Tourism: amid dream and reality

Tourism: amid dream and reality

In the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same period of 2016 number of tourists visiting Armenia has grown by 18.2%. Zarmine Zeytuntsyan, Chairperson of State Tourism Committee of the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments, told about this recently.

“Compared with the same period, number of visits has grown by 18.2%, i.e. 599 thousand 341 visitors (in the first quarter of 2016 it comprised 498 thousand 291). Main growth was provided by the Iranian market—17.7%, Russian market—7.5%, and top five includes China, Germany and France with lesser percent,” she said.

This isn’t new, almost all media outlets have reported on this.

Numbers were brought to understand: should we get enthusiastic by this or not? Is 5.7% growth and 18% growth of the first quarter enough to develop tourism? One of the first steps of PM Karen Karapetyan that State Committee of Tourism was established and separated from the Ministry of Economy. Acting Head of the committee was appointed Zarmine Zeytuntsyan.

The PM was rather optimistic regarding this new body and its head and was sure that she’ll implement serious steps in a short period regarding rising country’s recognizability and provision of tourist flow. K.Karapetyan assigned the Committee to develop tourism development concept and the program for 2017. “While introducing the program I want to see your dream,” the PM said.

Everyone was waiting for speedy and bold steps, however, there was silence for a lasting period. People, however, realized that for developing a serious concept and program time is necessary. 4 months after the appointment—on February 10, 2017 Zarmine Zeytuntsyan told reporters that they have developed and submitted to the government the concept for tourism development 2017-2020 and programs for 2017. She particularly stressed that they’re encouraged by K.Karapetyan’s statement, “In our program we attempted to introduce our dream.”

Frankly speaking we haven’t studied the program and the concept. However, instead, we studied actual indices and not only of our country.

Comparison is the most proper way to count success of tourism. In our case Georgia is the object for comparison. We’ve already stated once that we have lost in competition with Georgia regarding tourism. Moreover, the reason isn’t only the sea, as Georgia’s tourist boom was launched from mid-2000s, the sea existed before as well.

The statistics of tourism of Armenia and Georgia is brought in the charts below. As we may see in Chart 1 in 2016 Georgia had more than 6.3 million tourists, and Armenia—less than 1.3 million.

In Chart 2 growth of tourist flow is brought compared with the previous year, i.e. it shows the dynamics.

As we may see only in the period of recent years temp of Armenia’s tourists was high (11.1%), than in Georgia (9-2.3% decline).

In other years Georgia’s growth temp was higher, than in Armenia. That tendency continued in 2016 as well: tourism in Armenia grew by 5.7%, and in Georgia—by 7.6%. In the period of recent 10 years flow of tourists to Georgia increased in average by 21%, then Georgia’s privilege will become more obvious.

We made a rough calculation. If temp of Georgia’s tourism growth slows down up to 5% and growth temp of Armenia’s visitors speeds up and comprises 25% per year, only in 9 years numbers of tourists visiting to Armenia and Georgia will equal. This means 18% growth isn’t enough for Armenia if our dream is having at least half as tourists as Georgia.

It’s difficult to say whether the Committee of Tourism will succeed to provide double digit growth or not. In any case the 18% growth recorded in the quarter of ongoing year can’t be conditioned by the new concept and new program, it’s inertial growth mostly conditioned by Iranian tourism (which has little connection with the policy of Armenia’s tourism).

Another observation should be made, to which some people may disagree. As already stated tourism is contestation amid countries. The most productive marketing steps, as a rule, are secretly developed. The consumer knows about it, when marketing skill is applied and has already provided a result (or not).

Thus, when we state that we’re developing a program, or we’ll make a film about Armenia or we’ll propose special services to Iranians, it isn’t only senseless, but also weakens the effect. It’ll be proper not to speak and not to announce and serve the result only.

There is no need to invite special press conferences to introduce number of tourists and growth temp. Firstly, tourism doesn’t grow from that, secondly, those interested may find numbers on the internet as well. Instead, it would be better if a platform was developed, where it would be clearly seen how many people visited this month, from which countries and for which period and etc.

In the end we should remind the footage which caused a stir in the whole world a couple of weeks ago, where Georgia PM greeted the 6 millionth tourist. Naturally no one stated they would do it, but after doing it everyone got to know about it.

In short, it isn’t the time to dream, but to act noiselessly and productively.

By Babken Tunyan