By Amina Nazarli
Baku is already world-famous for its historical sites, man-made wonders, amazing skyline, and oil, while the Baku Shopping Festival is eager to be one name to pop up as soon as the mention of Baku or shopping happens.
The Shopping Festivals are being promoted as tourism products worldwide, thus attracting large number of tourists to the country. Recent years have seen the shopping gaining greater significance in tourism, given its contribution to the retail and tourism sectors of a destination.
The first-ever Baku Shopping Festival running in the capital from April 10 has already aroused great interest in the entire region. While the destination is always available, having a time-limited event encourages visitors to take advantage of this opportunity and visit the place during the event.
The growing number of tourists is heading to the capital of Azerbaijan to enjoy the opportunities the festival offers. During the Festival, which includes shopping, entertainment, fashion and culture, many city malls offer special discounts, Tax Free, and temporary pop-up shops present a broad range of Azerbaijani and foreign brands.
Former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza, commenting on the prospects of the festival, said that the introduction of Tax Free at the festival to attract tourists is well thought out.
The former ambassador is sure that, the Festival has a great importance in attracting tourists to Azerbaijan.
“The largest number will likely come from countries from which tourists have already been coming to Azerbaijan, like Iran and certain Arab countries, and who are looking for something different than Dubai," said Bryza.
Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfaz Garayaev has revealed that since the beginning of the Baku Shopping Festival, the Taxes Ministry returned over 350,000 manats ($208.778) as VAT.
“The total sales amounted to approximately 3 million manats ($1.7 million), which means that 10 percent of the funds spent by the buyers were returned,” the minister said on April 18.
“These are quite promising indicators. That is, we act in accordance with the numbers set as the goal. If there are any difficulties, they are promptly solved by specialists of banks and employees of the Taxes Ministry. We see an increased interest to the event. Taking into account the fact that we had only two months to prepare for the festival, there was not any serious propaganda or advertising. This indicates that the festival itself is of great interest,” the minister noted.
During the festival, a buyer [Azerbaijani citizens or foreigners] can have the VAT refunded at the banks in case the amount of the purchased goods exceeds 100 manats ($58) [including VAT].
VAT can be refunded in the 15 branches of five banks - Kapital Bank, PASHA Bank, Yapi Kredi Bank Azerbaijan, Bank Silk Way and Azerbaijan Industry Bank.
Buyers can obtain a refund of the VAT paid on the goods purchased during the day, when the purchase was made. VAT refund can be obtained either in cash or in non-cash by transfer to a card or bank account.
Famous national traveler and journalist Azer Gharib, for his part, assessed the Baku Shopping Festival as a successful step to attract more tourists.
“In general, event tourism is one of the most popular types of tourism in the whole world. People want to not just go to see the country, but take part in an event: a festival, a carnival, a concert, and so on. I do not think that the shopping festival will immediately arouse the interest of the broad tourist masses abroad, but it is always important to take the first step, and it seems to me successful,” he explained.
The famous traveler offered to use creative ideas for popularizing Azerbaijan as a tourist destination, adding that gastronomic tourism is the best option.
“I always said that for us the target group of tourists is not tourists from Europe and America, but representatives of Asia, the CIS countries and the Arab East. And experience also shows this. Tourists from these regions like organized recreation, they have sufficient resources, they are inquisitive, and they have an interest in new directions. In addition, these are people who appreciate delicious cuisine, and this is our strength. Therefore, I would suggest giving even more attention to the popularization of gastronomic tourism,” he said.
Baku Shopping Festival will last until May 10.
And let those who do not have time to participate in this festival not to be disappointed, as they will still be able to participate in the next Baku Shopping Festival scheduled for October.