Land of Fire to attract more travelers
By Rashid Shirinov
Azerbaijan, also referred as the Land of Fire, continues to attract more and more tourists.
Last year, about 2.5 million tourists visited the country, and this figure tends to rise in the current year. All this became possible thanks to several major international events recently hosted by the country.
Azerbaijan is annually visited by representatives of 160-170 countries of the world. This means the growth of state revenues and employment in the country and creation of new work places, believes Akif Melikov, Director of the Azerbaijan Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre.
Melikov mentioned that the country has managed to achieve such results thanks to many international events, including major sports tournaments, held in the country.
A stage of the World Cup on Rhythmic Gymnastics held in Baku in 2003 can be considered as one of the first steps in becoming a tourist country, he said, adding that Azerbaijan successfully passed that exam. The country hosted a number of championships in the further years, namely Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships of 2007, 2009 and 2014.
Another event that surely should be mentioned is festival World of Mugham. The first festival was held in 2010 in Baku, followed by the second and third in 2011 and 2013 respectively. A number of Musicians and bands from Europe, Asia and Africa took part in this joy of music.
The Eurovision Song Contest, organized here in 2012, also attracted the attention of the whole Europe to Azerbaijan, said Melikov. The contest involved 42 countries. Participants and spectators of the competition were delighted with the highest level of organization and holding of the competition, and especially mentioned the beauty of the Azerbaijani capital.
The inaugural European Games 2015 also facilitated Azerbaijan in promoting its name in the international arena. The outstanding fact is that they were the first ever European Games, and Azerbaijan had the honor to hold them. Thousands of tourists and athletes came to Baku from different countries stressing the highest level of organization of the Games.
This summer, Azerbaijan welcomed Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe. Bernie Ecclestone has acknowledged that he received many offers from different countries, but his choice fell on Baku. That means that Azerbaijan has already gained its international recognition as a sports country. Baku stage of Formula-1 was held smoothly as no unsportsmanlike incident was detected, that indicates the highest level of its organization.
He further mentioned that this September Baku will host the 42nd World Chess Olympiad and in 2017, the country will receive the IV Islamic Solidarity Games, which will bring together athletes from 57 Muslim states. In 2019 Baku is expected to hold another Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championship; in 2020 the country will host four games of the UEFA Euro Championship.
Today, there are about 300 travel agencies and more than 570 accommodation establishments in Azerbaijan. The prices for hotels and hostels became even more attractive for the visitors of the country due to the devaluation of the national currency in 2015. The provided accommodation establishments are of any price range, starting from just $6-7 per a night in hostel and $25 in hotels.
Taking into account the increase of tourists, the Azerbaijani government decided to facilitate their relaxation. As a result, a single online portal for providing visas for foreigners will be established. Thus, tourists will not have to apply to state organizations in order to enter the country -- visas will be issued online within three days.
In the near future, Azerbaijan can become not only one of the visited countries of the region, but also of Eurasia and the world, and everything possible is being done for that.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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