Florian Sengstschmid: "Azerbaijan is an Eastern country with a Western outlook"
Azerbaijan Tourism Board has been honoured with the title of Europe’s Leading Cultural Destination at the World Travel Awards. Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Florian Sengstschmid, the chief executive of Azerbaijan Tourism Board, to find out how it feels to have been recognised by voters from around the globe.
- Having claimed a top title at the World Travel Awards, how does it feel to have won?
- We are extremely delighted to be voted as the winners of this prestigious award in the global travel and tourism industry. This proves that we are on the right path with our strategy to highlight the unique tangible and intangible assets of the country and develop distinctive travel experiences based on these genuine features instead of creating something artificial. We look forward to welcoming new and returning travellers to take another look at this beautiful country.
- How will the trophy help you to promote Azerbaijan as we move into 2022?
- Tourism was one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, but with the active ongoing vaccination process and integrated travel protocols implemented, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Participation at various international trade shows and exhibitions, numerous marketing campaigns, media work with leading publications and platforms worldwide, cooperation with prominent travel platforms and agencies, digital promotion – all these, topped with new exciting tourism products and experiences are only a part of what we have prepared for the coming year. Certainly, the World Travel Awards trophy will contribute to achieving greater acknowledgement internationally and bolstering the image of our destination globally.
- What is it that caught the eye of voters; what do you think it is that separates Azerbaijan from its competitors in Europe?
- Azerbaijan is a perfect destination for those who wish to explore the rich cultural offering and ancient heritage – the country is home to three masterpieces included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, such as the magnificent Old City (Icherisheher) in Baku, the prehistoric petroglyphs of Gobustan and the astonishingly beautiful Sheki Khans’ Palace with exquisite miniatures in the historic centre of Sheki.
Famous for its breath-taking views, Khinalig village has been included into the UNESCO Tentative List in 2020. There are also many amazing examples of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in the country, including copper production in the village of Lahij, carpet weaving and the art of making women’s silk headscarf “kelaghayi”. Being an important hub on ancient Silk Road trade route, Azerbaijan has long been under influence of various cultures and ethnicities, becoming a multicultural country represented by many nations and cultures.
Today, we can see the traces of Caucasian Albania which consisted of more than 26 nations all over Azerbaijan, Jewish settlements in Baku, Guba and Oghuz, Polish heritage in Baku, German heritage in the western parts of Azerbaijan - all represented by tangible and intangible cultural elements.
Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, and the Karabakh region in general, will definitely play a crucial role in the development of tourism in the region. An exceptional combination of an Eastern country with a Western outlook where antiquity merges with modernity, Azerbaijan is an enthralling mixture of people, styles, colours and traditions that never ceases to amaze, and we invite everyone to visit and discover this beautiful destination.