27th April 2020, Baku, Azerbaijan: The Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB), together with the State Tourism Agency (STA) of the Republic of Azerbaijan and in cooperation with Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (AQTA), has announced the launch of an innovative program called SAHMAN (Sanitation and Hygiene Methods and Norms).
“SAHMAN,” meaning “immaculateness” in Azerbaijani, is a nationwide campaign set to transform Azerbaijan’s existing health, safety and hygiene standards. Supported by the UNWTO, it also reaffirms the country’s commitment towards providing a world-class tourism destination for its citizens and future visitors alike in the post-pandemic world. ATB is finalising talks with international firm PwC to audit and certify these standards.
As part of the countrywide measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, SAHMAN is founded upon safety, transparency, social responsibility and inclusivity. The programme will adopt a holistic approach to fuel innovation across the tourism industry, ensuring the involvement of all relevant public and private partners, and the safety of those working in the sector. It will culminate with the launch of Azerbaijan’s Domestic Tourism Campaign this summer.
Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of Azerbaijan Tourism Board commented, “The current global pandemic has brought to light the need to reassess and enhance our standards across the industry. The SAHMAN programme calls upon all stakeholders in Azerbaijan to adopt even better practices in their businesses in the interest of safeguarding public health and supporting the regrowth of the industry. With this long-term shift in behaviour, we aim to ensure that these higher standards will be upheld beyond the current crisis.”
To launch the campaign, ATB and STA have partnered with the Azerbaijan Hotel Association (AHA), Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (AQTA), regional municipalities and DMOs, with plans to also invite other government sectors to commit to maintaining top-quality standards across the country. The programme will focus on accommodation, F&B and touristic transportation providers – three key aspects of the tourism value chain.
Stakeholders will be expected to commit to sector-specific checklists introducing initiatives such as mandatory precautionary measures, safe distancing, disinfection, quarantine areas, cleaning methodology, and more. Participants will be supported and incentivised through three primary support programmes – Training, Amenities and Promotion – all of which will be financed by the STA. Implementation will be carried out in four phases, by: enrolling on the programme through www.sahman.az; participating in online and onsite trainings and certification; labelling; and validation.
PwC will lead the audit and certification process. Commenting on this campaign, Movlan Pashayev, Country Managing Partner of PwC Azerbaijan said, “This crisis has presented unprecedented challenges for the world, yet it is also a good opportunity to accelerate the transformation of many industries. PwC is looking forward to playing a pivotal role in assisting ATB to roll out this new campaign and contributing to the tourism and hospitality sectors in Azerbaijan.”
The programme guidelines will continue to evolve, based on recommendations and regulations set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose agenda includes adapting best-in-class practices across global industry players. These guidelines will be communicated to participating partners by ATB in a number of ways, including educational materials, trained ambassadors, online platforms (e.g. webinars), a dedicated website and social media.
“ATB is working to provide innovative solutions to support the industry through this challenging time. It is our endeavour to bolster public confidence in local Azerbaijani businesses, with a view to reviving the economy as we prepare to launch our domestic tourism campaign, hopefully by this summer. When the world is ready to travel again, we will be ready and waiting,” added Florian.