Tag: travel

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

World Tourism Day is here! Communities in destinations around the world are finding ways to celebrate both virtually and in person. The 2021 theme chosen by the World Tourism Organization is “Tourism for Inclusive Growth”. In this blog post, We’ll explore the origins of World Tourism Day, and the goals being set for the future.

What is World Tourism Day?

World Tourism Day is a day where professionals and organizations in the industry focus on a single topic that’s been designated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This year, the theme encourages tourism stakeholders to engage in practices of equality in growth. Tourism, as many other economic sectors, has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some estimate that around 4 trillion dollars could be lost in the global economy from the tourism industry alone. As countries fight to contain and move past variants of the virus and their implications, the tourism industry is setting their sights on recovery. 

For 2021, the UNWTO decided to emphasize that in this growth we must not forget the most vulnerable and underserved communities. Tourism for inclusive growth is an idea that promises a helping hand to the communities and people hurt most by actions of the past. 

When is this day celebrated and why?

Every year on 27th September. The UNWTO came up with the idea of World Tourism day in 1979. The first commemorative year was 1980, and the date was chosen to coincide with the adoption of UNWTO standards. Since then, it has been held on the anniversary of the adoption, September 27th, which marks the end of peak tourism season in the northern hemisphere, and the beginning of the peak in the southern hemisphere. 

Major themes from past years

A new theme is chosen carefully for this special day every year. The inaugural year held the theme: “Tourism’s contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage and peace and mutual understanding.” Tourism is a vessel for cultural preservation. This is done not only with economic incentives, but also through social interest and call for conservation. An example of this principle can be seen in Solimar’s 2017 work in Sri Lanka, where we helped diversify attractions and capacities in the area to help enrich the experiences for both tourists and citizens. 

The year 2000 focused on Chile, and the theme, “Tourism: preserving world heritage for the new millennium.” Here we get another hint of that first year’s cultural preservation, and with good reason! Chile has had a stressful recent history with political unrest and biological shocks that come with tourism entering untouched environments. Only through working towards the UN’s sustainable development goals, and holding an emphasis on biocultural conservation, can we have a chance at protecting this natural stronghold? Plenty of work is still yet to come. 

 

World Tourism Day’s 30th anniversary, 2020, explored the theme “Tourism and Rural Development.” The focus was on tourism’s ability to affect the economic sectors of communities around the world in outlying areas. That principle became especially significant following the COVID restrictions and social consequences that ensued. Rural areas gave weary travelers not only space to socially-distance themselves, but it also provided a much needed connection to the natural world after months of lock down in our homes.

Inclusive Growth in International Communities

Attention must be paid to bolstering and supporting smaller communities and destinations around the world that may not have the same level of stability as others. Social, cultural, and political aspects must be addressed to create inclusive societies through sustainable tourism. A fascinating commemoration of this day is Nepal reopening to foreign travel. Many people anticipate the country to relax restrictions and welcome tourists back to their majestic Himalayan landscapes. In the midst of a major border conflict with India, and having been hit hard by two lockdowns, Nepal looks forward to a chance of economic relief through an influx of foreign tourist dollars and cash flow. 

Celebrations of World Tourism Day 2021 

World Tourism Day in Opatija, Croatia 

A three-day World Tourism Day celebration took place in Opatija to commemorate the successful summer of tourism in the Kvarner Bay. Historical and cultural walks were organized through the city to offer an intimate view of Croatia’s past. The Tourist Board of Opatija also planned an array of events and concerts to promote the cultural, political, and economic values of tourism in Croatia. 

World Tourism Day in Abuja, Nigeria 

“36 Destinations Nigeria”, a tourism marketplace event, has been planned in line with World Tourism Day. The event is open to bloggers, tour guides, government officials, and other stakeholders. The aim is to widen Nigeria’s opportunities for all communities, and in line with this year’s theme, especially the communities that suffered most during COVID.

Future of Global Tourism Towards a Sustainable Future

Each year, the UNWTO attempts to find new important milestones in world tourism to celebrate. As aforesaid, the theme has continued to change and shift through the years, but the general ideas hold the same: 

  • Tourism is a tool to be used in the preservation of biocultural heritage around the world.
  • Tourism is an ever growing industry that, like others, needs to focus on sustainable practices to save special places, but and make tourists enjoy them all the more.
  • Tourism creates benefits that need to be felt equally among communities both big and small around the world.

UNWTO holds to their values of the 2030 agenda for sustainable tourism, by expecting that future growth places innovation and sustainability at the forefront of our thoughts as an industry. They even go as far as to say it will be our, “new normal”. With any hope, that will certainly hold to be true. 

Interested in learning more about local players in the tourism industry? Check out Solimar’s online courses on Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and the roles they play. 

Travel Photography: National Camera Day

With the development of technology and digital devices, it has now become so easy for us to take photos with our smartphones or digital cameras in our daily lives, especially when we want to capture wonderful moments on a trip with family and friends. But have you ever thought about how cameras got invented and the stories behind travel photography? On June 29th this year, Solimar International celebrates National Camera Day with the world. Let us take you on a journey to get an insight into the invention that sparked the world of travel photography. 

A short history of cameras and photography

The history of the camera dates back even further before the development of photography. Before the modern form of the camera was invented, camera obscura – or the Latin word for “dark room” – referring to a natural optical phenomenon of an image projected through a small hole in the screen and showing on the other side of the screen, was described earliest by the Han Chinese philosopher Mozi in his principle.

  

Source: Camera Obscura and World of Illusions Edinburgh 2021

 

In 1825, the first photograph was captured by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce with a fixed image that didn’t fade away, and it had set the foundation of photography. Later, the first photographic camera for commercial manufacture was developed by a Parisian art restorer Alphonse Giroux in 1839, which was a type of daguerreotype camera – a forerunner of the modern film. In the 1970-90s, numerous manufacturers began to work on cameras that store images electronically, thus the first point-and-shoot camera came into the world. It was also the Digital Age of cameras. On the other hand, photography only remained among the rich until George Eastman, the founder of the company Kodak, made photography accessible to the public after the 1880s with the invention of photographic roll film. As the technology evolved over time, digital cameras were developed, gradually becoming the camera function we use nowadays on our smartphones. 

 

Modern Cameras and Travel Photography

Nowadays almost everyone has a camera on their smartphone, and it is so easy to click a button to capture any moment. Digital cameras have also become the main type of camera that professional photographers use, as they can adjust the exposure, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, shooting modes…and many more features that would create different effects on photography. As technology improves, even better cameras are able to be incorporated into smartphones, which makes travel photography more accessible for the remote destinations Solimar works in. On Atauro Island in Timor-Leste, for example, our team helped to create the tourism website for the island using mostly photos from staff member smartphones and local partners on the ground. 

Among all types of photography, travel photography is a genre that involves the documentation of an area’s landscape, people, cultures, customs and history. The Photographic Society of America (PSA) defines travel photography as “an image that expresses the characteristic features or culture of a land as they are found naturally” with no geographic limitations. Whether it’s the breathtaking panoramic views on top of mountains, the glittering reflection of the ocean under the sun, or the vitality of greenery in the tropical rainforest or the wilderness of the boundless desert, the moments are as if frozen in time when we press the shutter on the camera. Aside from natural landscapes, travel photography can capture the uniqueness of different cultures from around the world, inspiring people to travel like this photography series documenting the life of Inuit people across the world. 

Source: Own, in Venice 2021                            Source: Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

Celebrating National Camera Day 

As the saying goes: a picture is worth a thousand words. On June 29th, Solimar International celebrates National Camera Day with the world, recognizing the thousands of words, languages, cultures, and landscapes contained within a camera shutter. Despite the challenging COVID-19 situation that put the travel and tourism activities to a halt, we can learn to observe our surroundings and appreciate every little detail in our lives, and to capture the precious memories on the photographs that we can hold on to when we look back in time. So pick up your camera and create your own moments and tell your stories through photography!

“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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