The number of non-Armenian foreign tourists visiting Nagorno-Karabakh jumped by 41 percent in 2017 after decreasing following the April 2016 war with Azerbaijan, a senior official in Stepanakert said on Thursday.
Speaking to the Armenpress news agency, Artak Grigorian, the head of Karabakh’s tourism department, put their total number at more than 23,000. He said it is up by 30 percent from the 2015 total.
“We compare this figure with 2015 because we had a decline in tourism in 2016,” explained Grigorian. He said the number of tourists again began rising last year thanks to an “active PR campaign” conducted by the Karabakh leadership.
The official figures do not include residents of Armenia, who also travel to Karabakh in larger numbers these days.
Grigorian said Russian nationals continue to account for the majority of foreign tourists in Karabakh, followed by citizens of the United States, France and Iran. All those countries have sizable ethnic Armenian communities.
“We anticipate a further rise in visits from Russia this year because we have targeted that market,” added the Karabakh official. “We are also working in the European direction.”
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.
The Azerbaijani authorities regard private or business trips to Karabakh not authorized by them as a breach of Baku’s sovereignty over the territory. At least 600 foreign dignitaries and ordinary visitors have been declared personae no grata in Azerbaijan for ignoring these warnings.