LA Travel Show is ‘Abuzz’ By Armenia’s Strong First Appearance

A visitor at the Armenia and Karabakh Booth of the LA Times Travel and Adventure Show. Photos by Armen Margarian, reprinted with permission.

LOS ANGELES—Armenia and Karabakh made their first appearance at the LA Times Travel and Adventure Show last week and were greeted by a two-day throng of more than 40,000 people, according to show organizers.

Representatives of the two countries distributed travel information and staffed a booth that showed video clips about Armenia and Karabakh. Armenian dance groups in native attire performed folk dances on each day of the show. And a travelogue and slide show by the authors of an Armenia travel guide attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

Armenian dancer performing at the Global Beat Stage of the LA Times Travel and Adventure Show. Photos by Armen Margarian, reprinted with permission.

“We couldn’t have hoped for a better debut reception,” said Zaven Kazazian, the president of the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC).

News of Armenia’s participation at the LA travel show—which is the largest travel show in the US– generated excitement even before the show doors opened, according to Kazazian.

“Everyone was abuzz” about Armenia and Karabakh even before we arrived, he said. And on the first morning of the show “there was a traffic jam” of people at the booth, he added.

The Armenian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), of Glendale, Calif., and the Consulate General of the Republic of Armenia, in Los Angeles, co-sponsored Armenia’s participation at the travel show in close collaboration with the Armenian Tourism Development Agency (ATDA) based in Yerevan, Armenia.

On the first day of the show, which was held at the massive Los Angeles Convention Center, every person received upon entry a flyer that exclaimed “Welcome to Armenia” and which promoted traveling to Armenia and Karabakh to see their natural beauty, history, and culture.

The distribution of the flyer to such a large crowd of potential tourists was part of the AACC’s objective of introducing Armenia to everyone, including to those for whom ‘Armenia’ might not have been on the tip of their tongues, according to Nick Hacopian, who is a member of the AACC and the Chair of the committee that organized Armenia’s participation in the travel show.

“We’re putting Armenia on the map for a lot of people who might never before have thought of traveling there,” he said. People have to think about Armenia, generally, before they will think about actually traveling there, he added.

Armenia made a dynamic first appearance at the travel show through its sponsorship of several cultural performances. The country was represented on the “Global Beat Stage” with music and dance performances by the Gevorkian Dance Academy, which performed modern and folk dances in traditional attire. The Lilia Dance Group performed Armenian folk dances on the second day of the show, as well.

Authors Robert Kurkjian (left) and Matthew Karanian speaking at the Destination Theatre of the LA Times Travel and Adventure Show. Photos by Armen Margarian, reprinted with permission.

Armenia and Karabakh also sponsored a “Destination Workshop” that featured a slide show travelogue. This slide show, entitled “Welcome to Armenia: Ancient Nation, New Republic,” was presented by Matthew Karanian and Robert Kurkjian, the authors of Armenia’s first-ever commercial travel guidebook dedicated solely to Armenia and Karabakh. The show attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 120 people at the Convention Center’s “Destination Theatre.”

The authors’ guidebook on Armenia, “The Stone Garden Guide: Armenia and Karabagh,” is the best-selling guide to the country and also highlights the environment and conservation. It is the winner of three national book awards, and has been featured on National Public Radio.

Armenian Consul General Grigor Hovhannissian attended the show and said he was pleased to see the interest and enthusiasm that greeted the Armenian presence at the show.  “Tourism is a priority sector for the country’s economic development,” he said. “And the interest that was generated by Armenia at the LA show is a very encouraging sign,” he added.

Hovhannissian noted that approximately 650,000 tourists traveled to Armenia in 2009—a ten-fold increase over the number who visited just a decade ago. More than a million visitors are projected to annually travel to Armenia by 2020.

Representatives of Levon Travel and Sidon Travel—two Los Angeles travel agencies that offer tours to Armenia– were at the Armenia booth each day to explain the logistics of traveling there. And several tour operators traveled to Los Angeles from Armenia to be at the booth, including Armenia Travel M; Elitar Travel; and Nueva Vista Travel.

The Armenian American Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1999. The organization serves Southern California’s Armenian American business community and encourages greater ties and collaboration with the business community of Armenia. The mission of the organization is to provide services locally and internationally. The AACC can be reached at www.armenianchamber.org, and at 818-247-0196.

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