Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said in an interview with RFE/RL on February 3 that there was a significant growth in the tourism sector in 2019.
“The number of visitors has increased by about 15%. If I am not mistaken, according to very rough estimates, 1.9 million tourists visited the Republic of Armenia” Avinyan said, adding that this figure can be considered a record.
The Fact Investigation Platform decided to check the Deputy Prime Minister’s assertions, as well as study tourism statistics and its impact on the Armenian economy.
Tourism statistics in Armenia
The RA Statistical Committee runs statistics on tourism according to the methodology of the UN World Tourism Organization (WTO). According to the methodology, an international tourist is anyone who travels for leisure, medical treatment, visiting relatives, business, religious or other purposes for a period of no less than 24 hours and no more than one year in a row.
Thus, according to statistics published by the Statistical Committee on February 5, 2020, the number of tourists arriving in Armenia has increased by about 1 million 300 thousand over the ten years from 2009-2019. In 2009, about 587 thousand tourists came to Armenia, and in 2019, the number of tourists reached 1.9 million.
By the way, since 2006 there has been a steady increase in the number of tourists in Armenia. The exception was 2015, when the number of tourists in Armenia declined by 11,000 compared to 2014.
In 2016, the flow of tourists increased again. That year, 1 million 260 thousand tourists came to Armenia, about 67 thousand more than in 2015.
And in 2017, about 1.5 million tourists visited Armenia – 18.7% more than in 2016. This is the largest increase since 2006.
In 2018, the number of tourists reached 1 million 652 thousand, increasing by 11% compared to the previous year.
As for 2019, the data provided by Tigran Avinyan are correct: 1.9 million tourists came to Armenia last year, which is 14.7 percent more than in 2018.
However, considering it a record number is an exaggerated evaluation.
Countries Armenia is popular with
Armenia is most often selected as a tourist destination by citizens of Russia, Georgia and Iran. According to the Migration Service, most of the tourists who visited Armenia in 2019 (610.695) are Russian citizens.
They provided for most of the tourist arrivals to Armenia in other years as well. Next are Iranians (115.000), then Georgia (about 95.000). Last year 52.000 tourists came to Armenia from the United States.
According to the Ministry of Economy, about 31 percent of tourists arriving in Armenia are Diaspora Armenians, and 69 percent are foreigners. Nearly half of the tourists in Armenia are attracted to cultural tourism, 19% come to see the nature of Armenia, 16% come for leisure. Business, adventure and health tourism are preferred by 13 percent, and 3 percent come to Armenia for long-term tourism.
More details about foreigners arriving in Armenia are shown on the map:
Armenia – an attractive tourist destination
In 2019, Armenia improved its ranking by 10 points in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index compared to 2018. This index measures the opportunities and policies for sustainable tourism development, which in its turn contributes to the country’s competitiveness. In 2019, Armenia ranked 79th among 140 countries (in 2018 it ranked 89th).
According to the same index, Armenia ranks 103rd in terms of cultural and natural resources, while it ranks 30th in the price competitiveness index. Armenia, Oman, Georgia, Uganda, Poland, and other countries are competitively priced. Armenia shares its price competitiveness score with Oman, Georgia, Uganda, Poland and others. For comparison, it is worth noting that the leader in the list is the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the most “expensive” one is the United Kingdom. By the way, in the 2018 report, Armenia ranked 42nd in terms of price competitiveness. This means that Armenia has become more affordable for tourists compared to other countries, or, in contrast to other countries, inflation rates in Armenia have been lower.
Armenia ranks 40th among 140 countries in terms of safety and security. Azerbaijan ranks 38th and Finland is the safest country.
The impact of tourism on the economy
Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. In 2018, the sector invested $8.8 trillion in the global economy. It provided 10.4 percent of the GDP. Tourism investment in the GDP of Armenia in 2018 was 14.1%, amounting to about $ 1.8 billion.
Tourism is a priority sector of the Armenian economy, and it is no accident that the development of the sector is always highlighted by the government.
According to the Ministry of Economy’s Tourism Development Strategy 2020-2030, 12.5% of Armenia’s labor market is employed in the sector. As of 2018, about 37,000 people are permanently employed and another 137,000 are generally employed in the sector.
As of 2018, Armenia has more than 600 hotels (in 2017 the number of hotels was 556).
Within the framework of the tourism development program, the state budget will allocate 200 million AMD from the state budget in 2020, and 286.4 million AMD were allocated last year. This year, with the support of the World Bank, the country is planning to direct around 4.8 billion AMD in loans and 1.2 billion AMD in co-financing for the development of regional facilities and attracting more tourists.
For comparison, neighboring Georgia had about 5 million tourists last year, up by 6 percent compared to 2018 (about 4.7 million). And in 2017, the number of tourists visiting Georgia was 4 million.
Thus, we can state that the number of tourists visiting Armenia is increasing year by year. Considering the number registered in 2019 a record is wrong, as the number of tourists has not risen sharply, and the growth is normal compared with numbers registered in previous years.