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Archive for December, 2014

How can development of rural tourism and support of local businesses increase the livelihoods of communities in Azerbaijan?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

We, including Franziska Hackner and Christina Maile from Germany as well as Cloe Lienard and

Franziska, Lienard, Cloe and Christina.

Franziska, Lienard, Cloe and Christina.

Ornella Carlino from Belgium are exchange students at the Turku University of Applied Sciences for 4 months. We have been working on the project “Developing sustainable business operations and supporting the local craft industry in rural Azerbaijan” during our period here in Finland. Cloe and Ornella are studying tourism at home and concentrated their work for this project on the tourism aspect. Franziska and Christina are studying business in Germany and have developed a business plan guide as well as a business guide sample for a home accommodation.

In the following we explain why travelers should be interested in rural/sustainable tourism as well as the advantages of rural tourism for Azerbaijan. We also want to show what kind of challenges thedevelopment of rural tourism faces and will explain the most important aspects in our opinion in more detail. Last but not least you will get some information about the business guide that we have created.

Why travelers should be interested in rural/sustainable tourism?

Tourism includes different categories and the most important form of tourism in Azerbaijan is definitely sustainable tourism. Indeed Azerbaijan offers a lot of possibilities to visit natural areas where you can discover a lot about cultures, customs and the lifestyle of Azeri.

The beautifull hills of Sheki.

The beautifull hills of Sheki.

Sustainable tourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Doing sustainable tourism is very important nowadays because it helps to protect the nature and the beauty of the country. When doing sustainable tourism you are involved in the respect of the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance. You are also making optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential, biological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.

But the question is, “why choosing sustainable tourism instead of going to Baku, which is the largest city of Azerbaijan, where you can eat in big restaurant, where you can find everything that you probably also have in your country?” Because maybe for once you want to discover something
else, maybe that you are fed up with all these people in a hurry just around you; maybe you want to be in a quiet and beautiful place where there is no pollution and where the people are friendly and keep calm., maybe you also want to try local food, local accommodation instead of 5 stars hotel.

But the development of rural tourism in Azerbaijan also faces some challenges, the most serious challenges in our opinion are explained below.

One of the biggest challenges to improve the quality of tourism in Azerbaijan is the fact that rural

Archaeological treasures from Sheki region.

Archaeological treasures from Sheki region.

people don’t have the necessary business skills yet to organize their business e.g. their sales of products or how to get more customers. Another problem that the rural tourism faces is that the youth is neither motivated nor interested in the traditional handicraft business because of its low income due to a lacking market. Moreover women are considered as caretakers of the household and not likely seen in business activities in the male-dominated culture. This results in the fact that the handicraft market is not attractive for them but would actually be a good opportunity to improve the attractiveness of the rural tourism. The main challenge however is the existence of institutional barriers like the lack of a skilled labor force which results in low quality of services. Infrastructure, road conditions and water/electricity supply aren’t developed in many locations which makes it difficult for tourists to reach rural destinations.

Furthermore rural tourism in Azerbaijan faces the challenge that people are interested in those rural destinations but they can’t find appropriate information about them. There exists some Tourist Information Center but they aren’t equipped with marketing materials like maps of the area
or contact details about home accommodations or services. Without local knowledge of the region or local language skills it is impossible for tourists to find a home accommodation.

One can see that there are still some serious challenges with which the rural tourism in Azerbaijan has to deal with but they are not impossible to reduce in the near future. With the help from people that have knowledge about how to develop these areas in the right way rural tourism is on par to receive an important source of income for the local people.

For Craftsmen as well as owner of accommodations in the rural area of Azerbaijan it would be helpful

An old carvansaray  serving as a hotel in the center of Sheki.

An old carvansaray serving as a hotel in the center of Sheki.

to create a business plan that describes what one has to plan to build up a business. Therefore a business plan is a written description of the business’ future. During our work for this project we created a guide that presents – step by step – what a person have to do to establish a business plan for their kind of business. So this guide, in the form of a brochure, shows them how to proceed to write the plan for their business.

The purpose of a business plan is to explain in writing what the business idea is, why it is needed in the marketplace, how it will succeed and who will make it happen. Because of this a business plan should include several information: a business plan conveys business goals, the strategies one will use to reach them, potential problems that may confront the business and ways to solve them, the organizational structure and finally, the amount of capital required to finance the venture.

A business plan will also reveal any flaws in idea or its execution and give the owner of a business a chance to correct those issues before one invest too much time or money without the chance of success.

As a support we have created a complete business plan of a fictitious home accommodation in the rural area of Azerbaijan. Therein we have formulated all steps – in terms of our guide to write a business plan – to show the people that are interested in how a business plan could be written by

In this way, we hope, that our work is a assisting help for everybody, who wants to start a business, whether with craftsmanship or with the offering of a house accommodation for tourists.

Franziska, Christina, Cloe and Ornella

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