AITF-Whole World. One Exhibition.
Today the 10th Anniversary Azerbaijan International Tourism and Travel Fair, AITF 2011, and 2nd National Domestic Tourism Exhibition are nearing their completion. This international event gathered 230 companies from 24 countries in Baku and has become a traditional holiday for thousands of representatives from all areas of the tourism industry as well as for travellers.
Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the development of tourism as one of the main branches of the non-oil sector of the economy, so the value of the jubilee exhibition cannot be overestimated. It is symbolic and significant that the anniversary event coincided with the Year of Tourism in Azerbaijan declared by the President. This phase will certainly go down in history as the stage of implementation of new achievements and outstanding projects of international importance. AITF 2011 is one of the highlights of the Year of Tourism in Azerbaijan and was highly organized, prompting favourable reviews both in the media and from participants and visitors.
One memorable event for all participants in AITF 2011 was a visit to the exhibition by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and the First Lady, Mrs Aliyeva. Constant attention by the head of state and his patronage over the tourism industry is reflected in all areas of this important sector of the economy and by our international co-operation. The country has successfully implemented a six-year programme of tourism development in Azerbaijan. Last year the country was visited by more than half a million tourists and the number of hotels and campsites reached 500, meaning that over the past few years the number of tourist beds has increased threefold. At the end of the current year - the beginning of next year - the country will have six 5-star hotels in operation.
President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Aliyeva visited the stands, which reflected the tourism potential of different regions of Azerbaijan and other countries. The President and the First Lady were informed about the favourable tourist opportunities available both in our country and in other countries.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, the Minister for Culture and Tourism, Mr Abulfaz Garayev, stressed that the tourism industry in Azerbaijan will be further developed and become an integral part of the economy. The Executive Director of ITE Group, Mr Edward Stroon, noted that the number of exhibitors this year had increased by more than 20%.
The rapid integration of Azerbaijan into the international community was reflected in the increased interest of major tour operators in our country. Interest in the local market is so great that many countries reserve a place at AITF almost a year ahead! This is remarkable and characterizes the confidence and respect for the organizers of the exhibition. Thus, the exhibition included national stands for Greece, Georgia, Dagestan, Turkey, Egypt, India, Lithuania and the Czech Republic.
The consistent increase in the number of participants and visitors shows the steadily growing interest in the opportunities offered by this exhibition in the Caspian region. The most exciting events in the tourism industry have consistently been unveiled at AITF. And this makes it doubly significant that the majority of debuting foreign tour operators, specializing in incoming tourism said, while talking about their mission in Azerbaijan, that AITF 2011 best promotes their tourism products to the local market. So, thanks to this excellent exhibition in Azerbaijan, the advantages of travelling to Egypt, Slovenia, the Seychelles, Vietnam, Greece, Mexico and many other countries, which is sometimes difficult to judge even in the glossiest brochures, has increased. Personal meetings with specific managers at respectable travel agencies allows potential tourists to evaluate all the benefits of the proposed trip, decide on the best route and clarify the details of payment and clearance for the tour. Such an approach contributes to the emergence of a good first impression of the country - on the basis of communication with its representatives. Being in constant contact with visitors and local tour operators has also meant that many foreign visitors have been able to expand their knowledge of Azerbaijan. This is an important merit of the exhibition and one that constantly improves the qualifications of all exhibitors, regardless of their experience in the industry, because one of the most important marketing tools is associated with the exchange of information, increase in knowledge and the specifics of the business based on a good theoretical training. The programme of workshops and presentations for professional visitors was rich and varied. In this regard, the exhibition served as an optimal base for analytical and practical recommendations regarding the organization of recreational tourism and resorts, the segmentation of the tourist market, the mechanisms of its lending operations, innovative solutions in the development of the tourism industry, online B2C sales of travel services, and the automation of the work of tour operators and travel agents.
The show also clearly demonstrated the rich tourism potential of Azerbaijan to foreign participants, opening up every nook and cranny of the region, which, of course, is to encourage them to open their ways to Azerbaijan and promote it among their own populations. In this regard, a magnificent opportunity was offered by the 2nd National Domestic Tourism Exhibition. Eighty-five companies from 18 regions successfully displayed the colourful recreation areas, resorts and hotels of Azerbaijan and introduced participants and visitors at AITF 2011 to the rich folklore, cuisine and crafting traditions of the Azerbaijani people. Many foreign visitors paid close attention to the ecotourism offered by Azerbaijani companies: rafting, canyoning, yachting, rowing, pony trekking, hunting (for waterfowl and wide ox) and fishing. There was also a positive reaction to the themed tours offered on history, archaeology, carpets, the environment, travel, and religion and pilgrimage. From the end of 2011 winter sports will be offered for the first time in Azerbaijan. A year-round tourist complex called Shahdag will be opened in Gusar district (in north of the country). Amongst the many attractions there will be mountain trails for skiing. Thus, AITF 2011 successfully showed foreign audiences that local tourism has significant prospective resources.
The exhibition demonstrates its role as a catalyst for further mutual contact and co-operation, serves as the best venue to grasp the tourism potential of Azerbaijan and offers a choice of places to relax. Visitors to the show were able to acquire lots of important and useful information on dozens of travel industry trends, meet with many experts in tourism and browse among the wide potential offered by local tourism. Without exception, all participants noted the positive effect of holding the exhibition in the new built-for-purpose Baku Expo Centre, located at a convenient point on the Baku - the Heydar Aliyev International Airport highway. The modern infrastructure of the complex creates a comfortable environment for both participants and visitors to the exhibition, and every sort of communication amenity, including high-speed WI-FI Internet access, facilitates the installation of stands.
Whole World. One Exhibition.is the new slogan of AITF 2011, which the show has fully lived up to. It is not simply good luck which means that the representatives of many tour companies have come to the exhibition in Baku with contracts ready for signing. Moreover, strategic partnerships are not limited to the private interests of two companies, although this certainly contributes to the expansion of transnational trade and economic ties. Rather, we are talking about large-scale inter-state relations at the ministry and major tour-operator level. Thus, during the course of the exhibition the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic, the Azerbaijan Tourist Association and the UAE company Atlantis Holidays signed a co-operation agreement. The document envisages attracting tourists from the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), promoting Azerbaijan in the region, holding awareness-raising campaigns dedicated to Azerbaijan in Gulf countries, and advertising and strengthening Azerbaijan's position in the tourism market in these countries.
Since its foundation the exhibition has officially been supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic, and also receives support from the World Tourism Organization, the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs’ (Employers’) of Azerbaijan Republic and the Association of International Tourism Exhibitions. Among the sponsors of the exhibition are tour companies "Gartour" and "Silk Way Travel". AZAL is the official air carrier for AITF 2011. Azerfon-Vodafone and Caspel are among the exhibition partners.