Azerbaijan’s ancient capital is fast becoming a new destinationAn interview with Adrian Ellis and Kenneth Hill (pictured left), respectively General Manager and Director of Sales & Marketing of the soon-to-be-opened Fairmont Baku hotel, leaves you reeling with statistics. There are two 5-star hotels in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, but this time next year there will be seven. It is a benefit that Baku in May 2012 will be the venue for the Eurovision Song Contest, but more importantly and permanently, Baku is the focal point of a new gold rush, with huge reserves of oil and gas rather than gold nuggets as the big attraction.
Highly paid, discriminating business executives are travelling there in increasing numbers – and there is also a growing demand for meetings in the petrochemical sector and in telecommunications and finance.
Everything seems to be larger than life in the region. Baku is a coastal town on the Caspian Sea, which is really a lake, but the largest in the world and 1.5 times as big as the UK.
Baku, with a population of around 3m, houses a large proportion of the country’s population of 8m Azeri.
The Fairmont Baku is one of the three Flame Towers that are changing the city’s skyline. Resembling giant flames as from an oil well, they are symbolic of the way things are changing in Azerbaijan. They are also reflective of the country’s very name, as Azerbaijan means Land of Fire. It is not surprising, considering that many Baku residents have oil deposits close to the surface of the soil in their gardens. One of the towers is the hotel, whilst the others are office and apartment blocks. The Fairmont Baku will have 318 rooms, of which 89 will be suites. There will be seven f&b outlets, catering for all tastes, offering a French brasserie, a steak house, a coffee shop, a pool bar, jazz club and a cigar divan. The 36th and 37th storeys of the hotel will be a night club. There will also be ample space devoted to shopping outlets.
The new Fairmont Baku will have extensive meeting facilities. Measuring 2,500sqm in total, there is a Grand Ballroom, divisible into three and able to seat up to 840, a Junior Ballroom for up to 180 and a range of seven smaller meeting rooms. ‘The climate in Baku is comfortably warm’, Kenneth Hill assures us, ‘between March and November. There are four seasons distinguishable and one has to bear in mind that Baku has the meaning of windy city. Over the winter months it is about 5degC, with some rain. But hotel guests can feel refreshed all the time, as there is a 3,500sqm Espa spa with indoor and outdoor pools’.
In spite of the capital’s modern industrial growth and the brand new luxury facilities, the Old City of Baku is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A landmark is its Maiden Tower built over 2,500 years ago. There is the Baku Boulevard along the bay and the country itself is large enough to boast seven climate zones. It is not difficult to create a cultural leisure programme for conference delegates and for visitors to the country.