Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB) the national promotion body established to support the growth of Azerbaijan’s tourism industry has introduced its marketing campaign ‘Take another look’ at the 26th edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019. ATB launched its global marketing campaign in UAE to garner interest from tourists across the Middle East region.
Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of Azerbaijan Tourism Board, provides insights about the country’s tourism.
What are some of your strategies for booming tourism in 2019?
The Caucasus country is currently on the cusp of a tourism boom as it welcomed a record number of inbound visitors spending more than US$ 2 billion in 2018, making it one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. Azerbaijan’s recent investments in tourism and country promotion like the newly launched city-wide official pass, Baku Card are a testimony to the fact that the country is poised to become a popular tourist destination. The Baku Card provides visitors with free public transport, entry tickets to selected city museums and attractions including discounts and special offers at shops, cafes and restaurants.
There has been a change in travel pattern post the announcement of visa on arrival for UAE residents. Are there plans for a similar arrangement for other GCC countries?
In 2018, Azerbaijan welcomed over 200,000 GCC tourists which is a 30% increase from the year before. To meet the growing demand in the region, airlines have increased the frequency of direct flights from the Middle East to Azerbaijan. UAE residents are eligible for visa on arrival to Azerbaijan with a possibility of a one-month extension. Saudi Arabia and Qatar residents can apply for an E-Visa online which is processed within 3 hours through the new simplified electronic visa procedure. The new initiatives are expected to improve Azerbaijan’s ranking among countries with a high tourism contribution towards national GDP.
What is the corporate landscape of Azerbaijan in terms of business-related visitors?
As a premium MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions) destination Azerbaijan boasts a well-developed corporate infrastructure which is equipped to host large scale business meetings and conferences allowing for an influx of ‘bleisure’ tourists looking to extend their trip to explore the sights of Azerbaijan.
What does your tourism campaign ‘Take Another Look’ comprise of?
Our campaign reveals Azerbaijan’s distinctive culture, delectable cuisine, phenomenal shopping experiences and indulgent health and wellness retreats. As we encourage visitors from the GCC to ‘Take another look’, we are inviting them to take a more in-depth look at Azerbaijan and immerse themselves in truly genuine cultural experiences. Guests will want to dig deeper into the country’s history and rich cultural heritage as they discover pleasant surprises and hidden gems throughout the year.
What is your take on the national growth in halal tourism?
As a touristic option, Azerbaijan is a safe family-oriented destination that is supported by a rich history that dates back 5000 years and a composite culture that has evolved with the passing through of travellers along the Great Silk Road. Azerbaijan’s unique geography and location have resulted in a cuisine influenced by the land’s natural ingredients. It has also assimilated the flavours of the travellers that passed through its heartlands. In addition to eateries serving local and international delicacies, most restaurants in the country serve halal culinary options.
How much has tourism contributed to Azerbaijan’s GDP?
The latest figures suggest that the new initiatives are expected to improve Azerbaijan’s ranking among countries with a high tourism contribution towards national GDP. It is forecasted to be at 6% per annum over the course of the next 10 years ranking it amongst the world’s top 20 high potential countries.