International Focus: Armenia: Romancing history & scintillating beauty

A relatively unexplored paradise, Armenia is blessed with three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The country is a tourist’s delight because of its wide array of wines, number of festivals, and pre-historic Christian monuments, taking one back in time and its beautiful landscape. TravelBiz Monitor takes a closer look at the country’s potential in the Indian market

Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 15:00 Hrs  [IST]
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Armenia is a country of miracles…if you ask me where on earth you can find more miracles, I would say, first of all Armenia…It is involuntarily amazing that in such a small corner of the world you can find such monuments and such people  — R. Kent Huges, Author, USA.Armenia, a country steeped in history and culture, has a lot to offer to  Indian tourists, with its capital, Yerevan being one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The country has been developing and modernising since its independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union, though it still maintains some traces of its past.armenia_destination_2.jpgThe joint familiarisation trip was conducted by Air Arabia and Marriott International to Armenia. Air Arabia has introduced three flights a week from Sharjah to Yerevan making it easier and convenient for travellers to experience the dazzling city; all the more ideal for passengers travelling from India, since the connecting time from India to Sharjah and Sharjah to Yerevan is perfect. Air Arabia also offers a range of value-for-money holiday packages, including hotel accommodation and visa assistance, in addition to providing service to Yerevan. This new flight destination is undoubtedly going to add value to all Air Arabia passengers travelling to and from India.

With about 300 rivers and rivulets, Republic of Armenia is situated at a cultural, historical, and religious intersection. Located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, in the Southern Caucasus, Armenia is now connected by Air Arabia’s bi-weekly flights from their hub in Sharjah. It is a great mid-haul destination for Indian travellers and has the potential to become a leisure and MICE hub for passengers from India with outdoor activities and scenery as its prime attraction. Since 2000 Armenia has seen an increase in tourist footfall, and with introduction of these flights it is expected to grow in the coming years.

armenia_destination_3.jpgUnder the majestic backdrop of Mount Ararat, or at the millennia-old church of one’s choice, spending a vacation in the most special places of Armenia can be a refreshing idea for the next vacation. With Armenia recently celebrating its 1700th anniversary as the first nation to embrace Christianity as a state religion, the country will surely satiate the needs of a world traveller looking for the ideal mix of religion, culture, adventure, and relaxation. Armenia has a population of 3,238,000 and is the second most densely populated among all the former Soviet Republics. It attracts people with its sense of adventure and history. There are also some objects in Armenia that are in the official list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like Monastery of Haghpat and Sanahin, Cathedral and Churches of Echmiadzin, and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots and Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley.

Presently, the country is landlocked and has no navigable waterways, in contrast to historic Armenia, which at its peak under King Tigran the Great, stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and was more than ten times the current size of the present day Republic. Armenia shares borders with Georgia to the North, Turkey to the West and South, with Azerbaijan to the East and South West, and Iran to the South. Looming above the Yerevan skyline as an ominous reminder to its glorious past and as a beacon to a future of hope rises the majestic Mount Ararat. Located South West of the capital city of Yerevan in present day Turkey, Mount Ararat dominates the national landscape, psyche and character. Mount Aragats, the highest point within the Republic’s boundaries (4,090 mts at its summit) is a less-explored paradise for hikers. The people of Armenia, old and young, stand in concert and with open arms welcoming first-time visitors, the investor community, or those looking to call Armenia their permanent home.

armenia_destination_4.jpgThe capital city Yerevan is surrounded by the magnificently imposing Mount Ararat, which lies in the neighbouring country, Turkey. The country has a historical heritage spanning the Stone Age era to modern-day Armenia. It offers a variety of religious sites, primarily beautiful churches that dot the vast countryside landscape. An unexplored destination, Yerevan offers visitors an unforgettable getaway with pleasant weather almost throughout the year, popular handicrafts, jewellery and Soviet memorabilia for the ardent shopper, delicious food, which mixes fresh salads, spiced meats and lavash—a chewy flat bread and a mystical feel to it—all of which form a part of the country’s USP. Moreover, the exchange rate between the Indian rupee and the Armenian Dram is low, so it benefits a cost-conscious/frugal Indian traveller on his first visit to the country who are keen on not burning a hole in their pockets while exploring an exotic location like Armenia.

Situated along the River Hrazdan, Yerevan, which was named as 2012 World Book Capital by UNESCO, is the administrative, cultural, and industrial centre of the country. It has been the capital since 1918, the 13th in the history of Armenia. With the growth of the economy of the country, Yerevan has been undergoing major transformation as many parts of the city have been the recipient of new construction since the early 2000s, and retail outlets such as restaurants, shops and street cafes, which were rare during Soviet times, have multiplied.

armenia_destination_5.jpgAmongst other attractions in Armenia is Tsaghkadzor, historical name Kecharis, which is a spa town and a popular health resort located North of Hrazdan in the Kotayk Province (marz). Tsaghkadzor means valley of flowers in Armenian. The city is located 50 kms North of Yerevan, on the South-Eastern slope of Teghenis Mountains, at a height of 1,750 mts above sea level, surrounded with alpine meadows. The infrastructure of tourism is highly developed in Tsaghkadzor, with many luxurious hotels, resorts and amusement facilities.

Voskan Kokanyan, Director, Sales and Marketing, Tsaghkadzor Marriott Hotel, said, “Our hotel comprises 100 luxurious  guest rooms (including the rooms in seven villas) featuring a work desk with a lamp, data ports at the desk, cable/satellite TV, in-room safe, high-speed and Wi-Fi access. The seven villas comprising stylish four deluxe rooms and one junior suite are best for small groups of 15 people. We have five restaurants and bars each featuring a unique design and cuisine. For our business travellers we have three well-equipped, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, as well as a ballroom to host events and for those who like to rejuvenate we have a health club, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, sauna, the Turkish bath Hamam, our luxurious spa and a multifunctional field for team sports, making your stay memorable.”

mikkel_krantz.jpg‘India is an emerging market for Armenia’ – Mikkel Krantz, Director, Sales and Marketing, Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan

Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan is looking at creating awareness about the property in the Indian market to tap MICE and leisure travellers. Mikkel Krantz, Director, Sales and Marketing, Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan, speaks to TravelBiz Monitor about the potential of the Indian market and how the hotel is geared up to receive visitors from the country

Q. What is the USP of your hotel?
A. Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan is ‘The place to be in Yerevan’, with best and unmatched location in Yerevan right on the Republic Square. It has the largest hotel ballroom in town, Tigran Mets covering 585 sq mts of area. The first well-established international hotel brand in Yerevan, Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan offers the highest standard of service and safety/security. It offers a choice of four outlets in the same building.
Our hotel features nine floors in two wings, a total of 226 guest rooms specifically designed for both leisure and business travellers, spanning from standard deluxe rooms to presidential room. We offer free Wi-Fi facility at all the four outlets. The hotel is well established as a meeting and social event venue and can accommodate up to 700 people.

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Q. How are you geared up to host the Indian clientele?

A. We always stay flexible in terms of our guest requests and undertake utmost care to ensure we maximise their travel experience when staying with Marriott. As India seems to become a new market for Armenia, it is crucial that we listen and act on these needs. Our dedicated personnel are dealing with the Indian market so that we become experts in terms of understanding their travel behaviours better. We are training our people on diversity and inclusion, which is a key focus at all Marriott hotels worldwide. When we receive requests for Indian chefs/cooks, we are flexible in terms of bringing the service from outside to the hotel for the requested period.
Q. Currently, what is the composition and percentage of Indian guests at your property?
A. The Indian market has recently started to show an increased interest in Armenia/Yerevan for both leisure and MICE, so it is too early to comment. However, we are working closely with the local agencies as well as with Indian agencies/corporate entities directly, and also with our own Marriott Global Sales Office in New Delhi in India to attract Indian travellers.
Q. What would be your marketing strategy to tap the Indian market?
A. At this stage, we want to reach out to the Indian market and ensure that they not only get to know about the fantastic Marriott hotels we have here in Yerevan/Armenia, but also all that this interesting and beautiful country can offer them. Being a part of the Marriott family, we have several ways of reaching out to that market. We are growing our hotel portfolio within India, especially with brands like Courtyard by Marriott, JW Marriott and Marriott Hotels & Resorts, which means we are already well established there and well known. We can therefore, on a daily basis, be in contact with a wide network of businesses in India. We will participate in Marriott Sales Missions in India and will also be inviting Indian travel representatives and media for FAM trips to Armenia. Furthermore, we obviously also support what our local tourism institution is doing for promoting our country in the Indian market.

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Nadeem Kohari, General Manager- MICE, Thomas Cook

“Armenia is an amazingly beautiful, unexplored and untapped destination. It is a must-visit and ideal for small groups and FITs. However, the challenge is availability of Indian restaurants and flight connectivity. Tsaghkadzor and Yerevan are the two beautiful destinations in Armenia, and the country is tourist-friendly and safe.”

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Abhik Dutta, Director, Wanderers Leisure Pvt Ltd.

“Armenia is a perfect destination for three-four days for MICE travellers and honeymooners. It is a new and untapped destination with good hotels, and Yerevan and Tsaghkadzor are the two important tourist destinations. Armenia has a brandy factory and is the only country that can use the name cognac (after France), but in the local language.”

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Dhawal Bhute, Divisional Head – Corporate Tours, Orbitz Corporate & Leisure Travels (I) Pvt. Ltd.

“Armenia is a good destination for leisure and incentive groups. It has good nightlife and fantastic hotels. The destination has beautiful sightseeing options and four- to five-star hotels under international and local brands. It can easily accommodate a group of 50 people (with three-four day itinerary). For more people, logistics could be a problem.”

 

http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/international-focus-armenia-romancing-history–scintillating-beauty-22341

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