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Armenia may only be a small country, but it has a big heart – Jason White

armenia-touristIn an interview with Tert.am, Mr Jason White, an international sales manager and business consultant, voiced an opinion that tourism can absolutely increase the country’s economic wealth by the generation of jobs and money that is bought into the country from tourists who are buying products and services.

You are in Armenia more than a year. How was Armenia as a country for you as a foreigner when you came here at first and how it is for you now? (Now you can talk about the country as a person who lives here).

Well I think you know that I have lived outside of Armenia now for over 1 year. I think and feel it has moved forward a little, but these small steps can have a positive effect.  But that is what has happened these past few years, no real exponential growth really.  I think most foreigners come to love the place they love the sense and feel of Yerevan, its café culture, the weather, the friendliness and sense of family as you walk around the city. It has a European cultural feel I believe.  So many people (foreigners) that I have spoken have such a warmth and love for the place it takes hold of you…That really is something Armenians should try to convey and market more in their promotional activity with regard to Tourism.

You are a Business Consultant and you previously looked at Armenia as a place for potential business activity. And I noticed that you mentioned touristic opportunities of our country.  What do you think what is the problem that Armenia is not very popular in the world? Whom we should “blame” for it?

If you read my article in the Moscow Expat Times I talk about two factors really – historical under achievement in the Tourist infrastructure from the pre USSR times, and an additional lack of for sight and investment in then building an Armenian brand (showcasing the country) for Tourists, and finally the lack of current investment in Tourism by the Government and administrations since. I really cannot stress the importance of the Government investing funds into marketing and advertising the country.  Tourism can absolutely increase the country’s economic wealth by the generation of jobs and money that is bought into the country from tourists who are buying products and services. It’s not rocket science really. But sadly for Armenian governments past and present it appears to be!

What is the most important advantages of Armenia (I mean in regard to the touristic sphere) and how we can present it to world? (In your articles you have written what we should do practically. I would like to introduce them to our readers).

What most people come to understand about Travelling is that it can be absolutely uplifting, it engenders personality, cultivates awareness and understanding, makes you appreciate geography and natural beauty and gives you a quality of life through these things. Therefore International tourists will want to come and visit your country.  Armenia may only be a small country, but it has a big heart. Foreigners sense that when they come. Besides you have everything here to entice people to come. A deep religious history, churches and monasteries from antipathy, wonderful wineries.   Mountains and interesting geography allied with four seasons that manifest beautiful and natural colours. You have an endearing and magnificent lake Sevan that can act as a pull for those who wish to feel the natural healing power of waters.  Wellness centres such as Jermuk with clean alpine air. Skiing in Tsaghzadzor.  But more than anything you have a country where prices are so much cheaper than mainstream Europe . in this age of financial crisis in so many countries people have to be careful with their budget so this point should not be underestimated too.

You have a web-site about Armenia for tourists. You are presenting the sights of Armenia, advertising them. Armenians every time complain that Armenia is not very good place for intern tourism because of the high prizes of hotels, service and so on. What do you think about it? And what do foreigners who read your web-site and want to come to Armenia think about it?

Well that is a good question. I would answer by saying this.  Most foreigners would not say Armenia was an expensive country on the whole whilst they are here, indeed as I mentioned earlier the prices are much cheaper than other more well known locations. However I also understand that for Armenians themselves wanting to holiday within the country it may well be rather expensive due to low average wages ( lower than China for some years now).  I think this is where there is opportunity for Armenians to see an opportunity and open homes or small businesses to the potential of cheap guest houses and bed and breakfasts especially in the areas of Sevan and Diligen, Jermuk etc.

What are the real practice and let’s say “stupid” problems that we have in tourism? How we can resolve them?

Well other than a couple of Linkedin and twitter pages set up. I have not seen any momentum to really advertise the country by tourist sites.  I do not see any Facebook groups promoting Armenia or any advertising ( I mentioned the governments lack of advertising and support) specifically promoting holidays, in addition  I don’t see any real Armenian tourist businesses thinking outside the box and promoting in emerging and potential more profitable markets such as the UK and Northern Europe. More focus and attention needs to be given in this area as well as here in Russia. This is a massive market potentially especially after the terrorist problems of last year, for travelling Russians, and them now choosing to travel within Russia and the CIS.  Additionally more work needs to begun to introduce low cost airlines to Svartnots airport. Increased carriers and numbers of flights from Europe is absolutely essential.  Etihad began flying directly from Abu Dhabi but then stopped after a year, more things need to be done to overcome barriers and challenges. But this is something the government should be doing proactively with foreign carriers.

You mentioned that Russia is a good partner for Armenia. Now you are in Russia. Do you speak with them about Armenia-Russia business relations? Would they like to cooperate with Armenians? If yes, where they want to “put” their money?

It many ways it’s not that easy to give you a straight answer to this question.  That is because the business culture I have found both here in Russia and the CIS generally is highly complex. Historical business mistrust still exists in certain areas.  Relationships are fostered through historical ties, be it business and or family, traditional business development and networking is still something that is not as well developed to the point of any real focus sadly.  In addition I have also come across examples of when I am introducing business potential from Armenia as to “Why is a British Business man promoting Armenia ? “.  The loss of substantial sums of money after the devalution of the Ruble has not helped from the Armenian side either. Therefore the simple answer is there is more hard work to be done here.  There are  Russian business people looking to invest in opportunities but more work is needed ie more liaison and regular  investment workshops by Armenian stakeholders / joint venture protagonists  to educate and inform the opportunity currently in Armenia.

Any other comments….

More lobbying of the Government for greater support and funding from them. More advertising means potential increased numbers of tourists, which equates to more jobs and an even distribution of the income to the business community. Better use of social platforms to advertise and market the country. PR agencies, content and more interactive websites need to be initiated.  You have a wonderful Human resource in Armenia, highly intellectual and IT focused. This still needs to be utilized more effectively and with a value added emphasis…Good luck.

Thank you!

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