Azerbaijan: the Long-Awaited Meeting in the Caucasus

27th May, 2021

There’s a great purpose to leverage growth and high profile travelling in Azerbaijan these days. The diversity of the country allows to offer something for everyone with an open outlook, making business visitors feel always welcome here.

When it comes to the tourism and business events industries, the State Tourism Agency and Azerbaijan Tourism Board have been working actively to help local partners, through meetings, support packages and subsidised interest rates. “It is indeed true that one of our long-term goals is to make Azerbaijan one of the most prominent business event destinations globally,” says the director of Azerbaijan Convention Bureau (AzCB), Sevda Aliyeva (right photo). AzCB has been taking the necessary measures to make this vision come true under ATB since 2018, and before starting to promote the country, they already took great advantage of the high-level infra-structure, strategic position and having a successful past of hosting large-scale cultural and sports events such as the Eurovision Song Contest, 1st European Games, Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, among others. “Through all the work done over the past few years, I can proudly say that we have attracted a significant number of business events as well. Among them the International Astronautical Congress, planned for 2023 with almost 6000 delegates stands out,” says Aliyeva.

By connecting with partners via numerous webinars and virtual events, ATB also came up with digitally innovative solutions. “One of them was an e-learning platform, the Azerbaijan 101, designed to help partners around the world gain knowledge about Azerbaijan as a leisure and business events destination and all the related products it has to offer, along with virtual tours and inspections of Baku.” The team also sponsored a global virtual hackathon, Hack COVID-19, to seek technological solutions to the pandemic. They expect domestic and regional events to restart soon and international ones to follow in the next few months. “We have developed the SAHMAN (Sanitation and Hygiene Methods and Norms) programme to raise health and safety standards focusing on accommodations, F&B and transportation providers. And up until now more than 9000 monitoring sessions have been held and it is great to see the all partners involved to make the destination safe.” In this sense, Azerbaijan has a couple of priorities under its belt: keep the conversation flowing both with local and international partners, maintain the destination marketing activities and collaborations with selected media partners, and to focus on unique selling propositions especially for both corporate and association business events.

Azerbaijan Tourism Board is currently working on a series of virtual salons inviting audiences to learn more about the history, culture, society, arts and diplomatic relations of Azerbaijan. “Thanks to the country’s location at the intersection of East and West, we are not just limited to a modern lifestyle with a rich historical and cultural background but we also have a culture of tolerance brought by diverse beliefs of our population,” Aliyeva says. “When we say smart meetings, I think of two aspects: content and technology-driven gatherings. I firmly believe that if we want to get back to physical meetings, we must admit that events should have a stronger purpose to make people travel.”

By making sure that events were postponed rather than cancelled, Baku Convention Centre was able to mitigate the business slowdown and managed to keep more than 80% of them in 2020. Sustainable meetings? ““Azerbaijan has all the necessary features to become a more sustainable destination in the post-COVID era. Currently, both ATB and AzCB teams are working on how to best use these features by developing sustainable products for both tourism and business events industries,” Aliyeva concludes.

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