Stressing that 2011 had been declared the Year of Tourism in Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliev said the tourism sector was a priority for the country and an area in which investments in infrastructure would be intensified.
The President was speaking after receiving an Open Letter from UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, on the importance of travel and tourism as a force for economic growth and development.
“As traditional economic sectors face great challenges, new sectors such as tourism, sports, and culture are driving growth in these difficult times,” said Mr Rifai, “Azerbaijan is well prepared for this new reality and has clearly prioritized tourism, as evident in declaring 2011 as the Year of Tourism and joining the Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign.”
David Scowsill, President&CEO of the World Travel&Tourism Council (WTTC) stated: “I’m delighted that Azerbaijan is the latest country to join our Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign. The importance of travel and tourism as a driver of Azerbaijan’s economy is clear. Azerbaijan is a growing destination with its total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP rising by 9.5 percent annually in the next 10 years. Its total contribution of travel and tourism to employment is forecast to rise by 5 percent annually, rising to 375,000 jobs (8.3 percent) by 2021.”
Mr. Rifai highlighted the importance of a highly-skilled tourism workforce during his visit to the Azerbaijan Tourism Institute, where he was given an honorary doctorate. The institute is to become the latest tourism educational center to be certified as a UNWTOTedQual Institution. Mr. Rifai offered UNWTO’s expertise and support to Azerbaijan, particularly in the areas of capacity building and statistics.
During his visit, Mr. Rifai also met with various government officials including the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Abulfas Garayev; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elmar Mammadyarov; the Minister of Economic Development, Shahin Mustafayev; and the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Huseyngulu Baghirov, all of whom expressed their support for tourism development as a means of economic growth.