Tag: #tourismstrategy

Photo courtesy of Zane Hartog, a peace corps armenia volunteer. Hiking in Lori Marz, Armenia

Tourism Unique Center. really cool TUC campsite in the mountains showing the vast potential that Armenia's sustainable tourism industry has
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center. TUC campsite.

As most expert travelers know, it is difficult to find an immersive, cultural experience in regions away from large population centers. In the Lori region of Northern Armenia, the NGO Center has created the Tourism Unique Center, known as TUC (ՏՈւԿ), which allows tourists to learn and play while benefiting the local village community in Dsegh through economic development and poverty alleviation. TUC capitalizes on local knowledge, cultural sites, and a breathtaking environment to provide their guests with a travel story that will last a lifetime. It is one of the best examples of the country’s community-based tourism, showing that Armenia’s sustainable tourism potential is endless.

The Lori region of Armenia lies directly between the Armenian capital of Yerevan and Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Envoy Hostels, who operate locations in both cities, claim 70% of travelers visit both countries during their trip to this area of the world. In creating TUC, the NGO Center took note of their prime location and unique resources when envisioning a space to give foreigners an enchanting, hands-on travel experience. Learn more about why Armenia’s tourism industry.

Why visit Armenia?

Mount Ararat from the top of Cascade - an excellent opportunity to grow Armenia's sustainable tourism
Photo courtesy of Johnathan Stefanick. Mount Ararat from the top of Cascade.

In 2018, The Economist named Armenia its “Country of the Year.” The same year, the late Anthony Bourdain did an episode of Parts Unknown featuring Armenia as a burgeoning destination with a distinctive culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and riveting history. In a single day, a traveler can visit the first Christian church in the world, ride the longest ropeway in the world, and drink wine from a region whose production stretches back nearly 6000 years. This is all in addition to incredible views of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark came to rest, Lake Sevan, one of the largest freshwater alpine lakes in Eurasia, and Yerevan, a bustling capital offering extraordinary impressions around every corner. With all these incredible offerings, it is easy to understand why Armenian tourism is rapidly attracting international tourists.

Tourism Unique Center

TUC was an idea born out of the NGO Center, a prominent conglomeration of civil society outlets located across Armenia. The goal was to increase exposure to the region, while ensuring that local communities benefited from their own knowledge and land. TUC started small and slowly grew its exposure within the country until year three, when the all-inclusive campsite was able to host over 1000 visitors from all over the world in just a single summer.

Community Involvement in Armenian Sustainable Tourism

TUC is located in the village of Dsegh, which is also the birthplace of Armenia’s national poet Hovhannes Tumanyan. The community has historically rallied around the sense of pride this brings, and TUC provides the opportunity to reach a larger and more international base. All of TUC’s operations are run by locals who provide upkeep, excursions, and masterclasses on Armenian cultural practices. The community is involved in decision making as TUC continues to flourish in the tourism sector.

TUC has created the infrastructure necessary to host domestic groups seeking to reconnect with traditional rural Armenian life. Corporate retreats and school field trips use the space and resources to come together. Weddings and festivals are often hosted by the organization as well. TUC, while aiming to promote identity and tourism, has created a bastion of community development that serves to benefit all stakeholders.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). View of Dsegh from above, an amazing landscape filled with amazing potential for tourism development in Armenia
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). View of Dsegh from above.

TUC’s Travel and Tourism Experiences

TUC offers guests a plethora of experiential opportunities to participate in during their stay. Local experts serve as the guides or organizers for these outings and can range from cheese-making to hiking. Festivals are numerous in summertime to commemorate certain harvest cycles or to just have a great time. Other adventures guests can participate in are:

  • Gastro-masterclasses in local cuisine. The most popular are the world renown cheesemaking, lavash baking, and khorovats (Armenian barbeque)
  • Armenian games
  • Rafting and fishing
  • Horseback riding
  • Hiking to historical sites nearby
  • Traditional dance (Kochari) lessons
  • And festivals!
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). Cheesemaking process preserving local culture - Armenia's regenerative tourism
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). Cheesemaking process.

Armenia Sustainable Tourism Destinations Nearby

TUC can also be used as a jumping off point to explore other destinations nearby. Dsegh is located at the top of the Debet Canyon, a massive cavern that stretches for miles and is tucked between the rolling Caucus foothills. Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are just a quick drive or hike away. The Mikoyan Museum, which honors brothers Anastas and Artyom Mikoyan who invented the Soviet MiG fighter jets used in World War II, is also a must visit, as it boasts one of the only full size planes still constructed today!

Just a short walk from TUC is the Children of Armenia Fund’s (COAF) Smart Center. I describe it as a spaceship in the middle of a village. This educational space serves people of all ages in the surrounding communities by offering programming on everything from guitar classes to computer coding. The COAF Smart Center is an inspiring feat of community investment and offers regularly scheduled tours to learn more about their work.

Photo courtesy of Aram Atyan.  COAF Smart Center in rural Armenia as a visitor center for visitors to Northern Armenia
Photo courtesy of Aram Atyan.  COAF Smart Center.

Spitak is a small township located in the Lori region and was the epicenter of the 1988 earthquake that devastated northern Armenia. Many lives were lost and changed forever by the event. The response to this catastrophe was historical, as then former U.S. President George H.W. Bush sent his son Jeb to assist in the effort. This was also the first time the Soviet Union accepted western aid, as it dealt with the crisis and its aftermath. Many memorials can be seen throughout the town, and some of the devastation remains until this day (an opportunity for sustainable development).

Vanadzor is Armenia’s third largest city and lies approximately 30 minutes away. Formerly known as Kirovakan, this city features incredible Soviet architecture and a massive decorated main square. Vanadzor is known as the hub of Armenia’s rock and roll culture. Bands like Lav Eli, Rozen Tal, and Clocker were all formed here. Even Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System of a Down, has familial ties to Vanadzor.

See you in Dsegh!

TUC is an excellent example of destination management and effective strategic planning. The stakeholders identified the site’s unique characteristics and have capitalized on them in a tourism strategy benefiting all involved. The next time you find yourself in Northern Armenia, take the chance to check it out. The number of visitors leaving with unbeatable new memories is growing – don’t miss out.

To learn more about Solimar International’s projects in Armenia or our resources on destination management, please visit solimarinternational.com.

Photo courtesy of Zane Hartog, a peace corps armenia volunteer. Hiking in Lori Marz, Armenia
Photo courtesy of Zane Hartog. Hiking in Lori Marz, Armenia
Picture of the Assumption of Maria Church on Lake Bled Slovenia sustainable tourism by author Stephanie Gerson

Learn about sustainable tourism in Slovenia, Europe’s hidden gem

Here at Solimar, we pride ourselves on being experts in sustainable tourism. We’ve consulted with destinations on their tourism strategies all across the world, from distant Nepal to Timor-Leste to local West Virginia.  So, when we say that a country has excelled at integrating sustainable tourism principles, we mean it. To show their commitment, Slovenia developed their national tourism strategy that coincides with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Most people may not know Slovenia apart from the picturesque Lake Bled, surrounded by the Julian Alps. It is already popular with outdoor adventure travelers, looking to hike or white water raft. It recently has turned into a destination that is perfect for anyone who wants to see nature, as well as cities without over-tourism. In 2016, the Slovenian Tourist Board implemented a program where they provide a 5-star experience while ensuring the health and growth of the local economies, communities, and environment. Here are some reasons why Slovenia is one of the leading sustainable tourism destinations:

 

Picture of the Assumption of Maria Church on Lake Bled Slovenia sustainable tourism by author Stephanie Gerson

1. Its capital, Ljubljana, has a car-free area

The city has redesigned its center to allow for pedestrian friendly movement. Only delivery cars are allowed in the area in the early morning hours. The city blocks are covered in green spaces to explore, while the artisanal pavement itself is aesthetically pleasing. The numerous footbridges crossing the river connect from one public space to the next. If you need to get somewhere quickly, they offer electric carts that can shuttle you around. One of their biggest squares is completely free of vehicles and offers a space for concerts and events. Ljubljana truly is a walker’s paradise.

2. Slovenians understand the modern-day traveler

Slow travel is the new travel trend and Slovenia gets it. In fact, they prefer it. They want you to come and stay awhile. Smell the fresh mountain air of the Julian Alps, swim in Lake Bled, explore the miles of underground caves, get to know the locals, eat the food (all the food!). There is no excuse to make Slovenia a quick trip

3. Slovenia has implemented their own certification program, insuring unity within the country

The Green Scheme of Slovenia Tourism is a tool and a certificate program designed by the Slovenia Tourism Board to help even the smallest tourist organization be more sustainable. They offer training and promotions to hotels, tour guides, destinations and interest sites. In order to be verified and obtain a Green Label, the destination or business must meet the Green Destinations Standard criteria. They can also present a similar internationally recognized label, like GoodPlace, another Slovenian company. What is the benefit of all these certifications and labels?  By following certain criteria, set up and recognized by the international community, gives credibility to the applicants. Slovenia, setting up their own certification program creates unity and understanding within their own country. Showing that everyone is in it together. 

4. National Geographic also agrees about sustainable tourism in Slovenia!

National Geographic recognizes that Slovenia is pretty special, declaring them the World’s Most Sustainable Country in 2017. This award is part of National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards, given at ITB, awarding companies and destinations who are driving the most positive change within the tourism sector. If this isn’t enough, the EU also recognized Ljubljana as Europe’s Greenest Capital in 2016. 

Garden Village Bled Slovenia website, an eco-lodge dedicated to sustainable tourism and eco tourism

Image from Garden Village Bled website, an eco-lodge dedicated to sustainability

5. With 59 cities and 83 accommodations certified as green, you can’t go wrong where you end up

If you want to explore cobbled stone streets in old cities or get lost in a tiny mountain town, they’ve made sure each place is welcoming to any type of traveler. The best part is finding the right accommodation, whether that’s a new sustainable hotel or an eco-lodge with tree houses and glamping tents perfect for families. 

picture of the bright turquoise Soca River in the Julian Alps. Showcasing the natural beauty of Slovenia. Photo by Author, Stephanie Gerson

Picture of the bright turquoise Soca River in the Julian Alps. Showcasing the natural beauty of Slovenia. Photo by author, Stephanie Gerson

6. The mountains are open and easy to get to, and the cities aren’t crowded

You don’t have to worry about over tourism or long lines in Slovenia. The mountains are green and gorgeous with bright blue rivers roaring in the valleys. It’s outdoorsy without being too rugged, unless you want it to be. Slovenia offers numerous travel experiences that one wouldn’t expect in this small country. 

Picture of Soteska Vintgar, a wooden walkway along the Radovna River in a breathtaking gorge. Photo by author, Stephanie Gerson

Picture of Soteska Vintgar, a wooden walkway along the Radovna River in a breathtaking gorge. Photo by author, Stephanie Gerson

7. They are the start of regenerative tourism, without knowing it. 

Their tourism strategy is more cyclical rather than linear, using tourism as a means to help and rejuvenate the destinations. The idea is for the traveler to leave the place better than when they came. Because sustainable tourism has been implemented into so many aspects of Slovenia’s way of life, it’s straightforward for the traveler to be another part in the cycle as well. From making sure that buildings are LEED certified, to getting the best certified tour guides, and restaurants using local ingredients, all helps to ensure that the place can be lived in by locals and visited for generations to come. It sounds like a lot but when a tourism board has a partnership with the government as well as the citizens, it makes it much easier for the traveler to be more aware of their impact, both good and bad. 

 

If you would like to know more about how to implement a sustainable tourism strategy where you live or for your business please contact us here. Or if you’re a destination, looking to enhance your DMO, take our course at https://institute.solimarinternational.com.

 

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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