Where East Meets West: An Interview with Florian Sengstschmid, CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board

Let your curiosity flourish as you unearth Azerbaijan’s many untold secrets and stories while experiencing the fascinating East-meets-West vibe spread across its rich landscapes, says Florian Sengstschmid, CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board

Situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, offering a melangeof experiences, ranging from its interesting geographical contours, the richly textured gastronomical scene, contemporary arts, cultural tours, to luxury shopping and beautiful hiking trails.
In a recent bid to spur the growth of Tourism in Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan Tourism Board launched its marketing campaign, ‘Take Another Look,’ at the 26th edition of SATTE 2019. The country’s recent investments in tourism and country promotion are geared towards projecting it as a premium MICE destination. Today’s Traveller recently caught up with Florian Sengstschmid, CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board, who highlighted the USPs of Azerbaijan, the challenges faced by the country as a tourism destination, and why India outbound market is important for Azerbaijan’s tourism growth.

What attracts Azerbaijan Tourism to the India outbound market?
By nature and history, Azerbaijan is a country characterised by odds, whether it is the fact that Azerbaijan has nine of the world’s eleven climate zones, offering travellers a European experience at affordable prices all year round, or the different cultures that shaped the country’s present. An Eastern country with a Western outlook, Azerbaijan is an exceptional combination of antiquity and novelty with several sites of interest for Indians looking for unforgettable experiences.
Azerbaijan’s unique geography and location have resulted in a culture and cuisine influenced by the land’s natural ingredients and the different travellers that crossed it. As such, Indian travellers can enjoy different eateries serving local and international delicacies, as well as the many Indian restaurants that serve vegan food, with the help of a large community of local Indian chefs working in the Hospitality Sector. 

What are the USPs of Azerbaijan that you will be showcasing to Indian travellers?
Azerbaijan has the perfect landscape for every kind of holiday that Indian travellers will want to choose from. The country has every kind of geographical contour, ranging from mountains and plateaus to the lowland sand coast, which allows visitors to plan an itinerary that is unique and unforgettable.
Modern art and traditional masterpieces could alone be the central theme for a trip to Azerbaijan, be it through galleries, restaurants or music festivals.

What are the challenges for Azerbaijan as a tourism destination vis-à-vis India?
We believe that once a person visits Azerbaijan, there will be many return trips! However, raising awareness for all the offerings available in Azerbaijan is challenging in a dynamic market like India. Throughout 2019, we will launch a series of campaigns such as, “Take Another Look,” to promote the possibilities within the borders of Azerbaijan and highlight the charms of Baku and beyond.

What are the key attractions for India?
From Baku’s modern Flame Towers, to the depths of the medieval UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s something for everyone in Azerbaijan. A constantly evolving tapestry of life and energy from bazaars to jazz clubs makes it an ideal destination for family holidays and honeymoon travel as well as a host for destination weddings. Additionally, Azerbaijan is set to host high-profile events such as the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and UEFA Europa League Final in 2019. For tourists looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, they have plenty of luxurious getaways to choose from, ranging from summer countryside hotels to cottages nestled in Azerbaijan’s snowy slopes.Is Azerbaijan being promoted as a health and wellness destination?
Azerbaijan is home to about half of the world’s discovered mud volcanoes and several of them are accessible from Gobustan. Volcanic clay and mud are used in the treatment of diseases related to the nervous system, skin and rheumatism.
Azerbaijan’s burgeoning spa resorts are already popular as destinations for natural cures. Naftalan city, a well-known petroleum spa resort, has no equivalent in the world. A 10-day course is recommended, and the curative properties of the unique Naftalan oil are known to be helpful towards the treatment of musculoskeletal system diseases, as well as neurological, skin and other ailments. Duzdagh, one of the oldest salt deposits in the world, has been transformed into an asthma treatment spa and hotel resort. Visitors can also slot in visits to Chenot Palace in the heart of a breathtaking forest and Galaalti Hotel and Spa for restorative therapies.

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