Irina Shegolkova, head of the press service of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism (Rosturizm) shared in an interview with ARKA news agency her impressions about Armenia and spoke also about its tourism industry’s development potential specifying steps to be taken to that end.
ARKA – Ms. Shegolkova, what are your impressions about Armenia and what it can offer to Russian tourists in particular?
Shegolkova - We have been two days in Armenia and it was enough to have an impression that this country has an immense tourism development potential. In my opinion, Armenia may offer almost any kind of tourism, except seaside beaches, although you have Lake Sevan. In the first place it is the actively developing eco-tourism - organic food is very popular now all over the world and many travel agencies offer special gastronomic tours. It is also bicycle tours with very interesting routes, religious tourism, which is developing rapidly in Russia as many people begin to take interest in their origins and culture. Religious tourism is not a pilgrimage. People visit religious sites not to pray and worship , although it happens too, but just to see the temples, learn about their history, look at works of art and listen to music. In terms of cultural tourism Armenia has a lot to boast of.
ARKA - Is there any data about how many Russian tourists visit Armenia? What percentage of them are ethnic Armenians? After all, many of them go home to see relatives.
Shegolkova – We looked today into official Russian statistics and the figures are not very large. Last year, only 48,000 Russian tourists were taken to Armenia by travel agencies, who I think were not ethnic Armenians because Armenians will not turn to travel agencies for visiting their home country. After all they can buy tickets and book hotels here if they have no one here to stop at. Too many people come to Armenia on their own.. As for Russian tourists there are virtually no language and visa barriers. They need to have a passport and buy a plane ticket. Therefore, if some effort is taken by Armenia in order to promote itself as a tourist destination, the number of Russian tourists will be much larger.
ARKA - What should be done for this by the government and the private sector?
Shegolkova - I think it should be teamwork. The government, of course, can do a lot, but there are limits. Travel agencies are much more aware about tourist products that could attract for example, Russian tourists. Therefore, if the efforts are combined and there is more information about the country in Russia and other countries, it certainly will bear fruit. Now there is very little information about Armenia in Russia as a tourist destination. -0-