By Leman Mammadova
Persian Gulf states present a very important tourism market for Azerbaijan. Over the past two years, airlines of the Gulf countries such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, Flydubai and Air Arabia have opened direct flights to Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijan Tourism Board has launched a partnership with Wego, a well-known online tourism platform in the Middle East and North Africa countries.
Florian Sengstschmid, Executive Director of Azerbaijan Tourism Board, stressed that the cooperation with Wego will lead to an increased number of tourists visiting Azerbaijan, a country located on the border of Europe and Asia where East meets West.
Sengstschmid pointed to the significant increase in the number of arrivals in Azerbaijan from the Middle East in recent years. Over 200,000 tourists from the Gulf countries visited Azerbaijan in 2018, which is 30 percent more than in 2017 Sengstschmid reminded.
Mamoun Hmedan, Managing Director at Wego Middle East and India, said that Azerbaijan is one of the top three touristic destinations for the Middle East and North Africa.
Hmedan pointed out that online search for Azerbaijan by the Gulf countries’ travelers increased by 60 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year.
He noted that recent international competitions, a unique tourism infrastructure for recreation, as well as the availability of food assortments have turned Azerbaijan into an attractive destination for the visitors from the Gulf.
Wego provides the best travel search sites and the best mobile apps for travelers in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions.
Wego, which is represented in 52 countries, operates in 20 languages, and has more than 16 million users, uses an effective and easy-to-use technology that automates the process of searching and comparing results on hundreds of websites of airlines, hotels and online agencies.
Azerbaijan aims to double the number of tourist inflow into Azerbaijan by 2023 and tourism is among the country’s main strategic development goals.
In 2018, 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 this, 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 UAE tourists decreased by 33.7 and 8.3 percent, respectively.
Azerbaijan is among the fastest-growing destinations for tourists. The beautiful nature of Azerbaijan, hospitality of its people, the country's capital city 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. Since February 2016, Azerbaijan has simplified the procedure of obtaining visas for citizens of Gulf countries.
Presently, official tourism representative offices of Azerbaijan have been operating in Saudi Arabia and the UAE since late 2018.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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