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Baku is the main tourist center of Azerbaijan. The climate, rich nature, historical sites and artefacts of Azerbaijan contribute to the development of new types of tourism. Tourism resources, in terms of the development of historical, ecological, natural, cultural, sports, exotic types of tourism are rather promising. The history of tourism in Azerbaijan nowadays has a significant impact on economic development and is of strategic importance. In 1908, one of the branches of the Crimean-Caucasian Mountain Club began operating in Baku. The main objective of this department was to organize excursions and research related to tourism in the Caucasus. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Baku caravanserais were used as guest houses (hotels). The hotels providing a high level of service, such as “Astoria”, “Big Moscow”, “Hermitage”, “Marseille”, “Madrid”, “Metropol” and “Imperial” functioned in Baku. The wide dissemination of mountaineering expeditions, cycling and hiking trips had led to increased popular interest in this area and integration of active recreation fans into specialized societies. Since 1910, the Russian tourist society began to organize their trips to the Caucasus. In 1928, a tourism bureau at the Central Committee of the Komsomol of Azerbaijan was established to support tourism development. Since 1929, the joint stock companies “Soviet tourist” (1928) and “Intourist” (1929) organized tourist routes to the Caucasus and the South Caucasus. The offices of central tourist organizations functioned in Baku. In 1936, the first Baku tourist base (BTB) was created. Later, in 1950, the Baku sightseeing base was established and BTB was included in its composition (1952). The Tourism and Excursion Administration of Azerbaijan (1957), the tourist bases of Goygol (1960), Mingachevir and Hajikend (1962) were also established. The Azerbaijan Republican Council for Tourism (1962) of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions was changed to the Azerbaijan Republican Council for Tourism and Excursions (1969). The tourist camp “Sputnik” in Yalama (1962), which was a branch of the BTB and the General Directorate of Foreign Tourism of Azerbaijan SSR (1984) were also established. Such major hotels as “Absheron” and “Azerbaijan” were built in Baku, in 1970-1980.

Nowadays, tourism industry in Azerbaijan is developing as an important attribute of the modern lifestyle and culture, a form of international relations. The Law on Tourism was adopted in our country on June 4, 1999. The Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established in 2001. On January 30, 2006 according to the Presidential Decree by Ilham Aliyev, the ministry was split up thus re-establishing the Ministry of Youth and Sport and forming a new Ministry of Tourism which was later transformed into the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. In 2006, Azerbaijan Tourism Institute was set under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic according to the state education system. The Republic of Azerbaijan has signed intergovernmental agreements on tourism cooperation with 16 countries (Turkey, China, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, etc.). Since 2002, the Azerbaijan International Tourism Exhibition “AİTF” has been held in Baku every year and our national tourism opportunities are demonstrated in international tourism exhibitions (London, Moscow, Berlin, Istanbul, Muscat, Al-Kuwait, Tashkent, Tbilisi, Kiev, etc.). In September 2006, the 5th Conference of Ministers of Tourism of the Organization of the Islamic Conference was held in Azerbaijan and ended with the adoption of Baku Declaration. Following the approval of the State Program for the Development of Tourism in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2002-2005, tourism resources are effectively used in the country. In 2002, in order to ensure the development of tourism in the republic, 7 main tourist routes, which meet international standards were defined (Baku-Khachmaz, Baku-Astara, Baku-Balaken, Baku-Gazakh, Baku-Absheron peninsula-Gobustan, Baku-Nakhchivan, Baku-Shusha). Increase in entrepreneurial activities in the country had a positive impact on the development of the tourism sector and the formation of the tourism industry. Currently, more than 50 tourist organizations operate in Baku. “Khazar Tour Travel”, “İmprotex Travel”, “Azal”, “SİLTD”, “BTİ Azerbaijan”, “Caspian Travel” and “PASHA Travel” are large tourism companies in the country. The 5-star hotel “Hyatt Regency”, which is the world’s largest hotel group, “Grand Hotel Europe”, “Radisson SAS Plaza Hotel”, “Park Hyatt Baku”, “Excelsior Hotel Baku”, “Holiday Inn Baku Airport”, “Absheron”, “Park Inn By Radisson Baku Hotel”, etc. are in operation in the city of Baku.

The food sector, which is considered to be one of the important factors in the development of tourism, was emerged in Azerbaijan, in 1991 by the establishment of the Azerbaijan National Culinary Center. Such restaurants as “Amburan”, “Karvansaray”, “Beh-beh club”, “Mc Donald’s”, “Pizza-hat”, “Patio-pizza”, “Oyster Fish House”, “Dolce Vita”, “Deniz”, etc. are available to the local population and tourists. Most of the restaurants of national, European, Turkish, Indian and Chinese cuisine operating in the country are located in Baku. The 65 of 6305 monuments of history and culture protected by the State are of global significance, 2034 of national significance and the rest are of local significance. In 2000, Icheri Sheher was included in the World Heritage List, along with Shirvanshahs Palace and Maiden Tower. The territory of “Icherisheher” State Historical-Architectural Reserve with 10 of global significance and 27 of national significance historical monuments are of interest to tourists.

The territory of Azerbaijan can be devided into 8 tourism regions, varying in the diversity of resources, level of development and prospects. Baku-Absheron tourist region in this regard is more convenient. The territory of Baku-Absheron tourist region is located in the east of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on the coast of the Caspian Sea and has a very favorable geographical location. Tourist trips are organized along the western, north-western, northern and southern routes of Baku. The region specializes in educational, health and fitness, sports and business tourism. Such sandy beaches on the shores of the Caspian Sea as Bilgah, Nardaran, Pirshagi, Buzovna, Zagulba and Novkhani are very favorable for the development of tourism. The international tourist center “Ganjlik”, the tourist base “Neptun” and sanatorium-resort centers (Bilgah, Mardakan, Buzovna) are located in the region with a balneological climate. The Bukhara Caravanserai and Multani Caravanserai are the historical and architectural monuments of Icherisheher, which are currently used as a tourist destination. Baku is a center of cultural tourism developing inbound and outbound tourism. There are 120 hotels and other similar establishments functioning here. The Icherisheher complex (the Shirvanshahs palace, the Maiden Tower, ancient mosques, caravanserais, etc.), the Bibi-Heybat Mosque, the Ateshgah temple, the Caspian fortifications, towers, the caravanserais, the Ovdan complex (Mardakan fortress and towers, the Ramana and Nardaran fortress) and others are interesting historical monuments to be visited. Some 70 kilometres south of the town there are the Gobustan State Historical-Artistic Reserve, Altiagac National Park, Absheron National Park and the “Cennet Bagi” (Khizi) recreation area. In the south-west of Baku there operates the “Shikhovo” resort complex. Thus, tourists have the opportunity to travel in 4 directions from Baku to the western and northwestern, northern and southern regions of the republic. Modern Olympic (Baku, Mashtaghi, Hovsan) and other sports complexes contribute to the development of sports tourism in the country.

With the objective of promoting tourism, numerous popular scientific literature, photo albums, handbooks, booklets, brochures and sketch maps, such as “Azerbaijan”, “Welcome to Azerbaijan”, “Baku”, “Great Silk Road”, “Tourism regions of Azerbaijan”, “Historical and architectural monuments of Azerbaijan”, “Hotels of Baku”, “Restaurants and entertainment centers of Baku”, etc. have been published in Azerbaijani, Russian and English. The newspaper “Travel News” and the magazine “Azerbaijan Review” are being published. “The state program of development of resorts in the Azerbaijan Republic in 2009-2018” laid the basis for orderly development and efficient use of resorts and tourism projects in Azerbaijan, in the near future. In accordance with the decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated April 20, 2018, the State Tourism Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established.

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The situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as in other countries, has not passed unnoticed in the tourism sector of Azerbaijan too, and has led to a serious decline in this field since March. According to the State Border Service data, in January-September 2020 Azerbaijan received from 155 countries of the world 686,3 thousand or 3,5 times less foreigners and stateless persons compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection, the restrictive regime on the state border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the neighbor countries, as well as temporary restrictions on visits of citizens in most countries of the world, caused a sharp decrease in the number of arrivals in April-September of the current year and the visits made were mainly for non-tourism purposes.

According to the State Border Service data, in January-March 2022 Azerbaijan received 246,2 thousand or 2,1 times more foreigners and stateless persons from 149 countries of the world compared to the previous year. 27,4 percent of the arrivals were citizens of the Russian Federation, 24,7 percent – Turkey, 14,4 percent – Iran, 5,8 percent – Georgia, 3,4 percent – Ukraine, per 3,1 percent - Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, 2,0 percent – Pakistan, 1,6 percent – Kuwait, 1,3 – Kazakhstan, per 1,2 percent - India and Great Britain, per 0,8 percent - Germany and Oman, per 0,7 percent - Belarus and USA, per 0,6 percent – Israel and Uzbekistan, 6,6 percent – other countries. 79,7 percent of the arrivals were men and 20,3 percent were women.

In comparison with the same period of the last year, the number of arrivals from Oman increased by 649,0 times, Saudi Arabia – 168,5 times, Kuwait – 167,1 times, Bahrain – 50,4 times, United Arab Emirates – 47,7, Pakistan – 29,5 times, India – 11,0 times, Israel – 6,3 times, USA – 5,6 times, Kazakhstan – 3,6 times, France – 3,5 times, Ukraine – 3,0 times, Great Britain – 2,2 times, Iran – 1,9 times, Turkey – 1,9 times, Russian Federation – 1,7 times, Georgia – 14,9 times.

Compared to January-March 2021, the number of arrivals from Gulf countries increased by 3,0 times and amounted to 58,3 thousand persons, from the EU member countries increased by 2,5 times and amounted to 10,9 thousand persons, from CIS countries it increased by 1,8 times and amounted to 84,3 thousand persons.

54,0 percent of foreigners and stateless persons who arrived to our country used air transport, 44,2 percent – railway and automobile, and 1,8 percent – water transport.

The number of citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan traveling abroad increased by 2,7 times compared with January-March 2021 and amounted to 298,5 thousand persons, the number of citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan traveling to Iran increased 5,1 times, the Russian Federation 2,6 times, Turkey – 2,6 times, Georgia – 2,3 times. 44,5 percent of the country citizens traveled to Turkey, 18,7 percent – Russian Federation, 12,9 percent - Iran, 8,0 percent – Georgia and 15,9 percent to other countries. 66,4 percent of the travelers were men and 33,6 percent were women.

In January-March 2022, 58,4 percent of the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan visited foreign countries used air, 39,2 percent – railway and automobile, and 2,4 percent – water transport.