U.S. Agencies Partner for “My Armenia” Cultural Tourism Project
By Danielle Saroyan
Armenian Agenda Associate Editor
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Smithsonian Institution have partnered together for an innovative project titled “My Armenia” to support cultural sustainability through cultural tourism. Today, these U.S. agencies launched an official ceremony with over 100 guests at the Matenadaran Scientific Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan to present “My Armenia.”
At the event, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. spoke about the goal of this four year project combining “research, scholarship, support for artisan craft, capacity building, and a strong focus on fresh thinking for tourism development.”
“The purpose of the “My Armenia” project is nothing less than to put Armenia on the map as a world-class tourist destination,” Ambassador Mills said. “We intend to not only contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Armenia, but also ensure that the benefits of that growth are widely distributed across the country by promoting tourism to regions outside of Yerevan, thus enhancing the economic prospects of Armenia’s rural communities.
Ambassador Mills added objectives in addition to increasing tourism in Armenia.
“Tourism can be a driver of economic development by generating employment in hotels and restaurants, as well as increasing business for taxi drivers, those making and selling souvenirs, or those providing goods and services to tourism-related businesses,” Ambassador Mills said. “However, to spread the wealth generated by tourism, Armenia needs to develop anchor tourism sites outside of Yerevan and link them together in a tourism circuit that spans the length and breadth of the country. This new project will provide technical assistance to develop such a circuit, which will encourage travelers to travel outside of Yerevan and spend more money in the regions. This is just one of the many ways the U.S. Embassy is partnering with the Armenian people to strengthen the economy of Armenia’s rural regions.”
This project will support traditional arts, crafts, and music in the country, benefiting rural communities in Armenia, spreading broader awareness about Armenia in international markets, and helping to protect and enhance Armenia’s natural and cultural heritage.
Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan shared his opinion at the event, explaining that he hopes this project will further develop Armenia’s tourism industry.
“Tourism is a priority sector of the global economy and has a great impact on the overall situation of the world economy and the economies of different countries and regions,” Prime Minister Abrahamyan said.
According to Prime Minister Abrahamyan, 1.2 million tourists visited Armenia in 2014, which is 11.3% more than in 2013. With 430 hotels currently in Armenia, 20 of which were built in the last three years, he believes Armenia is prepared for an increase in tourism.
“The Government of the Republic of Armenia is ready to continue cooperation with the US Agency for International Development and implementation of programs and initiatives to support any that flow from our country and our nation,” Prime Minister Abrahamyan stated during his speech.
“My Armenia” is funded by USAID, partnered with the Smithsonian. Through training, programming, community engagement and documentation, and other methods, Smithsonian curators and project staff will work with Armenia to develop new strategies for sustaining cultural heritage. The “My Armenia” project signifies a new, collaborative approach to combine the strengths of the two organizations for greater impact.
USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen Hilliard told reporters, “This project’s goal is clear, we want Armenia to be a first-class tourist center.”