The number of foreign tourists visiting Armenia will likely continue to increase rapidly in the coming years, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
“There has been an upward year-on-year dynamic in recent years, which means that we will have an increase in tourist arrivals this year as well,” said Susanna Safarian, head of the State Tourism Committee.
“We will do everything to have at least 13-14 percent annual growth in tourism arrivals in the coming years,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Armenia’s tourism industry has already expanded considerably over the past decade, helped by a falling cost of air travel and accommodation in the country.
Official statistics shows that the number of foreigners visiting Armenia has grown by roughly 9 percent annually since 2012. It was up by 12 percent in the first half of 2019. Russian nationals accounted for most of the tourist arrivals recorded in that period.
The Armenian government expects that the upcoming launch by two European budget airlines of cheap flights between Armenia and Europe will give a further boost to the tourism sector. In Safarian’s words, the government also hopes that more road and other infrastructure upgrades planned by it in 2020 will serve the same purpose.
Local tour operators say they heard last year fewer complaints from visitors about the quality of roads leading to the country’s ancient monuments and other tourist attractions. They caution, though, that the sector remains beset by other problems.
“Tourists complain about the quality of service not only in the regions but also Yerevan,” said Zaruhi Orbelian of the Armenian Association of Travel Guides.
Even so, anecdotal evidence suggests that Armenia has attracted a record-high number of tourists from Russia, Europe, Gulf Arab states and other nations during the latest New Year and Christmas holidays.
Russian tourists have been particularly visible on the streets of Yerevan in the past week. Not all of them were visiting the South Caucasus country for the first time.
“I liked the nature and friendliness of the people,” said one young woman. “It was very nice. That is why my husband and I decided to come to Armenia again for the New Year.”
“We have never been to Yerevan before,” said another Russian tourist. “We like it here very much. But we still have time and we are going to see a lot more.”