UAE tops list of travellers to Azerbaijan

As soon as the restrictions imposed in view of the pandemic started easing out, Azerbaijan became one of the first countries to welcome travellers from the Middle East region, especially from the UAE. Florian Sengstschmid, CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board, shares with Shehara Rizly the board’s plans for the market this year.

What will you showcase at ATM this year?

ATM Dubai 2021 was the very first trade exhibition we attended physically since the pandemic started. We are very happy about being back at ATM this year too. This time we are participating with our largest ever stand (230 m2) and more than 28 local partners. This is our commitment to the Middle East market, UAE in particular, with lots of new flight connections, partnership opportunities and tourism products available. We are very excited to meet our partners again face to face and look forward to strengthening our ties in this source market.

In terms of business transactions, what are your expectations from ATM?

Every time we have participated at ATM Dubai, together with our local partners, we have had a great time and seized amazing opportunities to expand our network in the Middle East market. One of our commitments here is to seek ways to work together with our partners in the Middle East for the recovery of our industry in this new era. As I mentioned, more than 28 local partners will be joining us at ATM this year, which means this is the biggest stand we will ever have had at this and other international exhibitions. Therefore, we expect to build more connections due to the increased reach we will have together with our partners and our openness to discuss how we can best collaborate.

With the UAE placed in the top 10 countries we keep receiving travellers from, with more than 7,500 arrivals in 2022 alone, as well as perfect flight connections and easily accessible e-visas and visas on arrival, we look forward to more opportunities to keep the UAE at the top of the list.

After the pandemic Azerbaijan was one of the first to open ‘to receive ME travellers, especially those from the UAE. So, how important is this market for you?

Rightly mentioned, Azerbaijan opened its doors to the Middle East as soon as the gradual opening of its international borders started. GCC countries are very important source markets for the inbound tourism of Azerbaijan. We are already seeing incredible increases from some of the countries in this region. For example, arrivals from KSA during the first quarter of 2022 increased by 20 per cent with 7,751 travellers compared to the same period of 2019, which was the best tourism year for Azerbaijan with a record number of arrivals.

Seeing all the increased numbers of travellers from our target markets, we have defined 2022 and 2023 as a period of active recovery and expect to be back to the pre-pandemic figures by 2024. We are glad to see all these positive tendencies.

Sustainable tourism has been one of the contributing key initiatives promoted by Azerbaijan over the past few months. How will you further promote this to ensure that it accounts in the end collectively involving all partners in various sectors?

Sustainable and responsible tourism is what we define as our natural approach to tourism development, as we support authentic and unique assets. Continuing from the perspective of building on existing natural and cultural heritage, we expect the opening of the Mud Volcanoes Tourism Complex by the end of 2022, as well as the arts and crafts settlement of Basgal village, located on the crossroads of the Silk Road with renovated hammams and mosques, this summer. You can also see infrastructure upgrades such as installation of signs and information boards at the Diri Baba Tomb in Gobustan on the way to Shamakhi, which is another natural haven in Azerbaijan.

During Expo 2020 Dubai, you hosted the agents at various events in your pavilion bringing a little bit of Azerbaijan closer to UAE agents. How will you work with them this year post Expo and what initiatives will you take to incentivize them? Now that the rest of the Middle East, and GCC in particular, are open, will you be conducting any promotions to agents from these destinations?

Yes, Expo 2020 Dubai was an amazing platform for us to promote the destination as well as bring international and local partners closer. We had three main directions within our participation here. The first one was media engagements, which proved to be very positive with a reach of about 25 million people. The second direction was interaction with our trade partners, where we held multiple trade events and a networking session and participated at a panel discussion – all with the involvement of about 150 partners. Last, but definitely not least, the Azerbaijan Pavilion immersed its visitors into the sustainable world being established in Azerbaijan while depicting its traditions, culture and history through interactive digital methods. This one earned us about 20,000 contact details, which we use to reach potential tourists and attract them to Azerbaijan.

Following our participation at Expo 2020 Dubai, our first return to connect with our counterparts will be at ATM Dubai. Our partners consist of airlines, tour operators, consolidators, OTAs, etc., Wego, Flydubai, to name a few.
While there, we are also planning to host a dinner with our key trade and media stakeholders.

As these markets remain as important as before, and considering the steady recovery from the pandemic, we are focusing on motivating agents in the GCC even more to promote Azerbaijan to their customers as an exciting destination. While one of our plans to do that is to organise some B2B events, the other is hosting travel agents in Azerbaijan so that they can experience the available opportunities here first hand, especially in this new era. We plan to host Fam trips for agents from three GCC countries, precisely the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, until the end of this year.

Are there any new attractions developed over the past few months relevant to the GCC market?

Recently, there have been some quite nice additions to the list of experiences that are attractive for travellers from the GCC. One of them is the opening of the infinity swing at Tufandag Mountain Resort in Gabala, where a breathtaking view of the mountains is accompanied by an adrenaline-filled attraction. Ideal for photos and selfies, it is also safe for both children and adults.

As you know, Baku is home to some modern malls. One of them is Deniz Mall located on the Baku Boulevard, where there is a new Kinderland education and entertainment centre, which is a small model of Baku with streets, shops, a bank, a hospital and even an airport. So, while kids can have their own fun, parents can also enjoy the shops and restaurants at the largest mall in the Caucasus region.

Another place that is very interesting and educational is the world’s first oil tanker museum. The ship, home to this museum, was long used to transport oil across the Caspian Sea. From the moment you step aboard the ship, you feel like you are travelling in time. Interactive exhibition halls help visitors learn about the history of global shipping, the Caspian Sea and the oil history of Baku. There is also a very nice restaurant serving delicious seafood and national cuisine.

Another place that is especially attractive for kids is Baku Zoo, which has been reconstructed and reopened in early 2022. There are some very interesting species kept here, and kids and adults alike can enjoy themselves at the
cafés and gift shops.

Will there be new hotels opening this year?

Yes, new hotels are planned to open thisv year. These will be the Ritz Carlton Baku, Hotel Indigo and Wyndham Garden, scheduled to open in the second half of 2022. Speaking of hotels, I would also like to mention our National Hotel Star Classification system, launched last year. There are now more and more hotels that receive quality certificates within the system, following a comprehensive inspection to make sure they meet international quality standards.

Check Also

Investment in ME tourism

Post Views: 365 Over the past few months many new hotels have opened within the …