By Mirsaid Ibrahimzade
Azerbaijan, which is a mixture of Eastern and Western cultures, has become an attractive destination for international 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.
The number of foreigners and stateless persons visiting Azerbaijan for tourism has significantly increased.
In 2013, the number of tourists visiting the country was 2,508,900 people, 2,129,500 of whom came as tourists. In 2018, 2,605,300 people out of 2,849,600 visited the country for tourism, 787,400 made a working trip, 63,100 visited for treatment, 15,300 – for religious pilgrimage, and 651,600 - to visit relatives and friends. Over the past period, the number of visitors to Azerbaijan has risen in all the named directions.
In the first half of 2019, 1.4 million tourists visited Azerbaijan. According to the State Statistical Committee, the flow of tourists to the country increased by 6.5 percent compared to the same period last year.
More than half of the tourists visiting Azerbaijan accounted for Russia and Georgia. In particular, the tourist flow from the Russia amounted to 414, 000 people (an increase of 2.6 percent), from Georgia - 342,800 people (an increase of 22.8 percent).
The tourist flow from Turkey to Azerbaijan in the first half of the year reached 147,700 people (an increase of 3.7 percent).
As for the origin countries, 29.4 percent of tourists came from Russia, 24.3 percent - Georgia, 10.5 percent - Turkey, 7.5 percent - Iran, 2.6 percent – the UAE, and 2.4 percent - Saudi Arabia.
The number of tourists arriving in Azerbaijan from EU countries increased by 24.3 percent to 66,500 people in January-June 2019, while of those from CIS countries - by 5 percent to 502,500.
Azerbaijan’s main tourist markets of South Asia are India (27,000 tourists, with increase of 80.2 percent) and Pakistan (19,000 tourists, with increase of 24.4 percent), while the main tourist markets of Central Asia are Kazakhstan (20,000 tourists, with growth by 15.1 percent) and Turkmenistan (21,000 tourists, with an increase of 85 percent).
Last year, 4,908,100 Azerbaijani citizens visited foreign countries. 1,126,300 of them visited foreign countries for recreation and entertainment, 900,200 - for working trips, 288,600 - for health tourism, 245,300 - for religious pilgrimage, and 844,500 - to visit relatives and friends.
The statistics for the first half of 2019 say that Iran is the most popular destination for Azerbaijani tourists. Some 39.1 percent of the nationals travelled there. The second most visited country, 27.1 percent, is Georgia.
The recent launch of passenger transportation along the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) transport corridor and affordable prices gave a new impetus to the development of tourism between Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Some 18.1 percent of Azerbaijanis travelled to Russia. Moscow and Saint Petersburg remained the most popular Russian cities among Azerbaijani tourists.
Proportion of Azerbaijanis’ trips to Turkey accounted for just 10.2 percent. Relatively smaller share of Turkey can be explained by the fact that Azerbaijani tourists often travel to Turkey for vacation in August.
The creation of a diversified tourism infrastructure in Azerbaijan, the successful holding of international events aroused the interest of foreign tourists to the country.
Besides, simplification of the visa regime played vital role in the development of tourism in Azerbaijan.
Mirsaid Ibrahimzade is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @MirsaidIbrahim1
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