The development of tourism sector is the center of attention all over the world, and it is not by chance. We observe the development of this field in many developed and advanced countries of the world, because the development of tourism means the entry of sufficient funds into the country's budget, an increase in the level of employment, and further improvement of social well-being. From this point of view, the attention and care of Azerbaijani government to the field of tourism is at a high level, and if we take into account that Azerbaijan has a favorable position for tourism from a geographical point of view, then each of us has the right to hope for this field to develop faster.
Statistical indicators confirm that significant progress has been made in the recovery and development of tourism in Azerbaijan last year. The number of guests visiting our country during the year exceeded 1,000,602, which means a double increase compared to the previous period. The number of incoming tourists is increasing every year, and this positive dynamic indicates that we will reach the set goals. By 2026, the number of tourists visiting Azerbaijan will reach 4 million.
In fact, before the pandemic, the tourist flow to our country was a record 3.7 million, which means that the intended result is real and possible to achieve. If the intended indicator is to be achieved according to the plans, total tourism revenues in 2026 will increase 4 times compared to 2021. This means that the total tourism revenues can reach 11.2 billion manats.
The number of foreign tourists coming to our country in 2022 was 1,602 million people, which is twice the indicator of the previous period, which means that the tourism sector of Azerbaijan is experiencing revival. Such a revival and development, in turn, is undoubtedly of great importance for the country's economy. Of course, taking into account all this, it is envisaged to strengthen the strategic, institutional and financial mechanisms to ensure the sustainable development of the tourism sector in our country. In this direction, urgent work is being done and plans are being implemented. It would not be wrong to say that Azerbaijan, which is in the process of exiting the post-pandemic period, which had a negative impact on the development of tourism, is in a phase of rapid development in the tourism sector. Because favorable conditions have been created in the country for the purpose of tourism development, and even the competitiveness of national tourism complexes has been increased.
It goes without saying that the pandemic has had its negative effects on tourism as well as in other areas. Of course, the presence of restrictions could not and did not pass without having a negative impact on the tourism sector. There are still difficulties in this matter, because the obstacles related to the special quarantine regime have not yet been completely overcome. If the closure of the republic's land borders has been extended again until July 1, then there are obstacles in accelerating the flow of tourists to the country. True, this does not mean that there is no way out. First of all, the development of domestic tourism has been encouraged in the conditions where the land borders of our country are closed, and appropriate measures are being taken by tourism agencies and the private sector for the promotion of domestic tourism and the use of tourism opportunities by the local population. These measures have been bearing fruit for a long time, but in any case, the complete removal of restrictions in the relevant direction means a faster development of the tourism sector and an increase in income in this area. We hope that the restrictions related to the closing of the land borders of the republic will be removed soon, and at that time we will observe a greater difference and a significant increase in the development of the mentioned field. Considering that in 2019, 58.7 percent of the tourists who traveled to our country came by car, partly by rail, so after the pandemic restrictions are lifted and tourist exchange with neighboring countries is restored, only cross-border bus, rail and car will be available in the future. it is possible to estimate the potential of transport to the country at the level of two million foreigners. If we add to this the citizens of our republic who travel by car, then these figures can be predicted even easier.
The liberated territories of Azerbaijan have great tourism potential as well. The construction works carried out in our territories freed from occupation, the return of former IDPs to their native lands means conditions for using the recreational opportunities of Karabakh in the near future. It cannot be denied that Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur economic regions have a very high potential in terms of tourism development, expansion of this field, and determination of new directions. In particular, the current operation of Fuzuli and Zangilan international airports, the expected opening of the airport in Lachin by the end of this year or the beginning of next year create a solid foundation for the development of international tourism in the region. This means favorable conditions for attracting investments to the tourism sector. Taking into account these conditions, the profile structures of Azerbaijan have greatly strengthened their work in the direction of attracting investors in the specialized tourism forums held in Europe, Turkey, China, and post-Soviet countries. It should be noted that many local and foreign private companies are also interested in the development of this field. There is great interest in thermal, mountain, winter, hunting, agriculture and "green" tourism in our territories that have already been liberated from occupation. It is not overlooked that some projects in the field of tourism are implemented within the framework of public-private sector cooperation. For example, with the establishment of a hotel complex in Shusha, a large tourism infrastructure has been created, and the creation of recreation areas in Sugovushan and Hadrut has been started.
The city of Shusha, declared the cultural capital of the Turkic world, has a wide potential for tourism. By the end of the current year, when the formation of the relevant structure and initial tourism potential will be completed, this cultural capital will make great contributions to the reception of tourism. In general, it is not a secret that our territories freed from occupation have great tourism potential, but the laying of landmines by separatists in those territories means obstacles in this matter. If those areas are cleared of mines, then road, energy and utility infrastructure will be formed in these areas, and as they are formed, appropriate works will be started in the direction of the development of tourism potential. It goes without saying that the initiation and implementation of these works will have a positive effect on the level of employment. According to estimates, by 2030 it is predicted to create about 1.5-2 thousand permanent jobs in the tourism sector in the Karabakh economic region alone, which will have a positive effect on the further improvement of the well-being of the population returning to those areas.
In general, every region has sufficient potential for the development of tourism in our country. There are enough places in the mountainous regions that will attract the attention of both local and foreign tourists, which are considered favorable. Endless forests, mountain rivers, waterfalls, lakes and charming natural landscapes in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus always attract the interest of tourists. Carrying out relevant work for the development of tourism in those areas is giving its positive results, and it is worth hoping for even greater results in the future. Azerbaijan has always attracted the attention of tourists with its nature, wealth, and material and cultural heritage. It is known to everyone that foreigners have shown interest in the territory of our country throughout history. If we consider that Azerbaijan is the center of attention of the world with its material and cultural heritage and unique charm, then we can boldly say that such interest is increasing now even rapidly. All of the above suggests that the expected development in the field of tourism is not far away.
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