incoming Iranian tourists in Azerbaijan ranked third after Russian and Georgian tourists. In general, the number of Iranians traveling to other countries decreased by 50 percent."
He stressed that this year, a three-percent increase in the number of foreign tourists is observed in Azerbaijan, that is facilitated by the arrival of foreigners from new countries.
The spokesman of the Agency noted that Georgian tourists hit the record in January-February of the current year.
“This year, the number of tourists from Georgia exceeded the number of Russians for the first time. In addition, work is underway to attract more Chinese tourists. In accordance with the signed memorandum, 200,000 tourists from China are expected to arrive in Azerbaijan,” he said.
Guluzade stressed that there was a decrease in the number of Arab tourists by seven percent during the first two months of 2019.
“However, this is temporary, as the period January-February is considered a weak tourist season. On the other hand, direct flights from Arab countries to Azerbaijan have decreased. Some changes have been made in the procedures for issuing visas to Iraqi tourists. All this influenced the number of foreign tourists. However, the situation may stabilize due to the fact that two new Arab airlines will launch flights to Azerbaijan. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the Middle East is a politically unstable region, and problems arise in connection with leaving the country. Therefore, such problems may occur from time to time,” he added.
Touching upon the Azerbaijan’s tourism representative offices abroad, Kanan Guluzade said that the State Tourism Agency wants to open offices in four more countries. He noted that two of these countries are already known. This is the UK and South Korea.
It should be noted that the official representative offices of Azerbaijan have been operating in six countries since December of last year. Tourism offices aim to introduce Azerbaijan's tourism opportunities, conduct propaganda and campaigning.
In addition, Guluzade noted that the Agency intends to take part in about 20 exhibitions this year in order to promote the tourism potential of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is among the fastest-growing destinations for tourists.
The beautiful nature of Azerbaijan, hospitality of its people, the country's capital with its super modern and ancient buildings draws the attention of all tourists visiting this South Caucasian country.
It is noteworthy that in 2018, as many as 2,849,600 tourists from 196 countries arrived in Azerbaijan, showing a 5.7 percent increase compared to 2017.
However, some 364,200 foreigners and stateless persons from 152 countries came to Azerbaijan in January-February 2019.
In recent years, the creation of a diversified tourism infrastructure in Azerbaijan has increased the interest of foreign tourists to the country. There are many opportunities for tourism in our country, including rural, health, environmental, cultural, social, commercial, sport and etc.
Moreover, simplification of visa regime plays a major role in the development of tourism in Azerbaijan. Currently, citizens of a number of countries get visas right at the Azerbaijani airports, while other tourists can visit the country by getting online tourist visas.
The successful holding of international events has also turned Azerbaijan into a country recognizable by everyone in the world, and a country that many foreigners wish to visit as soon as possible.
The mesmerizing mix of East and West, the possibility to have a rest on the Caspian Sea shore and enjoy fresh air and delicious meals have always been attracting tourists to Azerbaijan. Many of them get so much fascinated with the country and its capital Baku that they come back to visit Azerbaijan again after a while.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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