Azerbaijan, Qatar mull ways to boost tourist inflow

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Azerbaijan State Tourism Agency will work closely with authorities in Qatar to increase inflow of tourists, Chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Tourism Agency Fuad Nagiyev said in interview with Qatari media.

He noted that Baku considers Qatar as an important market for Azerbaijan’s tourism sector, adding that Qatari citizens and residents are eligible for visa on arrival to Azerbaijan with a possibility of a one-month extension.

“Some 12,459 Qatari passport holders visited the country in 2018. Qatar is one of the important markets for us and next year we will continue working closely with Qatar, attending fairs and trade shows, as well as working closely with media and influencers,” he stated.

As Nagiyev mentioned, the Agency has launched the global marketing campaign to garner interest from tourists across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

“The 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,” Nagiyev noted.

He recalled that Azerbaijan has a majority Muslim population so visitors can expect halal options aplenty.

“The GCC is a key market for Azerbaijan. Ties between Azerbaijan and the GCC have always been close, with lots of cultural and historical touch-points,” he said.

To meet the growing demand in the region, Nagiyev added, airlines have increased the frequency of direct flights from the Middle East to Azerbaijan. Local carriers like Qatar Airways, FlyDubai, Azerbaijan Airlines, Air Arabia, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, Jazeera Airways, Flynas are providing tourists with convenient flight routes to facilitate travel.

“The new initiatives are expected to improve Azerbaijan’s ranking among countries with a high tourism contribution towards national GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council 2018 Impact Report. It is forecast to be at six percent per annum over the course of the next 10 years ranking it amongst the world’s top 20 high potential countries,” Nagiyev emphasized..

He further informed that Azerbaijan has driven an exceptional year of growth in tourism across the stunning capital city Baku and other key regions of the country, with international visitor numbers up by 11 percent year to date.

Touching upon the markets with a significant increase in visitors, he listed India (70 percent), China (64 percent), the UK (27 percent), and Germany (22 percent).

“Major investments are being made with the launch of local representative offices in target markets, and roadshows to connect with tour operators from a B2B perspective. We already have six representative offices in Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China and India, with two more in the pipeline for 2020. Next year we are planning to expand the network and open new representative offices in Ukraine and South Korea. We are also working on developing new tourism products and creating new experiences for incoming tourists,” he told.

Speaking about the plans of the Agency, Nagiyev underlined the need to increase the number of tourists coming to Azerbaijan from three million to five million in the next few years.

“We plan to double the current in-bound tourism by 2023. Excellence is at the core of everything we do: we are constantly developing the infrastructure in the regions. Our award-winning international airport is now connected with over 20 airlines and more than 70 direct flights to various destinations across the globe,” Nagiyev noted.

Diplomatic relations between Qatar and Azerbaijan established on 14 September 1994.

The two countries have a wide range of business and investment opportunities. The strong ties established between the two countries create new opportunities for businesses and investors to create joint ventures.

Despite the high level of political cooperation, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Qatar is not big although there are more opportunities to expand it.

The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Qatar reached $3.6 million in 2018. Almost the entire amount of trade turnover accounted for the export of Azerbaijani products to Qatar. Currently, Azerbaijan is mainly exporting food and agricultural products to Qatar.

In 2016, Joint Economic, Commercial and Technical Commission was established between the governments of the two countries. The first meeting of the Commission was held in Azerbaijan in January 2017, and the second one was held in Qatar in February 2019.