Return From Indonesia, and a Note On Tourism
The plan was to have Mason step in to drop a few posts while I was out. Obviously, that plan didn’t work out, so sorry about that. No worries, though, as I’m back in Azerbaijan, fresh from Indonesia, and back in action on the blog. Things were great in Indonesia, a fantastic tourist experience. In light of that, I thought I’d get started with an article Steve came across a week ago about tourism in Azerbaijan, from Trend:
The Ministry representative further said that the current priority is to familiarize the world with Azerbaijan as a tourist-friendly country, to be commercializing and advertising Azerbaijani brands of tourism, expanding information on activities, creating regional touristic-cultural routes in the context of international programs, and expanding international relations.
“Our ministry is involved in about 20 exhibitions in leading world countries, to promote the annual tourism potential of our country “, Gurbanov said.
We’ve talked about tourism in Azerbaijan here before. Here, here, and here are some good examples. I think this story above does a great job of capturing a major issue with tourism in Azerbaijan. This has classic cart-before-the-horse written all over it.
It’s great that Azerbaijan recognizes that they need to promote themselves to a wider audience. For a country that wants to be a tourism hub, it’s far too common to hear someone say “What is Azerbaijan?”; we’re not even to the point of asking where Azerbaijan is yet. However, the more important aspect here is not that Azerbaijan isn’t known. Instead, it’s that Azerbaijan doesn’t necessarily have a tourism product to promote. There are some hotels around, but that doesn’t make for a very good tourist destination. Customer service is uniformly poor (a gem of a host here or there, but extremely rare). And Azerbaijani tourism services don’t do a very good job of focusing on the natural assets in the country, namely their mountains and the Caspian Sea. Wider availability of services such as hiking or backpacking tours or serious skiing spots (no, this is not a serious attempt at a ski resort) would be a drastic improvement. Actually making an effort to clean the beaches and the Caspian would go a long way towards making those resources appealing to a tourist. And these are all, of course, subject to the stranglehold that the relatively poor transportation infrastructure has on getting around this country (not to mention the barriers to actually getting here in the first place).
Coming from a country that has been doing their tourism bit for a long time, for millions of tourists per year (Azerbaijan hits about 17-18,000 tourists per year; Indonesia gets 17-18000 tourists in one day), it becomes readily apparent that Azerbaijan, despite any tourism-attracting assets it might have, has a long way to go before any of those assets start producing real tourism numbers. I would love to see Azerbaijan actually take advantage of its location and geography. Those kinds of changes could only reap positive benefits, across multiple spheres, environmental, economic, and cultural. The important part of the quote from above is that we continue talking about Azerbaijan’s tourism potential. Somehow, we actually have to figure out how to get from potential to realization.