By Leman Mammadova
Consistent steps are being taken to increase the number of visitors to Azerbaijan from China, the world leader for the number of tourists travelling abroad.
With this regard, there must be special focus on cooperation with major Chinese companies specializing in tourism and travel.
Azerbaijan Tourism Board has signed a memorandum of understanding with two major online platforms of China - Ctrip and Qyer. The signing of the memorandum is aimed at the joint development of tourism products oriented both to the Chinese market and to increase the tourist flow from China. The total number of users of these Internet resources reaches 400 million.
The document was signed at the "Azerbaijan-China Roadshow on Travel Trade" event, which was attended by 12 travel agencies of Azerbaijan and about 250 travel companies from China.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Azerbaijan increased significantly in 2019, said Florian Sengstschmid, Executive Director of Azerbaijan Tourism Board, at a signing ceremony.
“There is currently a noticeable upward trend in the number of Chinese tourists to Azerbaijan. China has great tourism potential, which opens up prospects for expanding cooperation with Azerbaijan. For the eight months of 2019, the number of Chinese citizens visiting Azerbaijan reached 17,000 people, while this figure amounted to 13,000 people in the corresponding period of 2018,” he noted.
James Tang, Senior Vice President of "Ctrip" travel organization, said that the platform serves more than 300 million users in hotel reservations, travel reservations, group and individual trips and vacations. In his words, "Ctrip" is the second largest online platform in the world, and the first largest online tourism service in the Asian continent.
He stressed that Chinese tourists are interested in the beautiful nature and diverse cultures of Azerbaijan, an important and close partner of China on the Belt and Road Initiative. “Ctrip in partnership with the Azerbaijan Tourism Board will use its resources to promote Azerbaijan's tourism potential in China and expand its tourism ties.”
Bryan Xiao, President of the Board of Directors of “Qyer.com”, stressed that Azerbaijan is not only a rich oil and gas country, it is also the country that is attractive because of its historical sites, including the unique nature reserve of Gobustan and various travel destinations.
He underlined that Azerbaijan, a place where Eastern and Western cultures meet, is one of the countries where tourists with different desires can travel.
“Qyer.com's social networking platform serves more than 100 million users. The users who have visited Azerbaijan have posted many positive feedbacks about the country, including historical monuments, natural scenery, mud volcanoes, and shared these comments on the platform,” he noted.
Tourism Board held a series of events in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou cities of China on September 16-22. During bilateral meetings, the parties discussed cooperation opportunities and exchanged views on upcoming plans. B2B meetings were held among the companies specializing in various fields of tourism.
Azerbaijan Tourism Board considers the Chinese market to be one of the priorities for attracting tourists. Since 2017, the tourism potential of Azerbaijan has been more actively promoted in this country.
The direct flights between Azerbaijan and China as well as the Azerbaijani government's simplifying visa regime for Chinese tourists are of great importance for developing relations between the two countries in the field of tourism.
At present, AZAL carries out Baku-Beijing-Baku direct regular flights. It is also planned to launch flights from Baku to other Chinese cities.
Since 2018, the official tourism representative office operating in China is actively working to introduce Azerbaijan's tourism potential in major Chinese cities.
In addition, Azerbaijan and Chinese tourism companies signed a cooperation agreement in April 2018. In first period, the companies specializing in health tourism are eager to attract 2,000 more tourists per year on the basis of this agreement.
Chinese experts say that about 1 million Chinese patients travel abroad every year for health tourism. They consider that their citizens will mostly like Azerbaijan’s Naftalan.
Recently, Azerbaijan and China signed a memorandum of understanding on simplifying group visits of Chinese tourists to Azerbaijan.
It’s expected that the number of Chinese tourists in Azerbaijan may reach 200,000 people within the next few years.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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