Tehran, Baku Tourism Development

Tehran, Baku Tourism Development

Following suit from their southern neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and western Turkey, the northern Azeris are planning an ambitious program for boosting their tourism industry.  
Baku has decided to attract over 10 million foreign tourists per year by 2020. There are a reported 3 million foreign tourists currently visiting Azerbaijan each year.
Senior authorities in the Azeri tourism body are prioritizing Iranian tourists, investors and developers in their plans.
After Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1993, the country has developed an improved relationship with Iran, its southern neighbor, especially in the recent years.  This is due to the common culture, religion, and history between the two countries.
Nearly 80% of Azeri people are Shiites, the official religion of Iran. The Azeri and Persian peoples have many parallel religious beliefs and rituals, Sharq reported.
According to the statistics provided by the immigration department of both countries, over one million people traveled from Azerbaijan to Iran in 2013. The same source gave the main reasons for the trips to be for medical treatment, pilgrimage to Qom and Mashhad, touristic travel, and business.

The national advisor to the president of Azerbaijan, Ali Hasanov said thousands of people travel to Iran from Azerbaijan via air and ground routes each day, mainly to receive medical treatment.
To support his assertion,  Hasanov points to a hospital in Ardebil Province where a specialist surgeon is receiving more and more of Azeri patients.  “This is one of the reasons why the Iranian medical society receives high revenue,” he added.
At the time being, there are bus lines between Iran and Azerbaijan Republic, which have been much appreciated by the travelers. There are also 3 active flights between the two countries. More flights to Iran are being planned by Azeri officials, especially those to Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, and Qazvin.
According to the deputy minister at Azerbaijan Ministry of Economy Sahil Babayev, Iran’s cooperation is determinant in development of Azerbaijan’s tourism industry; “The Iranians will feel at home here. We have the same taste in food and other stuff. Each year, over Nowruz ‘New Year’ holidays, Baku is visited by many Iranian tourists. So far there have been good ties in tourism sector between the two countries, and the relationship can still be furthered,” he said.

Azeri officials decided to diversify their revenues that have been derived from oil industry by 92% so far. Within this context, tourism is one of the major priorities of their plan. Within 6 years, Azeri senior officials intend to raise touristic revenues of the country by ten folds, Hasanov stated.
During the recent years, some 35 five-star hotels were constructed in various parts of Azerbaijan, Hasanov informed. The Iranians have played an important part in tourism industry of Azerbaijan, both in preparing the infrastructure of tourism, and in its strategic development.
Azerbaijan’s first five-star hotel was built by an Iranian investor Parviz in Baku. Hotel Vermont was built by another Iranian. The famous Iranian investor Abdolbari Gozel has extensively contributed to Azerbaijan’s tourism sector. The Iranians were the first investors to the country, bringing revenues to both the parties, Hasanov said.
Many restaurants in Azerbaijan were established by the Iranians, some of which serve as touristic attractions, Hasanov added.
Babayev spoke of massive investments in tourism industry, including 7 international airports and a comprehensive highway network throughout the country.
So it appears that Azeri officials are set on taking a prominent place in tourism industry.  It is important to consider Iran’s position in respect to tourism. Last year Iran received over 4.1 million foreign tourists. Since Azeris comprised a quarter of this figure, Azerbaijan’s place in Iranian tourism industry cannot be ignored.
Most  Azeri travelers come to Iran by land via the Astara, Jolfa, and Bilesavar border controls. As there is no visa required, more and more Azeris are encouraged to visit Iran.
Iranian envoy Mohsen Pakayin and the Supreme Leader’s representative in Baku Seyed Ali-Akbar Ojaqnejad have, however, emphasized the necessity of raising the quality of services at Iranian border control which receive people of Azerbaijan, as a way of encouraging this tourism trend.


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