US Embassy Assists Tourism Development Program in Armenia

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–A tourism development program has been launched in Armenia. Under the program–the Hovnanian International company which is owned by the American millionaire Vahagn Hovnanian intends to construct 20 tourist centers in the vicinity of well-known places of interests in Armenia.

Talking to Noyan Tapan–US Vice-Ambassador Michael Gfoeller said that the US Embassy is rendering serious assistance in the implementation of the program. He said that a fund of tourism has been founded on Vahagn Hovnannian’s initiative. Along with Hovnanian–Kirk Kirkorian is also participating in the program.

Gfoeller–who is completing his mission in Armenia and will soon leave the country–is–according to US Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon–a godfather of the tourism development program in Armenia. Gfoeller said that 15,000 of the 40,000 monumen’s in Armenia are first-class and the most visitable ones have been selected. The first center is expected to be opened in Yerevan. Later–centers will be opened in Lori–Goris–Sevan and Tatev.

Gfoeller believes that the development of tourism may promote Armenia’s economic development. According to him–Armenia will attract many tourists–as it is rich in historical and cultural monumen’s. If each tourist spends a thousand dollars a week in Armenia–it will be a serious support to the country’s budget. For those underestimating the prospects of tourism development in Armenia–Gfoeller brought the example of Turkey where tourism was developed only 10-15 years ago and now 10,000,000 tourists visit that country yearly. He expressed the opinion that about 10 percent of the number of tourists visiting Turkey may also visit Armenia.

Gfoeller said that the US Embassy is working on an Internet site about Armenia. A database has been created which contains information on 15,000 monumen’s in Armenia. The site will also contain maps directing the ways to certain monumen’s. Using this Internet site–people in many parts of the world will be able to choose the monument they are interested in–book an airticket–reserve a room at a hotel–etc. The site–which will contain 6.6 gigabytes of information–will be ready within 3-4 months.

The US Embassy has cooperated with Armenian scholars–in particular–with the noted historian Boris Gasparian who–together with his group–is working free of charge.

Gfoeller added that a committee for tourism is expected to be set up which will include both government structures and representatives of the private sector. He considers it necessary that the government display more interest in the matter.

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