U.S. Agencies Partner for “My Armenia” Cultural Tourism Project

By Danielle Saroyan

Armenian Agenda Associate Editor

The United
States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Smithsonian
Institution have partnered together for an innovative project titled “My
Armenia
” to support cultural sustainability through cultural tourism. Today,
these U.S. agencies launched an official ceremony with over 100 guests at the
Matenadaran Scientific Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan to
present “My Armenia.”

At the
event, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. spoke about the goal of this
four year project combining “research, scholarship, support for artisan craft,
capacity building, and a strong focus on fresh thinking for tourism
development.”

“The purpose
of the “My Armenia” project is nothing less than to put Armenia on the map as a
world-class tourist destination,” Ambassador Mills said. “We intend to not only
contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Armenia, but also
ensure that the benefits of that growth are widely distributed across the
country by promoting tourism to regions outside of Yerevan, thus enhancing the
economic prospects of Armenia’s rural communities.

Ambassador
Mills added objectives in addition to increasing tourism in Armenia.

“Tourism can
be a driver of economic development by generating employment in hotels and
restaurants, as well as increasing business for taxi drivers, those making and
selling souvenirs, or those providing goods and services to tourism-related
businesses,” Ambassador Mills said. “However, to spread the wealth generated by
tourism, Armenia needs to develop anchor tourism sites outside of Yerevan and
link them together in a tourism circuit that spans the length and breadth of
the country. This new project will provide technical assistance to develop such
a circuit, which will encourage travelers to travel outside of Yerevan and
spend more money in the regions. This is just one of the many ways the U.S.
Embassy is partnering with the Armenian people to strengthen the economy of
Armenia’s rural regions.”

This project
will support traditional arts, crafts, and music in the country, benefiting rural
communities in Armenia, spreading broader awareness about Armenia in
international markets, and helping to protect and enhance Armenia’s natural and
cultural heritage.

Armenian
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan shared his opinion at the event, explaining
that he hopes this project will further develop Armenia’s tourism industry.

“Tourism
is a priority sector of the global economy and has a great impact on the
overall situation of the world economy and the economies of different countries
and regions,” Prime Minister Abrahamyan said. 

According to
Prime Minister Abrahamyan, 1.2 million tourists visited Armenia in 2014, which
is 11.3% more than in 2013. With 430 hotels currently in Armenia, 20 of which
were built in the last three years, he believes Armenia is prepared for an
increase in tourism.

“The
Government of the Republic of Armenia is ready to continue cooperation with the
US Agency for International Development and implementation of programs and
initiatives to support any that flow from our country and our nation,”
Prime Minister Abrahamyan stated during his speech.

“My Armenia”
is funded by USAID, partnered with the Smithsonian. Through training,
programming, community engagement and documentation, and other methods,
Smithsonian curators and project staff will work with Armenia to develop new
strategies for sustaining cultural heritage. The “My Armenia” project signifies
a new, collaborative approach to combine the strengths of the two organizations
for greater impact.

USAID
Armenia Mission Director Karen Hilliard told reporters, “This project’s
goal is clear, we want Armenia to be a first-class tourist center.”

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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