Ahead of the 29th UN Climate Change Conference (COP29), which will be held in Baku in November 2024, Azerbaijan is taking major steps to prepare for an influx of tourists. The event will attract a large number of guests, including delegates, experts, media representatives and ordinary citizens wanting to learn more about climate change and efforts to combat it.

Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijan Tourism Bureau Javanshir Bayramov told Report that in order to meet demand, 16 new tourist routes are being developed, covering various regions of the country and offering an introduction to ecotourism (reserves, national parks), outdoor recreation and extreme sports. These itineraries are designed to make the most of the free time that many COP29 participants will have between the conference weeks.

It is expected that most tourists will be interested not only in participating in the conference, but also in getting to know the country. To achieve this, the Azerbaijani authorities are expanding accommodation options, building new hotel-type facilities, and also modernizing existing ones. In addition to Baku, infrastructure is actively developing in other regions, especially on the Absheron Peninsula.

According to Bayramov, after the Dubai COP, it is expected that even greater interest will be shown in the Baku conference: “This can already be seen from the number of hotel reservations. As part of the conference, we will have two zones – blue and green. In the green zone, there will be also tourists who want to come and learn more about the country’s tourism opportunities, including within the environmental protection.”

In this regard, hosting COP29 in Azerbaijan can be seen not only as an opportunity to raise awareness of climate change issues, but also to stimulate the development of the country’s tourism industry.

Quantity and quality

Azerbaijan has positioned itself as an attractive tourist destination, offering visitors not only rich history and culture, but also breathtaking scenery. The country’s authorities also focus on hospitality and strive to ensure that every visitor feels comfortable and has an unforgettable experience.

Today, as the deputy chairman of the Tourism Bureau noted, hotel bookings are made not only through the official platform, but in parallel, many hotels and hotel-type facilities are reserved through other platforms: “We assume that guest accommodation will be throughout the country, but especially in Baku and Absheron. In this regard, very good demand is expected for all services, not only attractions, entertainment, and catering services. The entire industry will benefit from this, which in turn will significantly benefit the country’s economy.”

So, before the end of 2024, Azerbaijan will be the center of attention, hosting two major events: Formula 1 and COP29. It is expected that the influx of tourists will be unprecedented, and therefore, in addition to hotels, apartments and new residential complexes are being built in Sea Breeze, and the preparation of various levels of accommodation bases, the Olympic Village is being completed, and other locations throughout Absheron are being actively prepared.

Along with this, special attention is paid to the classification of hotels. As Bayramov noted, this year 200 hotels were assessed for compliance with the star rating, and those that did not meet the standards received recommendations for improvement: “A lot of work was done in this direction in previous years. We checked all types of hotel and tourism service facilities to understand what resource we have.”

Azerbaijan is ready for challenges

Azerbaijan’s tourism development strategy is not without risks. Geopolitical instability may lead to unforeseen challenges, and competition from other tourism destinations is increasing. However, Azerbaijan’s potential as a tourist destination is enormous.

“There are different trends all over the world, including geopolitical events, and we want the destination to be strategically ready, because if not from this country, then from another country, tourists can come to Azerbaijan,” Bayramov sums up.

According to him, in parallel with the preparation of infrastructure, marketing research is being conducted. Markets are analyzed, with an emphasis on neighboring countries, and in the last few years – China and India.

“The country is not limited to traditional destinations and is actively exploring new ones. At the same time, the main thing is to attract high-income tourists who are willing to spend more money and stay in the country longer. To increase the tourist flow, negotiations are underway to open new direct flights.

The number of people arriving is an important indicator, as is the quality. Despite a 35% drop in tourist traffic in 2023 compared to the record year of 2019, tourist spending increased by 9%. While in 2019 a record number of tourists arrived in the country – 3.2 million people.

Tourism figures are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Already in February of this year, the number of tourists exceeded the figures for 2019, and in May the difference was only a few percent,” Bayramov said.

The success of Formula 1 in 2023, when all tickets were sold out, is encouraging. “In the first year we did not see such a strong return, but in subsequent years, in particular last year, all tickets were sold out, and a huge share of them were sold to foreigners. This is a fairly luxury event and foreigners spend a lot of money at Formula 1, they arrive either early or later, and often stay an extra week to visit various tourist sites. COP29 will also attract a large number of guests, but we expect greater returns later,” the representative of the Tourism Bureau assured.

So, the Azerbaijani authorities are optimistic about the future and are confident that COP29 will be a catalyst for long-term tourism development. It is planned to continue to develop infrastructure, create new tourism products and diversify markets to make Azerbaijan an even more attractive destination for tourists from all over the world.