One of the newest entry in the Indian market, Azerbaijan as a destination has already tasted a good success in terms of tourist arrivals growth from India in 2018. Around 40,000 Indians visited Azerbaijan in 2018 recording a whopping 175 per cent growth in 2018 despite any noticeable market development activities in India, indicating a latent demand in the Indian market for the country on the Caspian coast.
Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB) opened a Representation Marketing office in India last December to grow its share of India’s tourism pie and attended South Asia’s biggest travel show SATTE 2019 in India last month as the “Focus Country.” Around three million international tourists are visiting Azerbaijan annually with Russia, Georgia, Turkey, the GCC and central Europe countries, and now India too, being some its key tourism source markets.
Speaking on the ATB’s growing interest in the Indian outbound travel market on the sidelines of SATTE, Florian Sengstschmid, CEO, ATB, said, “Azerbaijan has seen a great increase in Indian tourists in 2018. One of the reasons for the growth rate was a very active Air Arabia pushing the new destination of Baku with their network here. It also shows that without our support a very interesting market has established and the growth rate proves there is obviously great potential and interest for Azerbaijan. This is all the reason for us in intensifying our activities in the Indian market. We now have an India representation office working from the beginning of this year.”
Furthermore, he informed, “In the pipeline, are non-stop flights between India and Baku by Azerbaijan Airlines in the next few months, very important factor because we are now mainly serviced by the GCC connections. Once the non-stop flight is established, this will also bring new opportunities in terms of new tourism experiences. For now, it was mainly corporate events coming to Baku, the new flight connectivity will bring the target audience we are looking at and the scope of looking beyond Baku.”
Commenting on ATB’s market development plans and product placement for the Indian market, Sengstschmid said, “In terms of marketing strategy, one important step was to identify India as one of our target source markets and the decision to install a representative office of the ATB in India and to work with media in this regard. This means like from the B2B perspective there will be lots of activities following this (Participation in SATTE) like road shows rolling out in certain mega cities in India. These will be targeted campaigns for families, for MICE, for weddings and for the film industry. In terms of product placement this is the four main categories. And beyond this, cooperation strategies with airlines and tour operators.”
Reflecting on the complex Indian market and common touch points, Sengstschmid said, “I think 2017 and 2018 were learning curves in that sense for Azerbaijan. There are a lot of cultural and historical touch points between Indian and Azerbaijan. Ties between India and Azerbaijan are very close. You will find Sanskrit inscriptions in temples in Azerbaijan. This proves that there has been a lot of travel over the centuries. In terms of food, Azerbaijani cuisine is very rich when it comes to vegetables and fruits, also catering to religious or vegetarian demands of Indian guests. A lot of Indian restaurants have opened in capital city and regions. On the other hand, people are very similar in terms of culture and social ties like weddings, daily life, family behaviour and lifestyle.”
Azerbaijan on a very small territory has a lot to offer. Baku, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, is a sea-side city and reflects, from extremely old medieval walled part of the city to very modern architecture, lifestyle and living and cuisine and shopping etc. South of Baku, the countryside offers a desert like landscape dotted with Mud volcanos and UNESCO Heritage Sites, while in the North there is high Caucasus mountains with peaks reaching up to 4500 meters high with beautiful Ski Resorts, all within hour and half or two hours of drive.
“Nine out of eleven climate zones on a very small territory brings along a lot of opportunities for tourism experiences,” said Sengstschmid. Indian nationals are also eligible to apply for e-Visa that can be availed in as little time as three hours.