Tourism in Armenia

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Khor Virap and Ararat mountain

Tourism in Armenia has been a key sector to the Armenian economy since the 1990s as half a million people visit the country every year (mostly ethnic Armenians from the Diaspora). The Armenian Ministry of Economy reports that most of the tourists come from the CIS, particularly Russia and Georgia, EU states, Iran and the United States.[1] Though relatively small in size, Armenia has four UNESCO world heritage sites.

Since 2013 over than 1 million tourists visit Armenia. Despite the internal and external problems, which had the country during 2016 (Nagorno-Karabakh clashes and Yerevan hostage crisis), the amount of tourists increased by 6% - reaching 1.26 million.[2] The tourists have their rest mainly in Yerevan, the capital, where the majority of travel agencies and hotels are located.

Outdoor activities and scenery seem to be the primary attractions. Tsaghkadzor, Jermuk, Dilijan are known as mountainous resorts, which are outside of the capital. Tourists stay at the hotels of those towns in order to have their passive rest or big trips overall Armenia without returning Yerevan every day. The classical trips to the sight seeings of Armenia are popular not only among the tourists, but also for local population. Mountaineering, camping and other kinds of active rest are also spread.

History[edit]

The inhabitants of neighboring and far countries were always interested in Armenia, since it had a rich history and unique culture. Hotels and caravanserais were built in Armenia since the middle ages. They were provided for the travelers and the traders of the Great Silk Way

hotel ″London″ (Yerevan 1891)

Tourism infrastructure began to develop in Armenia in the modern era. Since the end of 19th century the Armenian provinces of Russian Empire (Yerevan and Elisabethpol governorates and Kars province) were connected by railway and telegraph with the other parts of Transcaucasia, the central parts of the empire and the neighboring countries of that state. In the beginning of 20th century new railroads and causeways were built, appeared the telephone lines. In the cities of Yerevan, Shushi, Alexandropol (Gyumri) and Kars building process of the hotels started.

During the soviet times (1922-1991) lots of citizens of the USS republics visited Soviet Armenia. They were coming mainly for the work or rest. The new hotels were famous not only for the tourists, but also local population. The most popular hotels of Yerevan were ″Armenia″ (now - Armenia Marriott Hotel), ″Intorist″ (since 1959 Yerevan, now - Royal Tulip Grand Hotel, and ″Ani″ (now Ani Plaza Hotel). The latter was built in 1970 for the 50th anniversary of Armenian SSR and was called after the medieval capital of Bagratid Armenia, Ani.

New hotels such as ″Youth palace″, ″Dvin″, ″Shirak″ and others were bulit in Yerevan in 1980s. Dilijan, Tsaghkadzor, Sevan, Arzni and Jermuk became famous resorts of summer rest. Hotels and holiday homes were built in those towns as well. Besides the Armenian railways, which became two times longer, hundreds of kilometers of highways were built in Armenia. ″Erebuni″ and ″Zvartnots″ international airports, and also local airports in the towns of Berd, Stepanavan, Tashir, Gyumri, Sisian, Jermuk, Goris, Kapan and Meghri in the second half of 20th century.

Intourist, then Yerevan hotel, since 1926

Tourism in Armenia declined 1990s because of the Spitak earthquake, Nagorno-Karabakh War and Armenian energy crisis. Armenian railway was closed: it worked only with Georgian railways. The only airport which worked pernamently, was ″Zvartnots″,and ″Erebuni″ became a military airport. The eastern and western borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey were closed.

Since 2000s a new page for Armenian tourism was opened. If mainly USSR citizens visited Armenia before, majority - Russians, Georgians and Armenians, since then thousands of Armenians form Russia, United States, Lebanon, France and other countries started to visit Armenia in order to see their independent homeland and free Artsakh. European and American tourists also visited Armenia: their trips were regional - Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, due to Diaspora Armenians, the tourist in Armenia were more than in those two countries.

The visit of Muslim Persians, Kurds and Iranian Azerbaijanis was a new thing for tourism in Armenia.[3] They started to visit Armenia since 1990s, but in 2000s visiting Armenia became more popular in Iran. The Iranians like to celebrate Nowruz (New Year) in Armenia, which is held in 21 March, also they spend their summer and winter vacations in a Christian country, have the opportunity to feel free than in their homeland. Later the Iranians, and also Europeans started to visit the second Christian country in the region - Georgia. The amount of tourists visiting second Armenian state - Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh Republic) increases as well.

Tourists in Armenia[4]
Year Amount  %±
2007
510,000
-
2008
588,000
+ 15%
2009
575,000
- 2%
2010
678,000
+ 18%
2011
758,000
+ 12%
2012
844,000
+ 11%
2013
1,082,000
+ 28%
2014
1,204,000
+ 11%
2015
1,192,000
- 1%
2016[2]
1,260,000
+ 6%

Due to the reforms in cultural and educational system, hundreds of students from India, Iran and Arabic countries started to visit Armenia in order to study in the universities of Yerevan, specially in Medical University. It promotes the tourism. Ministry of Economy Mekhak Apresyan reports, that the majority of the tourists are from CIS countries, mainly form Russia and Georgia, also from European Union, Iran and the United States.[5] In 2011 the journal ″National Geographic Traveler″ qualified Armenia not only a historical and cultural, but also extreme touristic county.[6]

In 2011, there were 128 hotels, 102 camps, 31 holiday homes, 19 tour bases in Armenia - for 98500 people overall. Since 2012 new hotels were bulit in Armenia, and the old ones were reconstructed. ″Tufenkian″ hotels (in Yerevan, Tsapatagh, Dzoraget and Dilijan), ″National″, ″Paris″ hotels were bulit in Yerevan, ″Nairi″ and ″Silachi″ hotels were reopened, ″Marriott″ opened the second hotel in Tsaghkadzor, and in 2013 ″Hyatt″ opened two hotels - in Jermuk and Yerevan, ″Golden Palace″ was opened in Tsaghkadzor, later two more hotels - Opera Suite Hotel and Radisson Blu were opened in Yerevan. These were the best hotels, with 4 or 5 stars.

The amount of visitors to Armenia increases also due to festivals and international competitions. Every summer ″Golden Apricot″ festival, Pan-Armenian Games each four years, also Francofonia states' meetings are held in Yerevan. In 2011 Junior Eurovision Song Contest was organized in Armenia. Due to the program ″Come home″, organized by Ministry of Diaspora, thousands of schoolchildren and students visited their motherland.

The airplanes from the Middle East reach to Armenia mainly from Dubai city. The amount of Arab, also other nationalities from UAE tourists visit Armenia. Christian Philippians started to make trips in Armenia since 2015.

A four-day war was in Nagorno-Karabakh, and a hostage crisis in Yerevan, both in 2016, did not affect on the tourism. In comparison with 2015, the tourists were 70000 more. 19,2 % of them came from Russia, 18,2 % from Iran, 10,3 % from the USA. 58% of them came to Armenia by airplane (mainly Zvartnots airport), 34% by cars (mainly from Meghri, Iran and Bagratashen, Georgia) and 8% by train.[2]

Paragliding in Armenia[edit]

Over the last few years, paragliding has developed in Armenia. Armenia has favorable conditions both for independent and tandem flights. Due to the height of the Armenian highland (which is also known as the central part of the Caucasus Mountains), the country has various micro climates, which creates perfect circumstances for paragliding. The first paragliding flights were held by the members of “Small Aviation Club of Armenia” in 1996. Later, in 2008, The Armenian Paragliding Sport Federation was founded, and its members organize paragliding teaching courses nowadays.[7] In Armenia, flying season is quite long (flights are mostly held from May until November). Tandem and free flights are mostly held on the territories of Atis, Aparan and nearby Lake Sevan. Depending on the weather conditions, the duration of the flight can last anywhere from 7–20 minutes, which mostly build upon the passenger’s desire.[8]

Armenian UNESCO World Heritage Sites[edit]

There are some objects in Armenia which are in the official list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Site Name Year It Became A WHS City
Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin 1996 Haghpat
The Cathedral and Churches of Echmiadzin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots 2000 Vagharshapat
Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley 2000 Goght

There are also four tentative World Heritage Sites in Armenia: the archaeological site of the city of Dvin, the basilica and archaeological site of Yererouk, the monasteries of Tatev and Tatevi, and the monastery of Noravank and the upper Amaghou Valley.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]