Tourism – visit card of any country

Analysis Materials 20 August 2009 12:08 (UTC +04:00)

Tourism has always been and is a visit card of any country, and the number of visiting tourists is one of the main indicators of the confidence of the international community in political and economic stability, prosperity. Today, Azerbaijan holds a leading place in the list of the leading tourism operators in Europe and Asia for its unique tourism opportunities, national colors, the rapidly growing infrastructure and wildlife nature fascinating even experienced travelers.

In today's globalization, the expansion of traffic and tough competition in the field of tourism, during a short period the local tourism was able to realize its potential, making Azerbaijan one of the countries being visited.

The total number of foreign nationals who visited Azerbaijan in 2008 amounted to 1,898,939 persons, an increase of 42.5 percent from 2007. Of them, 1,408,988 were tourists that is 39.4 percent more compared to 2007. The number of tourists arriving in Azerbaijan grows every year by 15-20 percent. Every tourist leaves at least $750-800. Last year the turnover from the tourism activities totaled 670 million manat. Azerbaijan has a potential to increase this amount in the future by several times.

The tendency of growth in tourism, especially in the context of global economic crisis, is indeed a major breakthrough in the young and independent republic. Over last two years, Azerbaijan hosted several international events. One prominent example of this is the fifth Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers held on 9-12 September 2007 in Baku.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan participates in the Wine Way project and "Alexander Dumas in the Caucasus" project, implemented within the Kiev Initiative of the Council of Europe, in the "German settlements in Azerbaijan" project, in the Great Silk Way project realized within the UN WTO.

Considering that the development of multilateral cooperation is a priority of the external tourism policy, work is continuing on cooperation in the sphere of external tourism with the WTO, UN, OIC, BSEC, GUAM, CIS Tourism Council in order to join the existing projects in the tourism sector, ensure active participation in the international events, prepare new proposals and projects, sign cooperation agreements.

Azerbaijan has signed agreements on cooperation in tourism with 22 countries. Draft agreements were presented to other 27 countries. To promote the tourism potential of Azerbaijan, in 2009 is organized info-tours of the representatives of tourism companies and mass media outlets of Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Germany.

Tourists arriving in Azerbaijan mainly come to the capital. Baku is a historical, cultural and industrial center of Azerbaijan. But it is possible to see a great flow of both local and foreign tourists to all cities and regions of the country, including Guba-Khachmaz, Lankaran-Astara, Shamakhi-Gabala, Sheki-Zagatala, Ganja-Gazakh. Although in general the level of development of domestic tourism is not satisfactory, the growth rate can be considered satisfactory.

Today in Azerbaijan there are more than 337 hotels that received licenses from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which also facilitate the flow of tourists into the country. The number of hotels in the country also increased. In 2002 there were only 34 hotels in the country. The existing tourism potential of Azerbaijan is part of the economic and cultural development, give impetus to the construction of new and different interesting buildings, and the State attention to the development of this sphere gives a ground to say that major successes will be achieved.

Thus, several items of the State Program for the Tourism Development in Azerbaijan in 2009-2013 prepared by the Ministry and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers reflect construction of new hotels and hotel-type facilities. Currently 59 hotels and hotel-type facilities are under construction in Azerbaijan.

Another important aspect in the development of the tourism industry is to create infrastructure of services that meet international standards. The current trends in the world tourism indicate that it is becoming more personalized and segmented.

Unfortunately, the local hotels have the best wishes regarding their rates and the level of service. Still they can not keep pace with the world standards. As a result of the first six months of 2009, the British Hogg Robinson Group rated the best cities for hotels, where the capital of Azerbaijan did not enter the rating in general.

Today's prices at the tourism facilities in Azerbaijan are indeed more expensive than the services provided. Under the existing legislation, Ministry's intervention in the formation of the prices for tourist services is not possible, but periodically carries out certain work to bring the cost of services into conformity with their quality. Thus, annually before the start of the summer season, the Ministry holds tourism training in Baku and regions of Azerbaijan for professionals working in the hotel industry. Managers of hotels participate in the workshops in Azerbaijan and abroad.

For training specialists in Azerbaijan in the tourism sector, in 2006 the Ministry established Azerbaijan Institute of Tourism, which now successfully carries out its activities. Every year during summer vacation, the students of the Institute hold workshops in the tourist regions of Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Azerbaijan. It is expected that the first graduates of the Institute, graduating in 2010, would make a worthy contribution to the tourism in Azerbaijan.

Also within the works to improve the quality of services in tourism, the Ministry takes measures to protect the rights of consumers (travelers who use travel services) on the tourism market.

Constantly monitoring is held in the tourism facilities, working in the regions of Azerbaijan. If shortages with the quality are detected in the facility licensed by the Ministry, the activities of the facility can be terminated and the license eliminated.

The greatest achievement in improvement of tourism is that Azerbaijani State Committee on Standardization, Patent and Meteorology confirmed new standards on tourism services and excursions.

Standard AZS 369-2009 (on tourism services and excursions) is applied to the hotels and hotel-type facilities, which offer accommodations for tourists. This document defines the hotels, the general requirements and services.

Standard AZS 370-2009 determines the classification of tourist routes and the requirement for work. This standard applies to certificate services for tourism and excursions.

Standard AZS 371-2009 is applied to the organizations, which develop documents for the tourist and excursion activities, as well as enterprises engaged in this activity. The terms, defined by these standards, are very important while applying all types of documents used in tourism and excursions, as well as work on quality management, standardization and certification.

Thus, the tourism sector in Azerbaijan is becoming more attractive, gradually gaining a full place amongst other spheres of the national economy. And a priority place in this process belongs to the state, providing opportunities for the expansion of all segments of tourism at the expense of the unique combination of traditional hospitality of Azerbaijan and contemporary global industry tendencies.