Postshow release of 10th Anniversary Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair
The 10th Anniversary Azerbaijan International Tourism and Travel Fair (AITF) closed on 30 June. This international event has become a long-awaited occasion for thousands of representatives from different areas of the tourism industry, as well as for those who enjoy travelling. Since its foundation, the exhibition has been officially supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic, and has had the support of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs (Employers’) Organisation of the Republic of Azerbaijan and International Tourism Trade Fairs Association (ITTFA). This year AITF was re-certified by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and has met the statistical expectations of the Organizers. "Silk Way Travel" and "Gartour" were among the sponsors of the exhibition and AZAL was the Official Airline of AITF 2011. Azerfone-Vodafone and Caspel are among the partners of the exhibition. The event was organised by ITE Group Plc and Iteca Caspian.
AITF was held for the first time in 2002, hosting 26 companies from five countries. Today AITF 2011 welcomed 230 companies from 24 countries, representing 61 different areas of tourism. This fact clearly demonstrates the positive dynamics of the exhibition, as well as its role in the tourism sector of Azerbaijan. Over the past years AITF has hosted around 900 companies in total.
The exhibition was preceded by the opening ceremony, which was attended by Mr Abulfaz Garayev, Minister for Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic, and Mr Edward Strachan, the Executive Director of ITE Group Plc. Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Mr Abulfaz Garayev noted that the tourism sector in Azerbaijan is constantly developing and will become an integral part of the national economy. Mr Edward Strachan congratulated the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on the exhibition’s anniversary, thanked them for their support and noted that the number of participants this year had increased by more than 20%.
The attendance at the exhibition of HE Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and First Lady Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva was a significant event for all the participants of AITF 2011. The constant attention to, and patronage of, the tourism industry by the head of state is manifested in all aspects of this important sector of the economy and in his interest in international co-operation. President Aliyev and the First Lady visited the stands which reflected the tourism potential of Azerbaijan. The area of Garabagh was represented by a separate stand. The ancient history and monuments, as well as the unique geographical position of the Absheron peninsula, where the capital is situated, are of great interest for tourists. Currently six modern hotel complexes are under construction in Baku, the opening of which will add new shades to the architectural ensemble of the capital and play an important role in tourism development. Among a number of other innovations, the "Azerbaijan Tourist Navigation" project is of particular importance. Within the framework of the project, information about the seven tourist routes in Azerbaijan is provided in three languages in an online travel navigator. The honoured guests also had the chance to familiarize themselves with the "Azerbaijani Pearl" project, which it has been envisaged will be implemented on the island of Zira. The President and his wife then talked with representatives from the Azerbaijan National Cuisine Centre and looked at the dishes on offer. President Aliyev and Mrs Aliyeva also toured the pavilions containing foreign tour companies.
This year AITF co-celebrated two significant events: the Presidential announcement of 2011 as the Year of Tourism in Azerbaijan and its own anniversary. This announcement has already played an important role according to growth indicators at this year’s exhibition, and of course, has gone down in history as a phase of blazing transformations in the industry. On the anniversary of AITF, the expositional space had increased by 25% compared to the previous year. Visitors were faced with vivid stands touting their national character, entertainment and great offers on unforgettable travel packages. Offering a variety of routes, the exhibition introduced its guests to the different areas of tourism. Thus, the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives offered Luxury Tourism (Deluxe Travel) itineraries, while the medical tourism represented by sanatoriums and spa resorts could be seen on the stands of Azerbaijan, Russia, the Ukraine and the Czech Republic. For the first time in Azerbaijan the exhibition offered new packages to Laos, Cambodia, Hungary, Vietnam, Myanmar and Mexico. One striking difference of AITF 2011 was in the large number of national stands who had announced their participation as early as the previous show. Thus, the exhibition included national stands from Azerbaijan, Greece, Georgia, Dagestan, Egypt, India, Lithuania, Turkey and the Czech Republic. This is the second consecutive year that Turkey has acted as a partner country for AITF. The tourism potential, character and unique offerings of this country were also presented on a national stand.
On the other hand, the show clearly demonstrated the rich tourism potential of Azerbaijan to the foreign exhibitors. In parallel with AITF 2011, the second Republic-wide Exhibition of Domestic Tourism took place, organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The 85 companies from 18 regions successfully demonstrated the picturesque recreation areas, resorts and hotels of Azerbaijan and introduced participants and visitors to rich folklore, cuisine and the crafting traditions of the Azerbaijani people. Many foreign visitors took great interest in the information on ecotourism services offered by Azerbaijani companies which include rafting, canyoning, sailing and rowing, horse riding, hunting (waterfowl and wild oxen) and fishing. The themed tours presented at the exhibition also provoked a positive reaction: these included tours on the subjects of history, archaeology, carpets and the environment, and also religious and pilgrimage tours. The provision of services for winter sports will begin for the first time in Azerbaijan at the end of 2011, when the opening of "Shahdag", the year-round tourist complex in the northern Gusar region, is expected. Mountainous ski trails are being created there especially to attract winter sports enthusiasts. In this auspicious year for the tourism industry, five luxury hotels representing global brands will open in Baku. Thus, AITF 2011 has successfully illustrated the excellent prospects for the local tourism sector.
The organizers of the exhibition (ITE Group Plc and Iteca Caspian), together with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of AR, prepared a special programme for the anniversary exhibition. Thus, the first catalogue of different tourism fields has been issued, which is an indispensable reference source of tourist routes for those wishing to focus on a particular type of leisure. The catalogue includes description of countries with recreation programmes, as well as indicating the companies which organize relevant tours. To create a festive atmosphere, branded horse-drawn carriages inviting visitors to the exhibitions were driven about the city. The programme of entertainment at the exhibition included cookery demonstrations, national dances, visual and sculptural arts, and the prise-drawing of tours.
The exhibition was also accompanied by a meaningful business programme. Hence, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism organized an awareness-raising tour across the exhibition for representatives from foreign countries - the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Germany. The industry professionals participated in workshops, presentations and master-classes organized by the UNWTO, the Tourism Bureau of the Embassy of Egypt in Moscow (Russia), SAMO-Soft (Russia) and Silk Way Travel (Azerbaijan). The following topics were presented and discussed: "The UNWTO trans-regional programme for the Silk Road: New business opportunities on the Ancient Route", “Innovative solutions for the development of the tourism industry”, “The automation of the work of tour operators and travel agents”, and “The online sale of tourism services in a B2C context”.
This year the growth in the number of visitors to the exhibition was also marked. The total number of visitors across the three days exceeded 7,000 people. The visitors came from 26 different countries. Sixty-two per cent of the visitors were professionals from the tourism industry. On average, 8-9 meetings were conducted every day on the stands and culminated in the signing of contracts or opening of future prospects for co-operation. According to average statistical data, important contact was made between more than three thousand international industry experts at the exhibition. Many travel companies came to the exhibition in Baku with documents regarding co-operation already prepared for signing. Hence, during the exhibition the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan and Atlantis Holidays (UAE) signed a co-operation agreement. The action agreed in the document includes attracting tourists from the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council, representing Azerbaijan in the region, holding awareness-raising campaigns dedicated to Azerbaijan in the Gulf countries, publishing advertisements and strengthening Azerbaijan's brand position in the tourism markets of these countries. It should be noted that 38% of the exhibition’s visitors are ordinary citizens who visit the show to select a great budget holiday location or to discover new tourism destinations.
Without exception, all participants noted the positives of holding the exhibition in the new Baku Expo Centre which is well-equipped for this kind of exhibition. The modern infrastructure of the complex creates a comfortable environment for both participants and visitors to the exhibition, and the various communications options and high-speed WI-FI Internet facilitate the installation of stands.
In 2012, the exhibition will be held at Baku Expo Centre from 12 to 14 April.