Sustainability and tourist reception in Armenia

Sustainability and tourist reception in Armenia

Tourism is a growing sector in Armenia. Beside the regular inflow of diaspora, there is an increasing number of foreigners who visit the country. European ones are mostly Germans who enjoy sports and historical tourism. Italians tend to prefer religious tours: they visit the numerous monasteries, sometimes in combination with enogastronomic tours, which have a great potential in the Caucasus.

the Acopian Center is launching the second annual conference on sustainable tourism. As explained by the director of the Center Alen Amirkhanian, the first conference aimed at familiarizing with the principles of ecotourism and sustainable tourism and to give due visibility to the activities in the country that are already inspired by these concepts: it thus gathered experiences developed in the fields of outdoor sports, agritourisms and eco-farming, sustainable religious and cultural tourism.

The same topics found their room in the Certificate Program in Tourism and Hospitality Management of the American University in Armenia, where ecotourism was included for the first time.

Sustainability and tourist reception

Other realities are in the loop of environmentally sustainable tourism and of eco-volunteering. Armenian eco-farms are members of WWOOF, the organization which gathers volunteers who want to devote their holiday to working experience in sustainable farms. Some B&B and small farms offer organic food, in a still unclear legal framework of national standards and certifications.

In the food and wine sectors, local initiatives gained the admission to Slow Food. This is the case of Motal, an age-old Armenian cheese produced by six families in line with traditional methods, using Armenian terracotta pots to mature this goat cheese. Other organic products such as apricots, nuts and other local specialities have found their place in the Ark of Taste of Slow Food. Double hat for the lavash, the traditional bread spread in the Caucasus: in its Armenian variety is recognized as Slow Food product and it is protected by UNESCO.

Outdoor Sports

The same picture is repeated in the outdoor sector: advanced professional and very mature business and associations are complemented by initiatives that are struggling to find the necessary support. In the field of mountaineering and extreme sports Armenia’s mountains have much to offer: climbing, hiking, canyoning, slacklining, caving. While for the latter plausible restrictions are applied (most of the caves are not accessible not to disturb the endemic species of bats), other disciplines are exercised, but the culture of mountaineering is not widespread among the population in general.

Nevertheless the tourism offer is potentially very high, both for the peculiarities of the territory, and for the experience of local mountaineers, among whom ethical and sustainability culture are spread. To quote an example, a consortium has been created by various associations for the protection of the beautiful basalt columns, a unique, precious place for climbing, as others scattered along the Caucasus mountains, yet to be discovered by many.

The same can be said about mountain biking. In addition to the bike tours already available, independent travellers as well as dedicated NGOs are contributing via GPS to the mapping of trails.

NGOs play an important role in the development of the territory and its potential. Young boys and girls believe in the possibility of achieving a form of healthy, outdoor tourism, with positive repercussions on the local sports culture, and they have rolled up their sleeves to create projects ranging from the opening of a bike park to the promotion of alternative tourist routes. A strategic asset, if duly integrated in a holistic, comprehensive vision of tourism in Armenia.