AZERBAIJAN BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL TOURISM DESTINATION
Azerbaijan possesses huge cultural heritage, magnificent natural resources from the Caspian Sea to the Great Caucasus. In this regard, tourism could play an important role in the economy of Azerbaijan.
The Twinning project was a timely intervention to assist the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) in increasing the perception of visitors on the resources, cultural heritage, spa places of Azerbaijan and in making the country a recognized destination on an international scale.
“In the long run it will create more interest in Azerbaijan. Moreover, an increased infrastructure, and standards on international level will lead to improved services. Consequently, the number of tourists will increase and tourists will enjoy their time in Azerbaijan” says Mr Florian Sengstschmid, Executive Director of the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau, former EU MS Project leader of the Tourism Twinning project.
This project was an impulse on the rapidly developing tourism sector that laid grounds and filled in gaps to lead to sustainable tourism development. Effective and efficient structure has been reinforced in the MCT, who can now respond to various target audiences more effectively.
For any tourist, it is critical to have a legal security: the recommendations made for tourism legislation and drafted legislations both on local and international tourism, laid grounds for solving legal issues. “Tourists will have access to improved services to international standards, airports, new hotels”, stated Mr Sengstschmid: to increase services for the tourists, the accepted minimum standards for hotels and accommodations, are now implemented.
Increasing the number of tourists is the major indicator of success. To attract more tourists, the marketing strategy, accepted by the MCT, facilitates awareness raising by delivering clear and coherent product messages on tourism experiences.
The interventions will have a long term positive impact on the overall regional development in Azerbaijan.
According to Mr Sengstschmid, “Due to the increased number of tourists, opportunities for new employment, self-employment will increase, thus incomes of population will increase”.
A representative office opened in Germany continues promoting Azerbaijan as a tourism destination. Furthermore, the Convention Bureau operating under the MCT, attracts international conferences and meetings to Azerbaijan. As the former Twinning project leader is now heading the Convention Bureau, the project is still on-going but this time, at an operational level. A pilot model of a ‘recreation area’ was created in Naftalan. “Naftalan oil” is a unique oil for various treatments and it attracts more and more tourists. Now it is supposed to professionalize to reach out to more tourists looking for wellness. The Health Tourism Association, recently established under the MCT, will carry out necessary steps to further develop this tourism segment.
The “Strengthening the capacity of the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan” project, started in February 2013 was completed in June 2014. The Austrian Federal Procurement Agency and Lithuanian State Department of Tourism assisted the MCT.