Tourism Industry in Azerbaijan Has Potential to Alleviate PovertyOil has long been Azerbaijan’s main export commodity. However, a recent switch to an independent economy inspired the birth of a new market- tourism. Along with the increase in country’s GDP and increase in jobs, the tourism industry in Azerbaijan has the potential to alleviate poverty, especially for the 5.9 percent of the population that still lives on less than $1.25 a day.

Azerbaijan and United Nations

In February 2018, United Nations Sustainable Development report detailed the potential that the private business sector in Azerbaijan has to alleviate poverty. If used in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, tourism as a mean for poverty alleviation could produce great results.

The United Nations Development Programme partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Azerbaijan to reiterate the potential the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could have on Azerbaijan’s poverty reduction.

The U.N. SDG’s aim to create 380 million jobs in food, agriculture, urban mobility, energy, health and well-being globally by 2030 by partnering with local and private sector businesses. A commitment of the U.N. to support the government, private sector and civil society in Azerbaijan is a step in the right direction that could link the developing tourism industry with poverty reduction.

American Chamber of Commerce Executive Natavan Mammadova also spoke of the importance of small and medium businesses in Azerbaijan in regards to aligning the county’s economic growth with poverty reduction, which is the number one goal of the SDG’s.

Tourism potential

Tourism is a great opportunity for developing countries as they are rich in culture and have beautiful landscapes.  Being on the Caspian Sea shoreline, Azerbaijan’s breathtaking landscapes, hiking and skiing trails in the Caucasus mountains and developing modern art scene make the country a perfect candidate for the tourism market.

Five percent of the world’s GDP comes from tourism and 235 million jobs are created by tourism (one in 12 jobs worldwide) every year. When focused on the potential to alleviate poverty, tourism provides jobs and sustainable incomes to local people through small community-based businesses. According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in some developing countries, notably small island states, tourism can account for over 25% of GDP.

In Azerbaijan, the success of the developing tourism industry has a potential to provide jobs to those in need. The continued success of the tourism market is being supported by the State Tourism and Agency Board that was created in May 2018. Among other things, this organization has partnered with the UNWTO to enter the 1st annual Tourism Startup Competition in 2018. Events like this will continue to develop new markets, create jobs and help people out of poverty.

Markets indirectly related to tourism like agriculture and transportation can also expect an increase with the tourism development. This is good news, as 54.9 percent of the total land area in Azerbaijan is used for agriculture.

Whether the newly developing tourism industry in Azerbaijan is providing additional income or is supporting small businesses, the jobs this market is developing have the potential to alleviate poverty and help those who are struggling. Continued commitment to growing the tourism market will increase the number of people being helped out of poverty.

– Hope Kelly

Photo: Flickr