11th Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair
As we approach the summer tourist season, from 12-14 April the 11th Azerbaijan International Tourism and Travel Fair (AITF 2012) will open in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. As an annual meeting place for the leading players of the tourism industry, AITF is widely regarded a landmark event in the tourism industry of the Caucasus. As part of this exhibition, important meetings are held, new partnerships are formed and new tourism programmes, prices and destinations are announced. Since its foundation, the exhibition has been officially supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic and has always received encouragement from the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO), the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs (Employers’) Organizations of Azerbaijan Republic (AEC) and the International Tourism Trade Fairs Association (ITTFA). The official airline of the exhibition is AZAL; the official hotels are Hilton Baku and Caucasus Point Hotel and the official tour operator is Greenwich Travel Club. For the second consecutive year AITF will be sponsored by SW Travel (Azerbaijan).
The exhibition is organized by the British company ITE Group plc and its partner, Iteca Caspian LLC. Pre-exhibition work involved ITE Group’s wide network of agents and partners from all over the world, including ITE (London), EUF (Turkey), GIMA (Germany) and ITE Gulf (Dubai), who have actively been attracting international companies to participate in the Azerbaijani exhibition.
“One World. One exhibition” is the apt motto for this year’s fair. AITF 2012 is expecting to welcome 201 companies and organizations from 32 different countries, covering 62 aspects of the tourism industry. Such a variety of countries and destinations can be considered an absolute record in the history of AITF. For the third consecutive year, Turkey will act as the Partner Country for AITF and its national stand will include 16 leading companies in the tourism services industry. For the first time at AITF, Bulgaria will be participating as the Guest Country, which, at the group national stand, will offer the chance to discover all the features of the therapeutic and recreational resorts of Bulgaria. The concept of national stands has already become a hallmark of AITF. As such, this year AITF will include 15 national and regional expositions from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, the Republic of Dagestan, India, Cyprus, Crimea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Slovenia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, the Emirate of Dubai, the Stavropol Region and Croatia. Companies offering exotic destinations will be attracted by the special deals such as Thailand, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Each year AITF’s list of participants grows with new exhibitors. Qatar, Poland, Vietnam, Slovakia and Croatia will be making their debuts at this year's event. The intense interest from international participants can clearly be seen by the decision of the World Tourism Organization, which has long supported the event, to join this year’s exhibition with its own stand.
Among the participants there are the world's leading airlines. During the fair AZAL, AirAstana, AirBaltic, Qatar Airways, Fly Dubai, Czech Airlines and Turkish Airlines will all be announcing special offers for the Azerbaijani market.
Another distinguishing feature of this year’s event is the topic of health and wellness tourism in recreational centres and health resorts, to which part of the exhibition will be devoted. Bulgaria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Russia and Ukraine will all be presenting their famous health resorts. On the Stavropol Region’s stand, it will be encouraged to choose from packages for the resort cities of Essentuki, Zheleznovodsk, Kislovodsk, Mineralniye Vodi and Pyatigorsk, all of which are famous for their popular therapies for gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal system disorders and central nervous system diseases. At the show Ukraine will be introducing one of its biggest spa resorts, Truskavets, which is renowned for its variety of natural mineral waters. For the first time at AITF, Crimean resorts, which are specialised in the treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular systems and functional disorders of the nervous system, will be in attendance. The list of new participants who are active in this field includes a number of relevant organizations, including the National Spa Association of Lithuania, and the Regional Administration of Slovenia, The Land of Celje, which will present 6 deluxe thermal Spa resorts.
Azerbaijan’s stand will reflect the positive dynamics of the industry in recent years. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a permanent participant in the event, will run a traditional stand full of Azerbaijani motifs and reflecting the local hospitality. Leading local travel companies, recreational areas and health centres will give presentations about their latest projects and destinations for active leisure and adventure. The hotels network in the Absheron zone, including Fairmont, Hilton Baku, Four Seasons and Park Inn, will also be giving a presentation. This year, the theme of the major musical event of the year, the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, which is to be held in May in Baku, will run like a golden thread through the displays of all the local participants. The great anticipation of the musical celebration will be felt at almost every stand.
The comprehensive business programme that accompanies the work of the fair has become a worthwhile tradition. During this year’s event, industry professionals will be given the unique chance to take part in workshops, presentations and master classes organized by Qatar Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and by the Visegrád Group (V4), which represents tours to Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Within the exhibition, the Zagreb Tourist Board (Croatia) will organize a workshop entitled "Lijepa naša domovino" (Croatia is our beautiful homeland). More information on the topics of the seminars and their schedules can be found at www.aitf.az.
The cultural and entertainment events, highlighting the national characters of the countries represented, will be a striking addition to the business programme of the event. Company stands will be the platforms for presentations, raffles for travel vouchers and quizzes. Thus, on 12 April, the first day of the fair, the results will be announced for the first tourism quiz, On earth, in heaven and at sea!, organized by the Internet tourism portal Infotour.az. The winners will receive memorable prizes from the quiz organizers.
This year Baku will host another significant event, the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. Participants and guests of the tournament will be welcomed by the symbolic figure of a girl athlete. As a part of AITF, the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) will hold its Naming Presentation for the official mascot of the Women's Tournament. This event will take place on 13 April.In summary, despite the fact that the fair is held just once a year, the upcoming three days in April are expected to be the busiest in the tourism industry as always. Experts from the travel industry, as well as ordinary visitors, will have the chance to check out the exclusive offers from leading tour operators and discover information about tourism routes and competitive pricing proposals. At the same time, the show will clearly demonstrate the rich tourism potential of Azerbaijan to its foreign participants, serving to promote Azerbaijan as one of the most attractive tourist destinations. Therefore, AITF clearly demonstrates its role as a catalyst for mutual contact and further co-operation, and also serves as the best platform for discovering the tourism potential of different countries, and for choosing destinations to visit.