Features | 27.09.11 | 14:17
Active Idea: Armenia reveals potential for developing extreme tourism
The National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia (NCFA) cited a leading magazine’s claim that Armenia is among the world’s top three destinations for adventure tourism.
“As a result of an international vote the world-famous National Geographic Traveler magazine ranked Armenia among the top three countries according to active -- including extreme -- rest,” the Foundation said.
Companies engaged in the organization of active recreation in Armenia believe the estimation of such a prestigious magazine will only promote the flow of tourists preferring adventures to the country.
Natoura Tour company head Eduard Gevorgyan says that “it may be a great stimulus for developing the industry.”
“Our government will do the right thing if it works towards getting Armenia into the top statistics of extreme tourism. Armenia is still known as a historical and cultural tourism center, even though the world is moving towards more adventurous vacations,” says Gevorgyan.
According to the NCFA, Armenia offers the following types of adventure tourism that fit its climatic conditions: hiking, trekking, skiing, mountain biking, cycling, horse riding, etc..
Industry experts say they are convinced that Armenia has a great potential for developing adventure tourism. But they also point out a number of obstacles to the development of this trend.
Gevorgyan singles out the lack of proper infrastructure and shortage of specialists.
“Adventure recreation routes are not adapted to international standards, which is an obstacle to locating these places. Meanwhile, such places abroad are given a priority and no other economic activities are normally carried out there,” he says.
The NCFA told ArmeniaNow that their Board of Trustees had set tourism as the body’s priority and keeps this industry in the center of its attention.
In particular, a southern corridor strategic plan for tourism development in Armenia has been devised for the purpose of spurring development in the mentioned directions.
According to the NCFA’s Public Relations Department, a “Zangezur Paths” has been implemented this year as part of the plan with the aim of creating a network of hiking pathways in some southern parts of Armenia. Also, a project of transforming Mozrov Cave has been developed with the purpose of turning it into Armenia’s first demonstrational tourist cave. Jointly with the “Zhayrern I Ver” Club, the second international mountaineering festival was held – the gorges of Garni, the Arpa river and Noravank had been selected as the main places for climbing, the NCFA said.
Official data for the first six months of 2011 show a 15-percent increase in the number of tourists visiting Armenia over the same period last year.
Natoura Tour Company head Gevorgyan says the number of visitors interested in adventure tourism is also growing from year to year. He says only non-Armenians turn to them for such rest and that the number of their customers this year has increased by 10-15 percent.
“It is already 12 years that we have been in this business, and we have no problem with personnel, however the demand for adventure tourism guides is one of the top obstacles. Such specialists must be able to survive in extreme conditions, make decisions quickly in difficult situations. But no higher school teaches such things,” says Gevorgyan.
A total of 12 universities in Armenia offer courses for tourism, with 2,890 students attending them as of this year.