Anna Abgaryan is a Swedish Armenian who visited Armenia two years ago and had the following impressions which are posted here to help the Armenian authorities to understand the tourism product from the perspective of the European travelers.
I was born in Armenia and although collectively I lived there not more than 4 years through my entire life, I still consider it my home country.
Two years ago I came back as a tourist, after being away for 15 years, I wanted to show my motherland to my husband. So here is some feedback:
1. Preparing to trip: Not so many flights from Europe are available (we live in Sweden). What was available was pretty expensive. The good side was that we didn't have to worry about the visa. But it took us some time to find this information out and verify it.
2. Upon arrival in Yerevan: Nice airport (at least the arrival terminal), easy and fast passport control (and visa arrangement right in the airport!). Clear signs, no problem finding the car rental offices.
3. No problem finding our way from the airport into the city (we stayed in Marriott Hotel), although later we found out that that was the only clearly marked city entrance (from airport to downtown). Every time we entered the city from other sides it took us approximately 40 minutes of driving around before we could make it to the central square. No distinctive street name plates, no crossroad signs, no signs showing downtown direction (this was the situation at least two years ago).
4. Driving around was the most stressful experience. Bumpy roads is one of the problems (sometimes especially around Yerevan the roads were pretty good but then suddenly you'd have swerve to avoid a huge ditch just in the middle of the road!). Another problem during driving around the countryside is non-existent road marks, road signs, etc. It was useless to have a map, you could never understand where you were, unless you stopped and asked. But all that was actually bearable, the Armenian roads were not the worst we drove and GPS navigator would make it easier to find places. What caused the most stress was the road police, tons of them! Is this where the tax payers money goes? They would find faults with everything and just openly ask for money. Not nice.
5. What impressed my husband (as non-Armenian): Excellent climate (end of August), great food and water, hospitable people, a lot of young people with really good command of English (and very willing to speak it). The most important thing that really impressed him in Armenia – the unspoilt beauty, large areas that no one touched, unbelievably easy access to historical artifacts, you could stretch the hand and touch something that was around for at least 500 years. Whole country is a real open air museum.
I think Armenia has good potential for increasing the tourist flow. We are not a resort destination, but we can certainly become a cultural destination, being one of the most ancient nations with long history and traditions, including history of Christianity and churches.
These are the messages that have to be reinforced and marketed. Then, we'll just have to make it a bit easier for people to get there and move around!