Bahruz Asgarov, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Azerbaijan Tourism Board In an exclusive zoom interview with Mr. Apratim Ghoshal, Editor-in-Chief, Travel And Tour World, Bahruz Asgarov, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB) shares his thoughts how Azerbaijan is regenerating its MICE and leisure tourism in post pandemic world.
Talks with Bahruz Asgarov, Deputy CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board
Azerbaijan has rich historical evidences. It is a Muslim- ex Soviet nation, located in the southern part of Caucasus, at the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe. This country also shares a border with Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Turkey.
“Azerbaijan is home to multiple ethnicities and always takes pride in the diverse beliefs of its multicultural population. Among them all, Azerbaijan also has a rich Jewish heritage. Up in the north of the country, in Guba region, there is a place called Red Village which is home to Mountain Jews and believed to be the world’s only all-Jewish village outside of Israel and the United States and the last surviving shelter, where they can freely practice their religious beliefs and traditions.”-Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of the Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB) and the Chief Advisor of the State Tourism Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (STA).
The COVID-19 pandemic in last two years prompted a shift in the travel paradigm. Here the travel may never be the same again or we are accepting “new normal”, but different doesn’t mean worse and we can expect it to be healthier and sustainable. As, the country has opened the borders, now the tourists are seeking out safe, healthy and authentic travel with experiential and transformative experiences with a blend of genuine cultural immersion. They are looking for the destinations with good governance and health systems, prioritising responsible, eco-friendly, socially-conscious tourism.
One of the major tourist attractions is mud volcanic regions. Abode of the world’s greatest concentration of mud volcanoes, the landscape around Baku, there are about 400 mud volcanoes and while they never grow to the size of a normal volcano, topping out at around 10 kilometres in diameter and 700 metres in height.
Khinalug is a remotest eco tourism spot in the country and has developed its own culture and traditions, and even its own language. The villagers consider themselves to be direct descendants of the Biblical character Noah.
Javanshir Fort is a pride of the Ismayilli region. This ancient fort is associated with the name of the outstanding Albanian commander and ruler Javanshir Mehranid, who ruled in 642-681 AD. The Girdyman domain was founded by the Mehranid dynasty on the territory of the modern Ismayilli region, and later they extended their dynastical empire to the whole of Albania.
The development of new tourism offerings has also continued Safari tours in Shamakhi surrounded by the Caucasus Mountains for eco-tourists and wildlife lovers, the Alpine Coaster at Shahdag Mountain Resort, the world’s first oil tanker museum and reconstructed zoo in the capital city, Baku, are among the new experiences.
The Slow Food Travel (SFT) concept has also been prepared within the COVCHEG project. The aim of developing the SFT concept is to combine travel with first-hand culinary experiences based on meetings with local farmers, shepherds, winemakers, butchers or bakers and learning more about local gastronomic traditions. It is developed within an EU-funded project which has been jointly implemented by ATB and Slow Food International. This experience is now accessible across the north-western route with about 60 local partners providing local gastronomic experiences as well as accommodation options. It is also planned to be expanded to the subtropical south of Azerbaijan where a perfect combination of rice, tea and citrus plantations await travellers.
Additionally, Ritz-Carlton and Hotel Indigo will be added to the list of recently opened luxury hotels such as Courtyard by Marriott Baku and InterContinental Baku, where excellent services and quality, including wedding planners while there are also numerous accommodation types varying from runaway houses at mountain tops to boutique hotels in the city centre.
Azerbaijan is now open to 87 countries by air travel. With restored connection via multiple international airlines and easy e-visa procedures, passengers aged 18 and over can now fly to Azerbaijan by submitting both a COVID-19 passport and a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before the flight, while for minors only the latter needs to be provided within the indicated period of time.