Azerbaijan has it all. From international star hotels to budget accommodation, it’s is the perfect spot for an Indian traveler to explore. Florian Sengstschmid, CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board, sheds light on the country’s culture, cuisine and more.
Azerbaijan is gradually gaining popularity among Indian travelers. What do you think is the reason for this trend?
Azerbaijan has seen a great increase in Indian tourists in 2018. One of the reasons for the growth rate was a very active Air Arabia pushing the new destination of Baku and the launch of new flights by Azerbaijani Airlines (Azal). Indian nationals are also eligible to apply for e-Visa that can be availed in as little as three hours enabling ease of access to the country. Azerbaijan has nine of the world’s eleven climate zones, offering travelers a European experience at an affordable price. Azerbaijan’s unique geography and location have resulted in a cuisine influenced by the land’s natural ingredients. It has also assimilated the flavors of the travelers that passed through its heartlands. In terms of hotels, from international five-star brand hotels to the local bed and breakfast, it’s all packed in Azerbaijan. A combination of these factors has helped raise the profile of the destination among Indian travelers.
What steps is the tourism board taking to promote the destination in India?|
We began the year by participating at SATTE in January and we will have more activities from a B2B perspective –like roadshows rolling out in certain mega cities in India and partnerships with airlines and tour operators. Azerbaijan is now also looking to build a film policy document to encourage and support the Indian film industry to come here. Owing to the infrastructure, facilities, and tax rebates, Indian cinema is slowly looking at this region with a few film shoots already taking place. Recently, a Telugu movie was shot here, and we hope to expand this to other production houses.
What’s the demographics of Indian travelers who visit Azerbaijan?
We see a lot of families with kids, young couples, individual travelers and honeymooners who visit Azerbaijan. City tours trump as the No.1 reason across all category of travelers for people wanting to come to Azerbaijan. Nature and adventure is what excite young couples while adventure is what excites individual travelers and the pull factor for honeymooners is the need to experiment with new cuisines which Azerbaijan does not fail to disappoint with its surprising flavors and combinations.
What are the challenges of promoting Azerbaijan in India?
I think 2017 and 2018 were learning curves in terms of understanding the complex Indian market and common grounds for travelers. Ties between India and Azerbaijan are very close – with a lot of cultural and historical touchpoints between both countries. Baku is home of the ancient Zoroastrian temple Ateshgah – “Fire Temple” which was built in the 17th Century by the Baku-based Hindu community. This proves that there has been a lot of travel between the two countries over the centuries.
We believe that once a person visits Azerbaijan, there will be many return trips! However, raising awareness for all the offerings available in Azerbaijan is challenging in a dynamic market like India. Throughout 2019, we will launch a series of campaigns such as, ‘Take Another Look’ to promote the possibilities within the borders of Azerbaijan and highlight the charms of Baku and beyond.
What plans have you chalked out for 2020?
Currently, our strategy for India is to attract corporate, wedding and leisure travelers. The Indian market has a large outbound potential, which is of high interest for the Azerbaijani DMCs, focused especially on attracting corporate and wedding travelers.