By Amina Nazarli
Azerbaijan plans to welcome more tourists next year and the country will be an attractive destination for Iranian tourists on the eve of Novruz holiday.
Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfas Garayev made the remark as he met with Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Co-chairman of Azerbaijan-Iran Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation Mahmoud Vaezi in Baku.
Garayev stressed that Iranian citizens make up a significant part of the tourists coming to Azerbaijan, recalling that the tourist flow from Iran considerably increased in 2016 on the eve of the Novruz holiday and in the subsequent period compared to previous years.
The minister is sure that more Iranians will travel to Azerbaijan in the years to come as some serious innovations have been realized in tourism sector.
The minister mentioned a recent presidential decree on a number of activities to promote the development of tourism in Azerbaijan. Under the decree, it is planned to create a public entity "Propaganda Bureau of National Tourism", ensuring a further increase of the country's tourism potential and promotion of it at international level.
Moreover, a simplified visa procedure to be applied by Azerbaijan in regard to Iran’s citizens will make this journey even easier. Starting from January 10, 2017, Iranian citizens will be able to apply for Azerbaijan visa via the ASAN Visa system, as a result of which, they will be able to obtain visas within three days.
Shopping festivals to be organized in Azerbaijan will also be interesting for Iranian tourists, the minister noted.
Garayev further highlighted measures taken to boost the country’s tourism sector. He noted that Azerbaijan's rich culture, ancient history, Azerbaijanis’ high hospitality as well as new tourism infrastructure and simplification of visa system contributes to attracting more tourists to the country.
The Azerbaijani minister also invited the Iranian delegation to take an active part in the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue to be held in Azerbaijan in May 2017.
Garayev further said that Azerbaijan and Iran will organize reciprocal Culture Days in 2017.
The minister noted that Azerbaijani Culture Days are planned to be held in Iran's Tehran, Isfahan and Ardabil cities.
Vaezi, addressing the meeting, highlighted Iranians’ great interest in Azerbaijan, praising the development of bilateral relations between the two countries in all areas.
He hailed the role of the two countries’ presidents in expansion of cooperation and friendly relations between the two countries.
"The friendly relationship between the Azerbaijani and Iranian presidents contributes to the development of bilateral relations between the two countries," he said. “Historical, cultural and religious unity between Azerbaijan and Iran gives an impetus to development of mutual relations between our countries.”
Azerbaijani and Iranian peoples enjoy the same cultural and religious traditions, and, most importantly, the geographical proximity play significant role in relations of the two nations.
Azerbaijan, known for its centuries-old history and outspoken hospitality, welcomed many travelers during the Novruz holiday traditionally marked in spring.
The colorful holiday accompanied by interesting traditions, customs and events have always been a sort of entertainment for many tourists from the neighboring countries, including Iran.
The number of Iranian citizens, who visited Azerbaijan during Novruz holiday in 2016 increased by 35-40 percent, compared to last year. Alongside capital city Baku, Iranian tourists also took part in tours to tourist routes such as Lankarana, Lerik, Masalli, Gabala and Sheki.