In a special interview with Ynet, Sargsyan said Armenia is working to prepare the infrastructure to welcome more tourists as early as spring 2012. "We plan to accommodate up to 3 million tourists in the coming years, many of them from Israel," Sargsyan said. Armenia currently hosts about 750,000 tourists annually.
Republic Square in Yerevan (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)
Preparations include upgrading the hotel infrastructure and training travel agents. "Armenia is proud of its history and Christian heritage," Sargsyan added. "We have great potential for religious tourism, and we wish to learn more from Israel in this area."
Identify with Israel
Armenia shares common features with Israel and views it as a role model for coping with tragedy. The Armenian people suffered through genocide during World War I, a horrific event that is still being denied by many nations. Armenia also deals with prolonged territorial disputes with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Ararat Mountain. An Armenian symbol across the Turkish border (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)
Armenia offers many attractions to Israeli tourists. The lush sceneries of the Caucasus are spotted with remote villages and lakes. The first country to accept Christianity, Armenia has numerous ancient Christian sites from the early middle ages, part of its rich cultural heritage. One can also visit the famous Armenian Brandy factory, and the small and unique Jewish community in Yerevan.
Sargsyan promised to find ways to improve accessibility to Israeli tourists. Today, Israelis can easily receive a tourist's visa at the Yerevan airport. However, Armenian tourists seeking to visit Israel are encountering more obstacles since there is no Israeli embassy in the country, and are required to apply for a visa in neighboring Georgia.