Rates of development of internal tourism in Azerbaijan can be considered satisfactory: interview with Minister of Culture and Tourism

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 6 / Trend , U.Ismaylova /
Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Abulfaz Garayev speaks with Trend in an exclusive interview  

Trend : How did the global crisis influence the tourism business in Azerbaijan?

Garayev: Global financial crisis continues to influence the economies, especially tourism sphere of several countries. In 2008 global financial crisis influenced the tourism market of Azerbaijan as well. Last year the growth rate of citizens, who go from Azerbaijan to foreign countries, reduced compared with 2007. However, as a result of survey, carried out by the Ministry amongst the tourist companies, it was revealed that in 2008 the number of trips of the citizens within Azerbaijan increased.
Q: You said earlier that 25 more hotels are expected to be built in Azerbaijan in 2010. Do such plans still persist on the backdrop of the global financial crisis?

A: Some articles of the State Program on Development of Tourism in Azerbaijan for 2009-2013 designed by the ministry and which has been introduced to the Cabinet of Ministers stipulate construction of new hotels. A total of 59 hotels are being built in Azerbaijan. I think this indicator will not drop in future. Azerbaijan's tourism potential is a part of the economic and cultural development of the country. Government's attention for development of this sector and experience increasing every year allows to make significant achievements. The global economic crisis which has affected foreign economies has not impacted Azerbaijan due to effective policy.

Q: How many tourists in 2008 traveled Azerbaijan and how many are expected to travel in 2009?

A: The total number of foreign citizens, who visited Azerbaijan in 2008 composed 1,898,939 people, which is 42.5 percent more than 2007. Of them, 1,408,988 were tourists, an increase of 39.4 percent compared to 2007. Increase was recorded amongst the citizens, who came from the neighboring countries - Russia, Georgia, Iran. However, with regards to the forecast, in 2009 increase can not be observed in this sphere because of the global financial crisis.

Q: What is the character of internal and external tourism, to what countries do Azerbaijani tourists prefer to go?

A: Azerbaijan signed agreements on tourism co-operation with 22 countries. Projects of agreements were submitted to 27 more countries. Infotour of the representatives of the tourist companies and media outlets of Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Germany will be organized in 2009 to propagate the tourist potential of Azerbaijan.

Taking into account that the development of multilateral co-operation is one of the priority directions of the policy of external tourism, we continue activity in establishing tourism co-operation with WTO, United Nations, OIC, BSEC, GUAM, CIS Tourism Council in order to join existing projects in the sphere of tourism, ensure active participation in the international events, prepare new proposals and projects, sign co-operation agreements.

Over the last two years, Azerbaijan hosted a number of international events. The 5th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers on September 9-12, 2007 in Baku can be set as one of the clear examples for this.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism participates in Wine Road project and "Alexander Duma in Caucasus" project realized within the Kiev initiative of the Council of Europe, German populated areas in Azerbaijan project, Great Silk Way project realized within the WTO.

A project of agreement was developed, which is planned to be signed between the governments of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan on co-operation in organizing cruise routes via Caspian region.

Tourists, who arrive in Azerbaijan, arrive in the capital mainly. Baku is the historical, cultural and industrial center of Azerbaijan. But it is possible to observe large flow of both local and foreign tourists to all cities and regions of Azerbaijan - Khachmaz, Lankaran-Astara, Shamakhi-Gabala, Sheki-Zagatala, Ganja-Gazakh. However, as a whole the level of the development of internal tourism does not satisfy us as well.
The rates of the development of the internal tourism of Azerbaijan can be considered satisfactory
Q: Do today's prices in tourism facilities correspond to rendered services?

A: Surveys show that today's prices in the tourist facilities are more expensive than the rendered services. According to the existing legislation, the interference of Ministry in forming the prices for the tourism services is impossible. But we carry out certain work to bring the cost of the rendered services into conformity with their quality. Thus, yearly the Ministry carries out trainings for the specialists, who work in the hotel industry, in Baku and tourism regions of Azerbaijan. The heads of hotels participate at the seminars in Azerbaijan and abroad.

At the initiative of Ministry, Azerbaijan Tourism Institute, which successfully operates, was established in 2006 to train tourism specialists in Azerbaijan. During the summer vacations, the students of the Institute pass training in the tourist regions of Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Azerbaijan. We believe that the first graduates of Institute, who will graduate in 2010, will make a worthy contribution to the tourism of Azerbaijan.

Q: How does the Ministry combat violations on tourism market? How are clients' losses compensated?

A: The Ministry operates to protect consumers' rights on tourism market (travelers using tourist services). The companies having the license on tourist activity issued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism conclude bilateral contract while selling any tourist product to consumers. Rights of both consumers and tourist companies are stipulated in this contract. If a consumer is dissatisfied with anything, he/she applies to court agencies upon a concluded contract in accordance with the corresponding legislation. The problem is solved by court agencies' corresponding decision. If the court proves guilt of a tourist company, the Ministry notifies this company and in case of repeated violation, its activity is suspended upon the corresponding legislation.       

Our specialists constantly hold monitoring on tourist facilities operating in Azerbaijani regions. If disadvantages are revealed on the facility having license and sign quality, the facility's activity can be ceased and the license can be liquidated upon the corresponding legislation, as well as contract concluded between tourist facilities and the Ministry.     

Q: How many monitoring was held in 2008? What were their results?

The monitoring commission comprising public representatives was established to control over service of tourist facilities during summer season, keeping of sanitation and hygiene and security of tourists. The commission's representatives were directed to Shamakha-Gabala-Sheki-Gakh and Guba-Khachmaz regions.

According to results of the monitoring, there are several problems on preparation of professional staff, servicing of clients, management and advertisement activity. The Ministry organized trainings to solve employees' problems in hotels and tourist firms. The trainings were supported by Turkish and Greek experts on tourism.

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