By Laman Ismayilova
The Land of Fire is rich in lots of stunning destinations that keep tourists returning year after year.
With its rich culture and hospitality, the country has a huge potential for further development of the tourism sector. There are many opportunities for tourism in Azerbaijan, including rural, health, environmental, cultural, social, commercial, sport, and other kinds of tourism.
Association of Tour Operators of Russia has noticed an increase in the sale of tours to Azerbaijan in January-June 2019.
The Association noted that most Russians come to Azerbaijan via travel agencies. According to the official statistics of the Intourist tour operator, this year the sale of tours to Azerbaijan increased by 5-7 percent.
Muzenidis Travel company noted that this year, interest in autumn tours to Azerbaijan grew by 30-40 percent. According to experts, this is due to the country's wide tourism opportunities and the development of the region, as well as affordable hotel prices and the provision of high-quality SPA services.
In turn, Russian tour operator ALEN noted that while earlier tourists mainly showed interest in Naftalan city, which is famous for its unique healing oil, today Absheron beaches are also popular among Russian tourists.
The medicinal properties of the Naftalan oil are said to treat more than 70 illnesses related to bones, skins and joints. Particularly, it has been used as an effective treatment of rheumatism, musculoskeletal system and urological and gynecological diseases.
Meanwhile, thousands of guests visit Absheron beaches to enjoy summertime. Taking into account the appeals of the Baku residents and guests of the city, the Vice President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, founder and head of the IDEA Public Union Leyla Aliyeva has recently started the work on creating public beaches, which can be an alternative to private recreation centers and beaches.
In Azerbaijan, Russians more actively book the so-called last minute tours, city tours and short sightseeing tours. For example, as part of the 3-7-day "Hello Azerbaijan" tour, tourists visit the sights of Baku and Absheron and relax on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
As many as 365,000 foreign guests visited Azerbaijan in July 2019, which is 10.6 percent more compared to July 2018, according to the State Tourism Agency.
Russian guests accounted for 35 percent of the total number of tourists, which is 10 percent or 11,000 people more year-on-year.
The highest growth in July was recorded among Georgian tourists. In the annual comparison, the number of arrivals from Georgia increased by 12,000 people or 26 percent, amounting to 61,000 people.
Meanwhile, the number of travelers from Saudi Arabia to Azerbaijan increased by 25 percent to a record high of 29,000 people.
In January-July 2019, as many as 1.8 million foreign tourists visited Azerbaijan, which is 122,000 people or 7.4 percent more than in the same period of 2018.
The flow of tourists from Georgia increased by 76,000 people or 23 percent, and from Russia and Turkey – by 4 percent. The growth of the number of tourists coming from Central Asia amounted to 39 percent, and from South Asia – to 44 percent.
Last year, as many as 2.8 million tourists from 196 countries arrived in Azerbaijan. Russian, Georgian, Turkish and Iranian citizens made up the largest share of the tourists arriving in the country. In 2018, there was a significant increase in the number of visitors coming from the Gulf countries.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz