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India has been very interested in Azerbaijan and waiting for travel to open, Asgarov

Azerbaijan entered the Indian market riding on a staggering 175 per cent growth in Indian arrivals, around 40,000 visitors, in 2018. By Dec. 2018, it opened its Representation Marketing office. In 2019, Azerbaijan recorded another year of stellar growth, receiving over 65,000 Indian visitors, a growth of 67 per cent over the previous year, and also catapulting India to one of Azerbaijan top source markets. The pandemic put an unexpected stop to this growth. But as the global travel and tourism is gradually easing back to normalcy, Azerbaijan is keen to revive India market to the pre-pandemic level and beyond. 

 

“We never lost touch with the Indian trade during the pandemic. We had lot of virtual shows. We were always in touch with our partners here. We created ‘Azerbaijan one-o-one’, an online platform that educates the tour operators and travel agents about Azerbaijan, about our products and offerings. In fact, the highest number of certificates received were actually people from India. It means that India has also been very interested in the destination and waiting for the opening,” said Bahruz Asgarov, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Azerbaijan Tourism Board. 

 

“This year we will participate in trade shows like SATTE and others because the market is very important. We are also planning to have road shows, B2B meetings, fam trips and some join marketing campaigns,” he informed.    

 

Pre-pandemic, Azerbaijan found particular favour from Indian MICE travellers. However the NTO is keen to diversify its market segments and make inroads into the lucrative Indian wedding segments as well as family and leisure-FIT segments. “Azerbaijan has so much more to offer. It’s a year-round destination. It has four seasons and we have nine out of eleven climatic zones, which means we can cater to all kind of tourists. We have great culture, great cuisine, very hospitable people,” the Dy. CEO said. 

 

“India has been a very important source market for us. Since we got established in 2018, we immediately opened our representation office here because it was one of the six countries/regions that we are expecting numbers along with Russia, Europe, Middle East and China. We got very good feedback from tourists, our partners in India and their local DMCs in Azerbaijan were very happy. The numbers, Indian tourists, they have also changed the tourism infrastructure as we started adapting to accommodate the needs of the travellers from India. We had Indian restaurants opening up across the city. We had better understanding of what a tourist from India needs and how to accommodate it,” Asgarov commented highlighting Azarbaijan readiness for Indian tourists. 

 

Azerbaijan is also adding new tourism infrastructure. Capital Baku has seen the opening of a number of hotels across like Intercontinental, Courtyard by Marriott and others. Azerbaijan will also soon boast of Ritz Carlton to its accommodation profile. India is currently connected through Middle Eastern carriers but Asgarov expressed hope of direct connectivity sometime soon. 

 

Commenting on the evolving geopolitical concerns in the region and its impact on regional global travel, Asgarov said, “After the pandemic and now this war, there are a lot of doubts about future of tourism and how it will affect tourism trends because Russia has been an important source markets for a lot of markets across the globe. Especially for Azerbaijan, Russia is one of our main source markets. It saddens us to see what is happening between Russia and Ukraine. I hope it ends soon and peace is restored. Azerbaijan has good relation with Russia and good relation with Ukraine.”

 

 

 “This crisis will impact tourists’ decision when they are selecting the destination because there are countries where now Russians are not allowed to enter. But because Azerbaijan and Russia are on good terms and there are no sanctions, there are a lot of opportunity also for Azerbaijan. We may receive even bigger number of tourists from Russia, but the war will have its impact globally because Russia is important source market for other destinations as well. There can be other impacts as well such as increase in air fares. But with regard to Azerbaijan, I don’t see big challenges,” he also added.

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