Last week, during the 28th International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) in Tel Aviv, Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB) officially launched its new offices at Herbert Samuel Dock on the seafront of Tel Aviv, reflecting ATB’s strategy to embrace the opportunity for change and invite travelers to take a fresh look at what Azerbaijan has to offer
According to Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of the Azerbaijan Tourism Board, “We are delighted to announce the opening of our new representative office in Tel Aviv. This office will establish fruitful collaborations with our Israeli counterparts while increasing awareness about Azerbaijan among Israelis, maintaining day-to-day management and administration related to tourism promotion, detailed market research, and bringing Azerbaijan and Israel even closer.”
The new office will be working with all travel agents, tour operators, and airlines currently resuming their direct 3-hour flights to Baku.
In 2019, just before the pandemic, 47,000 Israelis visited Azerbaijan, representing a remarkable increase of 17.3% compared to 2018. Although this number drastically decreased in 2020-21, ATB is working to attract an increased number of travelers from Israel through various means, from participation at different trade shows to cooperation with online platforms. The opening of the Tourism Representative Office is an excellent step towards this commitment.
The Jewish angle
Azerbaijan has been a home for the Jewish community since the 19th century, cherished and preserved until now. The destination has long been welcoming guests from Israel, attracted by this country’s beauty, culture, traditions, people, and hospitality. Azerbaijan’s Jewish community is around 16,000 people strong, with 11,000 of them being mountain Jews.
More than 3,000 of them live in the Guba region, in a settlement called Red Village – the only community with a dense Jewish population outside Israel and the US. Today, the country is home to many Jews, with three ethnic subgroups: Mountain Jews, Ashkenazi, and Ebraelis or Georgian Jews. In the southern regions of Jalilabad and Lankaran you can also find Subbotniks and Gers – groups of ethnic Russians practicing Judaism. The Museum of Mountain Jews opened there just last year to shine a light on this one-of-a-kind community, their traditions, and culture, keeping them safe for generations to come.
Jewish heritage in Azerbaijan is also represented by monuments spread across Baku, Guba, Oghuz, Ismayilli, and other regions. Many ruins of ancient synagogues have been found in diverse parts of the country, and seven synagogues are still currently functioning.
Ease of travel
Citizens of 87 countries can currently travel to Azerbaijan by air, including Israel. With restored connection via Azerbaijani Airlines (AZAL), passengers aged over 18 can now fly to Azerbaijan, submitting both a vaccination or recovery certificate and a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before the flight, (minors are only required to provide the latter).
Israeli tourists are eligible for an e-visa, and the visa is issued at the airport upon arrival. An e-visa can be obtained via the evisa.gov.az/en portal, and sent directly to the applicant’s email. The standard e-visa is issued within 3 working days and is valid for a period of 90 days with permission to stay in the country for 30 days on a single-entry basis, while it is also possible to apply for an urgent visa that is issued within 3 hours.
Arriving in Azerbaijan is very comfortable thanks to the state-of-the-art Heydar Aliyev International Airport, which was given a 5-star rating by Skytrax. Currently, through a relatively short 3-hour direct flight from Tel Aviv to Baku via AZAL and IsrAir, Israelis can gain a unique cultural experience at very affordable prices.