Azerbaijan’s tourism industry is showing recovery, posting a 35% increase in the number of foreign tourists (965,555) in the first five months of 2024 compared to the same period last year, Advisor to the Chairman of the State Tourism Agency Kanan Guluzade said during a media tour organized on June 15-16 in connection with the opening of the summer season by the State Agency for Tourism and Shahdag Tourist Center.

“We expect that by the end of the year the number of tourists visiting the country will reach the levels of 2019, making 2024 the year of restoration of the tourist flow,” Guluzade said, noting that this is facilitated by large-scale events (cultural, sports, business and COP29) planned in Azerbaijan.

Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijan Tourism Bureau Javanshir Bayramov outlined a dynamic picture of the revival of the country’s tourism sector in the summer season as well. He said that currently, foreign tourists in the summer season are offered tourism products such as hiking, glamping, paragliding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, diving, rafting, camping, and active marketing and advertising campaigns are underway to adapt these tourism products to existing and new markets. According to him, the tourism marketing development strategy for 2024-2026 focuses on four areas:

Nature and Adventure: Exploring stunning landscapes such as the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus and the azure waters of the Caspian Sea,

Cultural tourism: Immersion in the rich history and unique culture of Azerbaijan,

Medical tourism: Health improvement in balneological centers and use of the healing properties of natural resources,

Business tourism: Development of infrastructure for international events and congresses.

The results are already impressive. In the first five months of 2024, the flow of foreign tourists increased by 36% compared to the same period last year. Russia, Türkiye and India are leaders in tourist arrivals, with the number of Indian visitors more than doubling.

“Over 90,000 tourists arrived from India, which added newness to the geography of the countries from which tourists come to Azerbaijan. The number of Indian tourists more than doubled compared to a year earlier. A similar, two-fold increase is also observed from other target markets – China and South Korea. It is the citizens of these three countries around the world who make large expenditures on tourism,” said Bayramov.

In his opinion, Azerbaijan’s success in attracting high-income tourists, such as from China, South Korea and India, is due to a targeted strategy of market diversification, expansion of offers and simplification of the visa regime.

The contribution of tourism to the country’s GDP is already 3.5%, and total tourism revenues have increased by 9% compared to 2019, added the deputy chairman of the Azerbaijan Tourism Bureau.

Environmental responsibility

In addition to its tourism boom, Azerbaijan is demonstrating a commitment to ambitious environmental initiatives.

In accordance with the “Green World Solidarity Year” declared by President Ilham Aliyev, ecotourism and agritourism are actively developing in the country. According to Guluzade, in preparation for the tourist season, special attention was paid to green tourism. New tourism products are being developed and an advertising campaign is being conducted to attract domestic and foreign tourists.

Guluzade, recalling the grand opening on June 13 in Absheron with the participation of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of a new tourist complex of mud volcanoes, emphasized that this is also one of the areas of ecotourism. The complex of mud volcanoes is exactly the place where vacationers move from the urbanized urban environment to the natural area and get acquainted with the unique phenomena of the biosphere.

Chairman of Shahdag Winter-Summer Tourist Complex CJSC Rustam Najafov shared achievements in the field of environmental protection.

Charging stations for electric vehicles are installed on the territory of the complex, 95% of the lamps have been replaced with energy-saving LED lamps, and organic potatoes are grown on a hectare of land. Some 70% of the complex’s electricity is generated by a gas generator and work is underway to reduce steam emissions into the atmosphere.

According to him, negotiations are currently underway to install solar panels to produce alternative energy.

Successful start of the summer season

The purpose of the media tour is to inform the public about the steps taken by the state to develop summer tourism in Azerbaijan, about new tourism products and services, as well as about reconstruction and infrastructure development work in the Shahdag tourist center.

During the media tour, a presentation was made on the preparation of the country and Shahdag for the summer season, on existing and new tourism products.

As Najafov noted, during the year, work was carried out on the territory of Shahdag to reconstruct and modernize the infrastructure, as well as to create new entertainment. By the end of the year, a number of projects will be implemented, including a new ZIP-line, cross-motorcycle tours, an autodrome, tubing and karting for children.

Construction work has begun on the fifth phase of the complex development. A new ski stadium, slope, gondola cable car and a new parking area will be built on this territory.

According to the director of the tourist center, during the period from January to June 15, 2024, 48,372 people stayed at Shahdag hotels, and the total number of visitors to the complex was about 134,000 people.

A look into the future:

Azerbaijan, washed by the Caspian Sea and steeped in rich history, positions itself as an attractive tourist destination offering a variety of recreational opportunities.

Thus, Azerbaijan opens its doors to tourists from all over the world, offering a wide range of recreational opportunities for every taste.

The combination of a diversified tourism development strategy, ambitious environmental initiatives and a rich cultural heritage positions Azerbaijan as the pearl of the Caucasus, ready to win the hearts of travelers from around the world.