It started with chic shops and restaurants, and a hipster modern art museum. Now, in a bid to lure international conferences and events, Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, is experiencing a luxury hotel building boom.
Six large (on average, 300 rooms each) five-star international hotels -- Fairmont, Four Seasons, JW Marriott, Hilton, Kempinski and Dedeman -- are under construction now in Baku. The Four Seasons, Hilton and Dedeman should open in early 2011; the others by 2013.
But this is not just about attracting well-heeled tourists. It is about making Baku competitive as a mega-event mecca.
If Azerbaijan’s Eurovision contestant, Safura, had triumphed at the annual pop extravaganza this year, Baku would not have had the facilities to host the event in 2011, noted Faig Gurbatov, national coordinator of the government’s Tourism Development Project, an initiative run jointly with the United Nations Development Programme.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance correspondent based in Baku. He is also a board member of the Open Society Institute-Azerbaijan.