The talks were attended by the President of AZAL – Mr. Jahangir Asgarov, Vice President of AZAL – Mr. Eldar Hajiyev, Head of the AZAL Air Transportation Sales Department – Mr. Niyazi Hasanov, Chairman of the State Tourism Agency – Mr. Fuad Nagiyev, Director General of the Tourism Bureau – Mr. Florian Zengstshmid, Chairman of the Association of Travel Agencies – Mr. Rufat Hajiyev, and Chairman of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association – Mr. Ahmad Gurbanov.
The primary focus of negotiations was the development of the tourism sector during the pandemic and the role of civil aviation in this regard. It should be noted that a day earlier a meeting was held via videoconference with the heads of the leading travel companies of Azerbaijan to discuss their proposals on cooperation with AZAL during the pandemic.
After welcoming the guests, Mr. Jahangir Asgarov noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of borders between countries the civil aviation and tourism sectors are going through a very difficult period. According to him, since March 15 to the present day, the National Air Carrier of Azerbaijan and its partners have performed 239 international flights delivering more than 23 thousand of our compatriots back home. Furthermore, in accordance with the schedule of the Operational Headquarters of the Cabinet of Ministers, AZAL continues to operate charter flights to evacuate our compatriots to the homeland.
As was noted by Mr. Fuad Nagiyev during the meeting, the tourism industry is now suffering the deepest crisis in its entire history. The recovery of this sector of the economy will take place in a highly competitive environment at the regional and global levels. To increase the competitiveness of the industry the involvement of all its subjects in the decision-making process is required with the decisions being taken quickly and the reaction being dynamic and effective. One of the most important factors that can and should contribute to the restoration and development of tourism is the travel accessibility of the country.
Summing up the debates, Mr. Jahangir Asgarov noted that following the approval of new provisional rules for air transportation during the pandemic, the National Air Carrier of Azerbaijan and some foreign airlines began operating special international flights to the most popular destinations, such as Istanbul, London, Berlin, Dubai and Minsk. Moreover, 30% discount on air tickets is applicable on AZAL flights for Azerbaijani students wishing to return to their homeland.
Due to the extension of the quarantine and the closure of borders until August 31, 2020, all airports of Azerbaijan are closed for regular passenger flights. At the same time, AZAL is continuing negotiations with a number of countries, including Russia, for the launch of special flights.
The President of AZAL noted that taking into consideration the wishes of travel companies outlined previously via videoconference, starting from August 1, the National Air Carrier of Azerbaijan will open offline sales in Azerbaijan through the Global Distribution System (GDS) to its direct agents. At the same time, according to Mr. Jahangir Askerov, it is necessary to understand that the main source of income for tour operators should be not only the sale of air tickets but rather the sale of ready-made tour packages as is practiced all over the world. Based on the experience of other countries, in the post-pandemic period it would first be necessary to focus on the development of domestic tourism, and Azerbaijan Airlines will make our country even more accessible to foreign tourists.
The participants of the meeting which was held in a businesslike and constructive atmosphere discussed the most pressing and critical issues. The parties noted their readiness for further cooperation.