The number of foreign tourists visiting Nagorno-Karabakh has risen by almost 14 percent this year despite increased ceasefire violations along the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontline around the disputed territory, an official in Stepanakert said on Thursday.
The Arka news agency quoted Sergey Shahverdian, head of the local tourism department, as telling reporters that 16,366 tourists from dozens of countries visited Karabakh from January-November, up from 14,375 in the year-earlier period.
These figures do not include residents of Armenia, who also travel to Karabakh in larger numbers these days.
The official number of non-Armenian tourists visiting Karabakh stood at about 5,000 in 2007. It grew steadily in the following years until falling by 11 percent in 2014.
Shahverdian welcomed the renewed growth in tourism. He said the Karabakh government is continuing to promote the once war-ravaged region as a tourist destination despite Azerbaijani obstruction.
The Azerbaijani authorities regard private or business trips to Karabakh not authorized by them as a breach of Baku’s internationally recognized sovereignty over the territory. Hundreds of foreign dignitaries and ordinary visitors have been declared personae no grata in Azerbaijan for ignoring these warnings.
Recent years’ expansion of Karabakh’s tourism sector is evidenced by the emergence of new hotels and guesthouses not only in Stepanakert but also Shushi (Shusha), Karabakh’s second most important town that was mainly populated by Azerbaijanis before the 1991-1994 war.
Karabakh’s main tourist attractions are mountainous scenery, medieval Armenian monasteries as well as a cave complex thought to be the site of one of the most ancient proto-human habitations in Eurasia. They are located several dozen kilometers away from the heavily militarized “line of contact” separating the Karabakh Armenian and Azerbaijani armies.