Four Phased Recovery Plan: Azerbaijan Tourism Board
The Azerbaijan Tourism Board has prepared a 4-phased recovery plan to ensure a smooth transition into the post-pandemic era.
What has unfolded around the world in the past couple of months is unprecedented. In this time of uncertainty when all industries have been impacted, the tourism and hospitality sector has been hit the most given border closures, travel restrictions and the need to stay home and self-isolate. As the world sees a major shift in habits today, it has also given us the opportunity to slow down, reassess priorities, and reflect on how travel will change in the future, and why it will still matter.
The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the closure of borders and had a significant negative impact on the global tourism industry – Azerbaijan is no exception. The Azerbaijan Tourism Board has prepared a 4-phased recovery plan to ensure a smooth transition into the post-pandemic era. First is where we are right now, with the majority of the world under lockdown. We are using this time to connect with everyone, including our partners digitally through online tools and platforms, and focusing on content creation. The second phase will be focused on domestic tourism, which we are in the process of rolling out as soon as the special quarantine regime will be lifted. The third phase will be when a few travel restrictions are lifted and borders reopen; we will use a staggered approach to roll out communications in our operational markets and restore key campaigns. The fourth phase will be when we all arrive at a “new normal” with a new era for experiences, campaigns and a new type of global traveller.
The government of Azerbaijan has taken the necessary steps to slow down the spread of the virus. It has also injected a stimulus into the economy to ease the hardships of its citizens. It has allocated 1 billion manats (500,000,000 million euros) to reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. An additional 1.5 billion manats will be allocated to fight the negative effects of the pandemic. A new entrepreneurship support package has been announced for hotels, tour agencies and tour operators which includes payroll support, a financial support programme for individual (micro-) entrepreneurs, a tax holidays, rebates and exemptions programme, and a credit support programme. They have also quarantined everyone entering the country to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus. A few hotels have been converted into quarantine zones. Notifications are regularly shared with the people of the country on the status of the outbreak, keeping complete transparency.
ATB is exploring new paths to overcome these obstacles, both for locals and for the visitors it is yet to meet. From social media to e-learning platforms and webinars, the team is doing its best to keep Azerbaijan’s flame ablaze. This crisis is a first for our industry, and our drive and ambition to overcome it and recover faster and stronger, is a real testament to what this business stands for: collaboration, adaptability and flexibility.
We are working on the assumption that after the special quarantine regime in the country is over, our main focus will mostly be on domestic tourism. We are in the process of launching a domestic tourism campaign, in the framework of which we collaborate with local hotels and tourism agencies in order to provide various tourism packages to people travelling within Azerbaijan. However, once international travel restrictions are lifted, people will be eager to travel, and Azerbaijan will still be here offering unforgettable experiences and opportunities to take another look at this beautiful country. With the government support to the industry, I am sure that all stakeholders will be ready to re-start their businesses in the era of “new normal”. The idea of “slowing down” is alien to those of us in the travel business. We have always strived to reach higher, move faster, see more, experience more, touch, taste, live. While everything is on hold today, I am sure of a prosperous tomorrow.
Despite all cancellations and restrictions we are working tirelessly to find innovative solutions in the name of public service and hospitality. In this period, we are focusing on virtual communication and online tools to promote the destination and keep in contact with our partners and industry stakeholders globally. We have already relaunched our 2 websites – tourismboard.az (B2B) and Azerbaijan.travel (B2C). We have launched an innovative health & safety programme called SAHMAN (Sanitation and Hygiene Methods and Norms) for local industry players to improve the standards of hygiene and sanitation, as well as Azerbaijan 101, an e-learning platform designed to aid the training and development of travel agents and representatives across the global tourism industry. We are continuing our communication with the media and other partners globally through virtual talks, webinars and other similar tools. For those who would like to virtually visit our main attractions while in isolation, a specially developed platform, Salambaku.travel, was launched, where visitors can go on a virtual tour of all sightseeing locations of Baku: from its UNESCO-listed Old City and Flame Towers to world-class museums, mud volcanoes, etc.
As humans, there is an innate desire in us all to explore, so once the borders are open and flights are back in the sky, I believe people will get back to travelling again. How travel habits change is yet to be determined, however we feel that people will look at travelling to less crowded destinations – perhaps those that aren’t considered popular. I believe they would like to explore uncharted territories, new countries, unravel hidden gems, and discover diverse cultures.
“Sustainable” and “responsible” tourism will definitely be more attractive, and more attention will be paid to these notions. The cards will be reshuffled so this offers all players a chance to rethink their approach. More attention will be given to health and hygiene measures in destinations and all touristic locations will have to make sure that their properties have these measures comply with international standards. The SAHMAN project is one of the steps we have taken to maintain the above-mentioned standards. The campaign, supported by the UNWTO, aims to maintain the country’s high quality as a tourism and business events destination and at the same time raise health and safety standards with the involvement of all relevant public and private partners. Focusing on accommodation, F&B and touristic transportation providers – three key aspects of the tourism value chain, SAHMAN calls upon all stakeholders in Azerbaijan to adopt even better practices in their businesses in the interest of safeguarding public health and supporting the regrowth of the industry. With this long-term shift in behaviour, we aim to ensure that these higher standards will be upheld beyond the current crisis.
Once travel restrictions are lifted, I believe people will be eager to travel to less crowded places and discover hidden gems. In this context, Azerbaijan has so much to offer, with its diverse landscapes, 9 out of 11 climatic zones, dozens of unique languages, and people who have lived here for thousands of years. I believe that post-pandemic Azerbaijan, adhering to safety and health norms, will be one of the most attractive places to visit with its abundance of natural beauty and outdoor activities together with culturally vibrant capital city.
Rest assured that while everything is on hold today there will always be tomorrow. One day soon when the world can finally move easily again, we will be free to discover this beautiful planet with fresh eyes. In the meantime, we’ll be here, nestled in the South Caucasus, awaiting your visit to Azerbaijan.
Around The World