How Eurovision Shot Azerbaijan to Tourism Stardom

Fireworks during Eurovision song contest in 2012
Fireworks during Eurovision song contest in 2012 | © Creative Studio/Shutterstock
Sam Bedford

The Eurovision put a somewhat obscure and little-known nation firmly on the international radar. Since its debut in 2008 after 52 years of absence, the ‘Land of Fire’ consistently qualified for the finals and ultimately won it in 2011. The Azerbaijan Eurovision success encouraged a rise in regional tourism. Here’s why.

The Azerbaijan Eurovision powerhouse

Azerbaijan’s history, culture, and Eurovision performances all have their roots in the nation’s abundance of natural resources. Post-Soviet Azerbaijan experienced tumult after independence before riding an oil boom and securing what officials called the ‘Contract of the Century’. Increasingly wealthy, Azerbaijan invested huge sums of money into developing Baku as well as hosting and participating in international events. The Azerbaijan Eurovision received generous sums of money, which almost certainly drove their success: Elnur and Samir’s 2008 debut act Day After Day finished eighth, Aysel and Arash’s Always climbed to third in 2009, and 18-year-old Safura’s Drip Drop came fifth the following year. As the global oil prices remained high, Azerbaijan’s Eurovision ambitions soared.

Baku Crystal Hall where Eurovision was held

Azerbaijan’s Eurovision stardom

How Eurovision success drove Azerbaijan’s tourism

According to government statistics, the number of tourists visiting Azerbaijan climbed from 2008 to a peak when Baku hosted the 2012 competition. Receiving almost twice as many foreign visitors the year after their victory compared to before participation, it’s clear the Azerbaijan Eurovision drove tourism. And why not? The country makes an alluring travel destination with exotic fire temples, burning mountains where flames never extinguish, and mud volcanoes. As people became aware of the blend between Europe and the Middle East, more tourists found a reason to visit ‘The Land of Fire’. And more visitors experienced the famous Caucasus hospitality and its rich historical and cultural diversity. But sadly, as oil prices slumped, so did tourist numbers.

Will 2018 see the revival of Azerbaijan’s Eurovision success?

2018 looks auspicious, as the country’s economy stabilises and with the recent introduction of an eVisa. The 2018 Eurovision seems promising too. Azerbaijan’s 28-year-old Aisel will perform X My Heart. The song has received a lot of positive feedback from around the globe in the build-up to this year’s event. Who knows? Her upbeat song might lift Azerbaijan up the ranks again and bring the competition back to Baku.

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