Tourism is considered by the government of Azerbaijan as one of its priority areas in the development of a non-oil sector. During the last 10 years, the tourism industry in Azerbaijan has undergone significant development. The Government of Azerbaijan adopted the “Strategic Roadmap for specialized tourism industry in the Republic of Azerbaijan” at the end of 2016. Special attention is given in this strategic roadmap to the development of ecotourism and its importance for regional economic development, especially for employment promotion. Azerbaijan certainly features strong potential for the development of unique, authentic ecotourism, especially in and around its National Parks, where many of the country’s most attractive natural sites are located, with untapped potential for ecotourism. With roughly the size of Austria and it is considered the country with the highest biodiversity on the edge of Europe. To date, 10 national parks have been established by the parliament and presidential decree. About 10% of the country’s total area has become internationally certified large-scale reserves. Azerbaijan features strong potential to become a unique sustainable tourism destination, but the capacities and framework conditions are still lacking. The only pathway to success is to develop a highly authentic tourism model based on Azerbaijan’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) combined with competitive tourism services, infrastructure and tailor-made marketing and branding to give Azerbaijan “a face” as an emerging ecotourism destination. In this regard the State Tourism Agency (STA) of the Republic of Azerbaijan requested support from the GIZ Programme by developing a concept on sustainable development of eco and hiking tourism for Azerbaijan.
The overall objective of this assignment is to assess the potential of Azerbaijan and its National Parks as an ecotourism destination and to elaborate a concept on how to develop and market it as a sustainable, competitive ecotourism and hiking destination.
AGEG Tourism for Sustainability Consulting provided the following services: