The number of foreign tourists visiting Armenia increased by 12 percent in the first half of this year, a senior government official said on Thursday.
Susanna Safarian, the head of the Economy Ministry’s depart on tourism, told the Armenpress news agency that Russian nationals accounted for the largest share of 770,000 tourist arrivals recorded in that period, followed by citizens of Georgia, the United States and Iran. All four countries have large ethnic Armenian communities.
Safarian said her department is now striving to attract more European tourists to Armenia.
Armenia already unilaterally abolished visas for citizens of the European Union member states and the U.S. in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In 2017, it also lifted visa requirements for citizens of Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and several other nations and allowed Russians to visit Armenia with Russian internal passports.
Official Armenian statistics shows that the number of foreigners visiting Armenia has grown by roughly 9 percent annually since 2012. It reached a new high of almost 1.5 million in 2018. The last several years have also seen a major rise in new hotels and guesthouses across the country.
This growth 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 government’s Civil Aviation Committee reported recently a 9.4 percent rise in the total number of passengers processed by the country’s two international airports in the first half of 2019.