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18.05.2013 15:38

Whole world Ė one exhibition

The 2013 edition of the Azerbaijan International Travel Fair, AITF 2013, took place at the Baku Expo Centre from 4-6 April 2013. Over the past 12 years, the event has reflected the regionís travel and tourism trends, setting the tone for future success and boosting growth in the sector.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan has actively supported AITF since the event was launched. It is also supported by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the International Tourism Trade Fairs Organisation, AzPromo, and the National Confederation of Entrepreneursí (Employersí) Organisations of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

AITFís importance was confirmed by a visit from Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan. During his visit to the exhibition, President Aliyev visited the stands of leading tour operators and international airlines. As well as this, international exhibitors, who were at the event looking to make business contacts with Azerbaijan tourists and tourism agencies, showed the President the potential of their country.

Azerbaijanís Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfaz Garayev and the Executive Director of ITE Group Edward Strachan were among those to take part in AITF 2013ís opening ceremony on 4 April. Mr Garaev noted that the exhibitionís standing increases with every passing day, and this year the exhibition was the venue for meetings, signing contracts and announcing new programmes and tariffs.

Mr Strachan comments, ďAITF 2013 opens the tourism season in Azerbaijan. It is a good starting point for the work of multiple travel companies and organisations in the hotel and service industry.Ē

A VIP tour was held following the opening. Participants included the Minister of Resorts and Tourism of Crimea Alexander Liev, the Minister of Resorts and Tourism of the Stavropol Region Valentina Chentsova, and ambassadors, exhibitors, visitors and journalists.

251 companies exhibited at AITF 2013 from 35 countries, presenting a wide range of tourism services. The 20 national groups included the regular presence of Bulgarian, Cypriot, Czech, UAE, Georgian, Russian, Slovenian, Turkish and Egyptian exhibitors. The tourism potential of Azerbaijan was also on display, promoting the country as a vibrant travel destination for 2013.

The exhibitionís main sections were airlines and aviation agencies; tour operators and travel agencies; hotels, health spas and companies specialising in sports and adventure holidays, luxury tourism, business travel and environmental tourism, as well as a medical tourism and the new real estate abroad exhibition section.

The first day of AITF hosted a meeting between representatives of Azerbaijanís Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the tourism ministries of the Stavropol and Crimea regions of Ukraine. As well as this, an EU twinning project entitled ĎStrengthening the capacity of the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Culture and Tourismí and the ah2020.com online booking system from the Dubai-based company Atlantis Holidays were presented.

Exhibitors used AITF 2013 to unveil new flights, discount programmes and destinations - the Greek company Aegean Airlines showcased its new Baku-Athens route opening on 28 May, and Azerbaijanís flag carrier AZAL presented a new route to Bulgaria. Also, the twice-weekly Budapest-Baku service opening this summer was presented at the Hungarian national stand, and a direct charter service between Azerbaijan and Montenegro will also begin in June of this year.

The potential of Iranís Aras Free Trade & Industrial Zone, which is planning to expand its market in Azerbaijan and strengthen economic and trade links with neighbouring countries, was also showcased.

AIPS received certification from UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, again in 2013. In total, over 5,000 people from 27 countries visited over the three days, 79% of whom were tourism industry professionals. On average, exhibitors held 8-9 meetings a day at their stands that led to contracts being signed of prospects for future cooperation arising. The statistics show that over 4,000 important international contacts were made between industry professionals. Another new feature this year was that the first two days of AITF 2013 were trade-only. As a consequence, almost every visitor to the stands of exhibitors was a potential partner.

AITF 2013 received widespread coverage in international media, featuring on Turkish and Iranian broadcasts and on a special exhibition report from the seven-channel Euronews group. Ukraineís Eurovision 2013 entrant, Zlata Ognevich, preformed at the events evening reception.

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