THE MOST VALUABLE ASSET OF TODAY

THE MOST VALUABLE ASSET OF TODAY

Our small land at the highs and lows of Armenian highlands between Asia and Europe is an inexhaustible and genuine resource of touristic offers and opportunities. Regional Post talked to three local representatives at the tourism sector who consider Armenia as their most valuable asset and put their daily work into the realization of tourism via different approaches.

Text : Margarit Mirzoyan


“Hnots” gastro-yard by AREVI in Gosh, Lori region

Gosh village has now its first gastro-yard, situated in a centennial mansion. The initiator of the project is Gevorg Gasparyan, the founder of “Arevi” agency, who was initially engaged in the promotion of adventure tourism in Armenia. “Arevi” also has its hotel located near Yeghegis river in Vayots Dzor, and now they are planning to put their efforts into the development of Tavush region. 

Gevorg has visited Gosh several times – as his hiking and touristic routes run through the Tavush region – and starting an initiative in one of the villages has always been at the back of his mind. Eventually, “Arevi” purchased an old house near Goshavank monastery and renovated it, mainly preserving its style and identity. Quite interestingly, during the construction works they discovered two fireplaces, which brought forth the idea of naming the place “Hnots” – which means “fireplace” in Armenian. 

Picturesque Lori

 

Initially, Gevorg was nurturing the idea of a hotel project, but then he came across this house which was on sale and decided to buy it. This is how the gastro-yard project turned into reality. Currently, it operates as a restaurant, but it’s not a standard place to have a bite. They chose to name the place a gastro-yard because with the amplification of the touristic flows they plan on serving traditional Armenian cuisine including dishes particular to the Tavush region. They plan to build a bakery to go further and offer gastro experiences to its visitors; tourists here are going to have a chance to make their own Tavush puri bread and lavash. 

 

“The locals are really fond of the project. However, we discovered that for many years, the area has never realised its touristic potential. The official statistics illustrate that before the pandemic, around 500-700 thousand tourists used to visit Goshavanq and the local areas every year, while there are still no touristic units and initiatives in the village”, says Gevorg, “No hotels, no restaurants; there are only the souvenir stands near the monastery which sell the same items you can buy at any tourist site in Armenia. Thus, previously, the tourism sectors didn’t resemble a stable source of income for the locals”. In his opinion, “Hnots” gastro-yard will be a good precedent for the villagers to start similar initiatives in their own yards and houses.

“Hnots” gastro-yard

 

When renovating the building, they hired all construction employees from among the villagers; moreover, five of them joined the main staff of the “Hnots” after its opening. Several other villagers supply the gastro-yard with various goods; for example, forest mushrooms, berries, homemade compost, etc. Additionally, in the frame of another project, in cooperation with CARD, five farmers are chosen to be provided with different seedlings of the plants that will be used while cooking at the gastro-yard. The CARD will instruct these farmers on growing these plants, while “Hnots” gastro-yard on its turn will procure these goods from these farmers.

 

Adventure tourism center in Dsegh village, Lori region 

Lori region claims to become a new “outside of Yerevan”; the old school’s dormitory in Dsegh village will turn into an adventure tourism center soon. The initiator behind the project is Vladimir Grigoryan, the director of DA tours which has operated as an incoming tourism operator since 2000. Grigoryan has also been the president of the Adventure Tourism Association since 2016. Besides being an internal tourism operator, DA is the company behind the filming of various movies about Armenia – with the most popular one being the Armenian episode of “Parts Unknown” by Anthony Bourdain, starting from the script and ending with the support for the filming. 

Vladimir Grigoryan

 

Having all this profound background and continuously conducting various tours in the region, Vladimir stumbled upon the problem of lacking tourism infrastructures in those parts of the country which resulted in additional expenses for the tour operators. Thanks to the international and local organisations working on eradicating the disproportions in the development of the regions, the situation has upscaled somewhat but there are still many fundamental issues yet to be solved. Eventually, Vladimir came up with an idea to open adventure tourism centers in four regions of Armenia that currently face the above-mentioned problems the most. 

Vladimir Grigoryan with kids 

 

“The main function of these centers will be not just providing accommodation but, first of all, developing corresponding conditions so that the tourists are able to spend several days in one region”, says Vladimir, “and this implies creating or developing local tour products, i.e. entertainment for the visitor”. Two types of entertainment are being considered – passive and active. The latter implies hiking up and down the mountains and gorges of the region, the passive is particular “services” offered by the local people; touristic experiences typical to that region. 

In April, they began renovating the non-operating school dormitory in Dsegh village which is set to become the first prototype of the Adventure Tourism center Vladimir envisioned. The center will have also its artistic expression and will even have a huge bright room to exhibit art pieces and host various masterclasses by local craftsmen. 

Since last year Vladimir has started the construction of the building and the corresponding infrastructures such as electricity and water. The locals are quite enthusiastic about the project as the dorm has been abandoned for the past ten to twelve years and now it is about to come to life again. Additionally, local masters are involved in the construction works and once the center is open there will be a need for over 30 staff members, and of course, they will be hired from the local communities. The format is based on the building they’ve found in Lori. In other regions, there won’t be a need for such large buildings; around 20 sleeping spots will be enough. They are also considering moving this project outside of Armenia – for example, Georgia – and initiating the establishment of similar centres with local partners in rural areas and settlements. They might also create joint tour packages, including these centres in each route.

 

Ruben Tours and Travel LLC

Ruben Tours and Travels mainly works with French and German-speaking markets hosting tourists from France, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. In other words, it presents the Armenian culture and atmosphere to the European world. 

Ruben Tours and Travels mainly works with French and German-speaking markets hosting tourists from France, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland

 

 

Aelita Chobanyan, the founder of the agency previously worked for a Swiss foundation in Armenia where they were going to implement various ecological and humanitarian projects in the Shirak region and adjacent settlements. There she interacted with many tourists and enhanced her knowledge about Armenia: there’s hardly a spot in Armenia she doesn’t know about. 

 

In 2010, Ruben Tours and Travels was established with its primary focus on adventure tourism. Currently, they provide various tours starting from traditional cultural heritage tourism ending with mountain hiking. Besides Armenia, the routes of Ruben Tours and Travels include Georgia and Western Armenia. “We put a huge emphasis on the social aspect of the programmes and try to benefit agro-tourism and rural tourism and engage people and families living in the region”, says Aelita, “The situation hit hard on us, just like on any other one in the field, but we didn’t turn to local tourism and decided to use this time working on the development of our tourism products and preparing new tour packages for the next year”. 

 

One of the sectors of their interest is beekeeping and Aelita herself practices it. Currently, they work on making this initiative into a touristic experience; however, it’s hard as it requires huge financial investments from their side. Via this and other similar projects, they try to put on the map the areas of the countries which have been left out of the tourism routes.