Issue 3, 2013. June-July

   

THE SEA AND COMPETITIVE PRICES DRAW ARMENIANS TO GEORGIA

A growing number of Armenians are opting for vacations in Georgia, drawn by lower prices, nostalgia, and access to the Black Sea.

Roza Hovhannisyan

The Government of Armenia may have declared tourism a priority, but Armenians are thinking about spending their summer holiday abroad. And, for a growing number of them, that means a trip to Georgia.

While the number of international tourists coming to Armenia grew in 2012 by 11.3 percent, to total 843,330 people, a holiday at home is too expensive for many locals.

"I am not rich enough to afford a holiday in Armenia, while in neighboring Georgia there is a sea, and prices are affordable," an Armenian citizen who chooses to holiday at seaside regions in Georgia every year, says.

The most preferable holiday destination for Armenians continues to be Georgia, followed by Turkey. During recent years people have also started to prefer exotic countries like Sri Lanka, Egypt, Dubai, and Tunisia.

Based on past trips to Georgia, Armenians calculate a person with $300 can vacation in Batumi or Kobuleti for 7-10 days, while $300 will only cover three days of expenses in Armenia's Sevan resort.

"Citizens of Armenia love to vacation in different places. People love sea vacations, but we do not have a sea. Among the countries offering coastal resorts, Georgia is the leading one for Armenians as it is close to us and affordable," Mekhak Apresyan, the Head of the Tourism Department at the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Armenia, noted.

Ara Petrosyan, Deputy Economy Minister of Armenia, however, believes it is the sea, not the prices, that is pushing Armenians to vacation in Georgia.

A government survey, Petrosyan stressed, did not show that hotels are more expensive in Armenia.

During the Soviet Union, Armenians preferred to spend their holidays either in Sochi or Yalta, noted economist Samvel Avagyan. He noted that over the past 40 years, holidays in the Black Sea region have become a tradition for Armenians.

But vacationing in Georgia is more economical today, so Armenians can still enjoy the Black Sea at a more reasonable price. Armenians are also opting to take winter vacations in Georgia. For the New Year holiday, December 25 to 31, some 27,609 Armenian tourists visited Georgia.

Avagyan noted that that the Georgian strategy - which opens resorts to serve a larger part of society - is the right direction to take.

"Georgia's tourism infrastructure is convenient for people with medium and low incomes...It does not mean, however, that the services in Armenia are bad or the prices are very high, it is just the way the infrastructure has developed here," he said.