YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Tourism experts say that up to 80,000 tourists can be attracted to Armenia per year–bringing in $40 million–without additional investmen’s the tourism industry is properly organized. Experts say that the lack of government strategy in tourism development has resulted in inefficient work methods.
On the order of the Ministry of Industry and Trade–the "Amyot Exco Armenia" (AEA) audit and consulting company–assisted by the TACIS project–is implementing a program of studying the tourist sector in Armenia. On the basis of this program the company provided the government with consultations on developing better tourism policy in the country. The study revealed the necessity for constructing new hotels–improving infrastructure–coordinating the activities of travel agencies–organizing new services such as car rental–modernizing the Zvartnots airport–and training guides.
Deputy Director of AEA Gagik Gyulbudaghian said that there is a great demand for new hotels in Yerevan. He said that a new hotel–"Europe," will soon open in Yerevan–and the construction of new hotels in other regions are also under consideration. According to Gyulbudaghian–besides the traditional forms of tourism–tourism in more rural and ethnic parts of the country are also promising.
Experts also said that visiting Armenia costs too much. A visit to Armenia costs more for a tourist than visits to other countries. It is cheaper for a tourist from France to go to Cyprus or to the Bahamas than to Armenia. Armenian Airlines offers few discounts; they should reduce fares to become more competitive.
There are 25 tourism companies that are not currently coordinating their activities and need financing–marketing skills and training–according to AEA. A tourism center needs to be established to coordinate the activities of travel agencies–and render assistance in advertising and procuring funds with the government’s assistance. In many states–such centers–also known as National Tourism Organizations–are financed by the state budget.
According to official data–40,000 tourists visited Armenia last year. Experts say this figure is in fact 50-60 thousand people.