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 when tourist numbers exceeded half a million people visiting the country every year (mostly ethnic Armenians from the Diaspora). The Armenian Ministry of Economy reports that most of the tourists come from Russia, EU states, the United States and Iran.[1] Though relatively small in size, Armenia has four UNESCO world heritage sites.

Receipts from international incoming tourism in Armenia in 2003-2015 in current USD. Data from World Bank.

Despite the internal and external problems the number of tourists is almost constantly increasing since 2007. 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 engage in extended trips over all Armenia without returning to Yerevan every day. The classical sightseeing trips to Armenia are popular not only among the tourists, but also with the local population. Mountaineering, camping and other kinds of activities are also common.

History[edit]

Before WWI[edit]

Hotel de Londres, Yerevan, 1891

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

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.

Soviet and transitional period[edit]

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 "Hotel Armenia" (now Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan), ″Intourist″ (became "Yerevan Hotel" in 1959 and currently known as Grand Hotel Yerevan), and "Ani Hotel" (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 the "Youth Palace", "Dvin", "Shirak" and others were built 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 twice as long, 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.

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 permanently, was Zvartnots, and Erebuni became a military airport. The eastern and western borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey were closed.

After 2000[edit]

Intourist, then Yerevan hotel, since 1926

Since 2000s a new page for Armenian tourism was opened. Diaspora Armenians form Russia, United States, Lebanon, France and other countries visit Armenia to see their independent homeland and free Artsakh. Also many foreigners from Europe and America visit Armenia.

Visiting of Muslim Persians, Kurds and Iranian Azerbaijanis was a new thing for tourism in Armenia.[2] They started to visit Armenia since 1990s, but in 2000s visiting Armenia became more popular in Iran. The Iranians like to celebrate Nowruz (Iranian New Year) in Armenia, which is held in 21 March and spend their summer and winter vacations in a country free of exaggerated restrictions. The number of tourists visiting second Armenian state - Artsakh increases as well.

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.[3]

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 built in Armenia, and the old ones were reconstructed. ″Tufenkian″ hotels (in Yerevan, Tsapatagh, Dzoraget and Dilijan), ″National″, ″Paris″ hotels were built 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 number 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 former program ″Come home″, organized by the Ministry of Diaspora, thousands of schoolchildren and students visited their motherland.

Forbes Magazine listed Armenia among top budget travel destinations for 2019.[4]

Statistics[edit]

Tourists in Armenia[5]
Year Number
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[6] 1,259,657 + 6%
2017[6] 1,494,779 + 18.7%
2018[7] 1,651,782 + 10.5%

In 2017 the number of incoming tourists grew by 18.7% and amounted to 1.5 million persons.[6]

Country rank in most recent year Country Share of arriving visitors in 2016[1] Share of arriving visitors in 2017[1]
EU countries together 25.8% 21.3%
1  Russia 21.7% 20.3%
2  Iran 17.0% 14.2%
3  United States 9.6% 13.6%
Arrival purpose Share of arriving visitors in 2016[1] Share of arriving visitors in 2017[1]
Business travel 31.9% 23.9%
Recreation 49.8% 52.8%
Other 18.3% 23.3%

Air travel[edit]

Air traffic is regulated by General Department of Civil Aviation of Armenia.

During June 2016 - September 2018 some 12 new airlines began operating flights to Armenia and two have resumed flights [8]

In the same period following new destinations were connected with direct flights : Doha, Kuwait, Berlin, Prague, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Sharm El Sheikh, Ashgabat, Frankfurt, Astana, Bucharest.

Official web page of Yerevan main airport Zvartnots lists following carriers in January 2019:[9]

Base Airline, and its ticket office contacts
Armenia Aircompany Armenia

Tel: +374-11-747777

Greece Aegean Airlines

MON - SUN (10:00-19:00), +374-60-404040

Kazakhstan Scat Airlines

MON - SUN (09:00-18:00), Tel: +374-10-582758

Lebanon Middle East Airlines

MON-FRI (10:00-18:30), SAT (11:00-16:00), Tel: +374-60-535251, +374-77-522967

U.A.E. FlyDubai

MON-SAT (10:00-19:00), Tel: +374-11-331111, +374-94-310310

Qatar Qatar Airways

MON-FRI (09:30-18:00), Tel: +374-60-380080

Russia Ural Airlines

MON-FRI (10:00-18:00), Tel: +374-10-528861, +374-99-010154

Iran Iran Aseman Airlines

MON-SAT (09:30-18:30), Tel:  +374-10-524401, +374-10-543361

Turkey Atlasglobal

MON-FRI (09:30-18:00), SAT (10:30-15:00), Tel: +374-11-345345

Ukraine Ukraine International Airlines

MON-FRI (10:00-19:00), SAT (11:00-17:00), Tel: +374-11-612000

Russia S7 Airlines

MON-SAT (10:00-18:00), Tel: +374-60-373337, +374-60-400707

Russia Aeroflot Russian Airlines

MON-SUN (24 h Zvartnots Branch), Tel: +374-60-373052, +374-60-477777

Russia UTair

MON-FRI (10:00-14:00) City Office, Tel: +374-60-580493, Zvartnots Branch: +374-55-808114

Russia Nord Wind Airlines

Tel: +374-10-564943

France Air France

MON-FRI (09:30-18:00), SAT (10:00-14:00), +374-60-612277

U.A.E. Air Arabia

MON-FRI (10:00-18:00), Tel: +374-60-656666

Iran Mahan Air

MON - SAT (09:30-18:30), Tel: +374-10-524401, +374-10-543361

Austria Austrian Airlines

Tel: +374-60-373029 , Zvartnots Branch

Sypria Cham Wings

(09:00-18:00), Tel: +374-10-520794

Egypt AMC Airlines  

MON-FRI (10:00-19:00), SAT (10:00-17:00), Tel: +374-10-538835, +374-91-538835

Poland LOT Polish Airlines

MON-FRI (10:00-19:00), SAT (11:00-16:00), Tel: +374-10-510286

Georgia Georgian Airlines

Tel: +374-10-538796

Russia Red Wings

Tel: +374-60-474748, Zvartnots Branch

Israel Arkia Israeli Airlines

MON-FRI (10:00-18:00), Tel: +374-60-525267

Belgium Brussels Airlines

MON-SAT (09:00 - 01:00), Tel: +374-60-462864

Czech Republic Czech Airlines

MON-SAT (10:00-19:00), Tel:  +374-10-564099

Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Airlines

MON-SAT (10:00-18:30), Tel:  +374-10-533092, +374-10-538343

Germany Fly Germania

MON-FRI (10:00-18:30), SAT (11:00-16:00), Tel: +374-60-535251, +374-77-522967

Egypt Fly Egypt

MON-SUN (10:00-19:00) Tel: +374-10-538880

Egypt Egypt Air

MON-SUN (10:00-19:00), Tel: +374-10-538880

Egypt Air Cairo

Tel:  +374-10-222865, +374-96-222865

Iran Kish Airlines

MON-SAT (09:30-18:30), Tel: +374-10-524401, +374-10-543361

Belarus Belavia

MON-SAT (09:30-19:00), Tel: +374-10-577474, +374-96-577979

An agreement was initialed with the EU on "Comprehensive Air Transportation," the ratification of which will allow liberalizing the Armenian market for all EU member states and introduce EU criteria to ensure a predictable business atmosphere for airlines.[8]

Official travel advice for Armenia[edit]

U.S. confirms Armenia is safe for traveling, advising to "exercise normal precautions".[10]

Australia also advises "Exercise normal safety precautions in Armenia".[11]

Sports and extreme tourism[edit]

In 2011 the journal ″National Geographic Traveler″ qualified Armenia not only a historical and cultural, but also extreme touristic county.[12]

Armenia has 85.9% mountain area, more than Switzerland or Nepal,[13] opening large possibilities for active travelers.

Armenia has various offers for tourists interested in sports and extreme activities - such as skiing,[14] mountaineering, camping , hiking,[15] speleology tours,[16] paragliding, zipline [17][18][19] and balloon flights.[20]

Paragliding[edit]

Armenia has favorable conditions both for independent and tandem flights. Owing to the height of the Armenian highland, the country has various micro climates, creating perfect circumstances for paragliding. The first paragliding flights were held by the members of "Small Aviation Club of Armenia" in 1996. Later, in 2008, Armenian Paragliding Sport Federation was founded. Its members organize paragliding teaching courses nowadays, with flying season lasting from May to November. Tandem and free flights are mostly launched at mountains near Atis, Aparan and Lake Sevan. Depending on the weather conditions tandem flights last up to 20 minutes.[21]

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.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Tourism Statistics for 2016 and 2017 by ArmStat" (PDF).
  2. ^ "Отдых в Армении остается популярным". travel.ru. 22 July 2009. Archived from the original on 23 July 2009.
  3. ^ "Tourism boosts in Armenia". panorama.am. 5 February 2010. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015.
  4. ^ Talty, Alexandra. "The 18 Best Budget Travel Destinations For 2019". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  5. ^ "Զբոսաշրջությունը Հայաստանում. "Նախնյաց հայրենիքի կանչը" չի փրկում ներգնա զբոսաշրջությունն անկումից". tert.am. 31 March 2016. Archived from the original on 27 April 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Tourism 2017 statistics summary by ArmStat" (PDF).
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ a b "Some 12 new airlines began to operate flights to Armenia over 2 last years". arka.am. Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  9. ^ "Ավիաընկերություններ - Zvartnots". www.zvartnots.aero. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  10. ^ "Armenia". travel.state.gov. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  11. ^ "Travel Map | Vaccine Hub". vaccinehub.com.au. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  12. ^ "Экстремальный туризм в Армении оценил известный журнал "National Geographic Traveler"". Prohotel.ru. 23 September 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011.
  13. ^ "Percentage of Mountain Area per Country (map)".
  14. ^ "Ropeway Tsaghkadzor". ropeway.am. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  15. ^ "Արշավներ և լեռնագնացություն Հայաստանում / ArmGeo". Armenian Geographic - ArmGeo.am. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  16. ^ "Caving / Քարանձավախուզություն « Armenian Extreme Club". armextremeclub.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  17. ^ Paruyryan, MheR. "Yell Extreme Park - Homepage". www.yellextremepark.com. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  18. ^ "Zip Line Tsaghkadzor | Arshavner Akumb". zipline.am. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  19. ^ "Yerevan Zipline Airlines". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  20. ^ "SKYBALL". SKYBALL (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  21. ^ "Paragliding in Armenia • Arara Tour". Araratour.com. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  22. ^ "Armenia - World Heritage Site - Pictures, info and travel reports". www.worldheritagesite.org. Retrieved 2015-11-26.

External links[edit]