Saturday, 21 November 2009

Inside Azerbaijan: an Eye-Witness Account of a Teaching and Cultural Experience

Hopefully some readers and followers of my blog have already started to miss my posts over the past days, and even if they did not suffer from withdrawal symptoms they might have wondered what has happened to me.

Well, I was on a lecturing mission to Baku, Azerbaijan, for one week and unfortunately did not find enough time to blog, because I was too busy with lecturing and absorbing the life and culture there as much as possible. I taught the “Introduction to eTourism” course at the Azerbaijan Tourism Institute (ATI) in Baku and I must say that was an interesting but at the same time very satisfying experience (see photo below with my nice students).

The IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems has established a co-operation with the Azerbaijan Tourism Institute (ATI) some three years ago which gives Azerbaijan students the opportunity to study for the first tourism double-degree diploma in the country. Azerbaijan students are taught the same curriculum as it is taught to students of the Tourism & Leisure Management degree programme of the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems.

I am sure that some readers might actually have problems in geographically locating Azerbaijan in the first place or even imagine to ever go there on a holiday, although the country at the Caspian Sea has without doubt a lot to offer. Nine out of the world’s eleven climate zones can be found in Azerbaijan. In terms of the size and the number of inhabitants Azerbaijan can be compared with Austria. However, an organised tourism industry, let alone eTourism industry, does not exist in Azerbaijan or is at most in its nascent stages. There are approximately 1.5 million Internet users in Azerbaijan or 18% of the total population (Source: www.internetworldstats.com/).
The tourist arrivals show significant growth and amounted to nearly 1.5 million in 2008 (see chart below, Source: Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Tourism).

The major source markets are Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Iran. Barriers to tourism (just to name a few) are expensive visa regulations, the generally poor infrastructure (especially outside of larger cities), the lack of organized tourism products and activities and the low number of less than 400 hotel and accommodation establishments (see chart below, Source: Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Tourism).


Comprehensive online tourism and travel information on Azerbaijan is hardly available for interested tourists. There are a few websites that contain some basic information on Azerbaijan (e.g. www.lonelyplanet.com/azerbaijan, Wikipedia.org, wikitravel.org) and there are also a number of Facebook groups but not yet an Azberbaijan tourism fanpage.

A more comprehensive information about the history, nature and culture of Azerbaijan can be found on the Azerbaijan Tourism portal which is published by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. However, the official tourism portal is only mildly attractive and does not really help a visitor to plan a trip or even find and book an accommodation apart from a few selected hotels which are listed on the website. From what I have seen myself during my one week stay I believe that Azerbaijan has potential in areas like cultural, historic and religious tourism but even more for nature and sports tourism.

Therefore, I am very happy and content that I might have been able to contribute to the positive future tourism development of Azerbaijan with my course on eTourism which I conducted for the future generation of tourism managers at the Azberbaijan Tourism Institute.

Inshallah!

Maybe you are interested in more impressions of Azerbaijan.

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