Armenia Reports Further Rise in Tourism

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The number of foreign tourists visiting Armenia has continued to grow this year, reaching a new high of almost 1.3 million in January-September, a senior government official said late in December.

The figure represents a nearly 9-percent increase from the same period in 2017, Hripsime Grigoryan, the head of the government’s Tourism Committee, said at a news conference.

Grigoryan said that Russian nationals continued to account for the largest share of tourist arrivals (41 percent), followed by residents of neighboring Georgia and Iran.

All three countries have sizable Armenian communities, as does the United States. More than 46,000 Americans visited Armenia in the ninth-month period, according to government data publicized by Grigoryan.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hailed news reports saying that Armenia is a leading destination for Russians planning to spend their New Year and Christmas holidays abroad. “This is certainly a chance for many Armenian businesspeople to do their share of economic revolution and lay the groundwork for a bigger tourism boom next summer,” he wrote on Facebook.

Grigoryan said that the influx of tourists intensified following this spring’s “velvet revolution” which brought Pashinyan to power. “We had a particularly high rate of growth in the period from July through October,” said the official.

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Official Armenian statistics shows that the number of foreign visitors rose by an average of 9 percent annually between 2012 and 2016. This growth, which accelerated in 2017, appears to have been facilitated by the former Armenian government’s decision in 2013 to liberalize the domestic civil aviation sector.

The average cost of air travel to and from Armenia has fallen considerably since then. The last several years have also seen a major increase in new hotels and guesthouses across the country.

The Armenian authorities unilaterally scrapped visas for citizens of the European Union member states and the U.S. in 2012 and 2014 respectively. An agreement on visa-free travel between Armenia and Iran came into effect in August 2016.

Yerevan also lifted visa restrictions for citizens of Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and several other nations last year. In addition, it allowed Russian citizens to visit Armenia with Russian internal passports.

She noted the new government is now trying to improve the domestic tourism infrastructure for the same purpose.

Topics: Tourism
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