By Leman Mammadova
Azerbaijan aims to increase the flow of tourists from Arab countries and other regions to the country and to make this growth sustainable.
Azerbaijan expects an influx of tourists from Saudi Arabia this summer, Nahid Baghirov, Chairman of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association, told Trend.
In his words, the number of flights between Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia has increased. In this context, twice as many tourists from this country will arrive in Azerbaijan in the summer.
According to the State Statistics Committee of Azerbaijan, in 2018, as many as 2,849,600 tourists from 196 countries visited Azerbaijan, and Saudi citizens accounted for 2.6 percent of those arriving in the country.
Last year, the largest increase in the number of incoming tourists was observed among the citizens of the Gulf countries (except for the UAE and Iran). As many as 554,100 people came from the Gulf countries, and almost every fifth who arrived in Azerbaijan was a citizen of these countries.
Of the tourists, the number of Saudi Arabian citizens increased 2.2 times, Bahrain doubled, Kuwait 1.8 times, Qatar 1.6 times, Iraq 7.9 percent, Oman 7.4 percent compared to 2017. On the other hand, the number of arriving Iranian and Emirati tourists decreased by 33.7 and 8.3 percent, respectively.
In January-March 2019, the number of visitors from the Gulf countries amounted to 106,800.
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.
Simplification of the visa regime also played a major role in the growth of tourist flow from Middle East. In February 2016, Azerbaijan simplified the procedure of obtaining visas for citizens of Gulf countries.
It’s noteworthy that Saudi Arabia facilitates to increasing the flow of Arab tourists to Azerbaijan. The Saudi Travel and Tourism Association is developing a road map to provide assistance in attracting Arab tourists to Azerbaijan.
The road map is designed for five years. All aspects of the cooperation of the sides will be coordinated with the State Tourism Agency of Azerbaijan. Saudi Arabia will attract tourists to Azerbaijan and will ensure an annual increase in investment in the country at a level of at least five percent.
Recently, Flynas, Saudi Arabia's leading low-cost airline, has announced its plan to launch flights to Baku. This will contribute to the further growth in tourist flow to Baku from the Gulf countries.
It should be noted that official tourism representative offices of Azerbaijan have been operating in Saudi Arabia and the UAE since the end of last year.
Recently, Azerbaijan attended the International Tourism Fair “Arabian Travel Market 2019” (ATM) in Dubai, the UAE, which is the leading international travel and tourism event in the Middle East. The participation at the event was important in terms of promoting the tourism potential of Azerbaijan as well as strengthening ties among the key players of the Middle East market and attracting Arab tourists.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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