BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 5. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev pay special attention to the development of cultural, humanitarian, and tourism ties, and this is one of the key factors for Uzbek-Azerbaijani brotherhood and friendship, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan Bakrom Ashrafkhanov told TurkicWorld in an exclusive interview.
"Both Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are located on the popular "The Great Silk Road" tourist route and the countries are taking active steps towards increasing the mutual tourist flow," the ambassador said.
Ashrafkhanov pointed out that increasing the number of flights and expanding flights within the countries is of great importance.
"Recently Baku and Tashkent have brought the number of flights to nine per week with the participation of Uzbekistan Airways, Azerbaijan Airlines, and Fly Khiva Airlines. In addition, for the first time in the history of the two countries, direct flights from Baku to the following regions of Uzbekistan: Samarkand, Fergana, and Urgench have been launched," he said.
The ambassador also expressed hope for launching direct flights from Uzbekistan to Azerbaijani territories liberated from Armenian occupation.
"In our opinion, the launch of direct flights from Baku to Bukhara, as well as from Uzbekistan to Ganja and the liberated regions of Azerbaijan, where we are witnessing the rapid implementation of restoration works and huge tourist potential, is promising," the ambassador said.
Furthermore, Ashrafkhanov emphasized that Uzbekistan’s participation in the "Tourism and Travel" International Exhibition in Baku also has a great impact on the bilateral relations between the countries. The 19th Azerbaijan International "Tourism and Travel" ("AITF 2023") exhibition was held at the Baku Expo Center after a 3-year break due to the pandemic on April 4, 2023, and will be held until April 6, 2023.
"Uzbekistan is represented as a partner country of Azerbaijan, which demonstrates the high level of bilateral relations between the counties. The exhibition is not only the largest event in the tourism sector of the region but also a celebration of culture, new experiences, opportunities, and friendship. Tourism is a multifaceted industry that has both economic and socio-cultural significance," he said.
Ashrafkhanov noted that tourism is one of the developing fields in Uzbekistan, and by the end of 2023, the country plans to attract some 7 million foreign tourists and facilitate about 15 million of domestic tourists, as well as to bring up the export of tourism services to $2.5 billion.
According to the latest data from the Uzbek State Statistics Committee, some 871,000 foreign citizens visited Uzbekistan for tourism purposes from January through February 2023. The number of tourists visiting Uzbekistan increased by 544,400 people, or 2.7 times, compared to the same period in 2022. In 2022, some 5.2 million foreigners visited Uzbekistan, increasing by 2.8 times, compared to the figure for 2021.
Meanwhile, State Tourism Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan says that the number of tourists arriving from Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan amounted to 1,900 in February 2023 – an increase of over 6 times, compared to February 2022 (279 tourists). This figure has also increased by 35.7 percent, compared to January 2023 (1,400 tourists).
"Recently, President Mirziyoyev emphasized that 2023 should be the year of promoting the rich cultural and tourist potential of Uzbekistan abroad. In order to implement the presidential decree, steps are being taken to attract tourists through marketing and advertising, in particular, the "Business Card of Uzbekistan" is being developed, the tourist brand is being updated, advertisements about Uzbekistan on international TV channels and Internet sites are increasing," said the ambassador.
"I would like to invite everyone to visit the national pavilion of Uzbekistan, where you will be provided with detailed information on the country´s tourism and unique gastronomic potential, rich cultural heritage, and national customs," he said.