With no regular flights and international tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism operators and tour agencies in Armenia are re-organizing their work to survive the consequences and offering Armenians domestic tour packages.
One of these agencies is Vardan Travel, which was offering almost exclusively outbound destinations to travelers before the pandemic. CEO Vardan Sargsyan says he personally started travelling across Armenia to find perfect places for leisure, and it sparked interest among others and many wanted to join.
“People started writing me and asked to join. I decided to organize interesting tours, and the first destination was chosen to be Syunik,” he told ARMENPRESS.
“I can’t say that domestic tours are helping us a lot,” he confessed.
“As soon as the flights resume I intend to continue focusing on outbound destinations, but I have to say that I like the idea of discovering sights in Armenia and perhaps we can organize such tours a couple of times in a month,” he said.
Another company, One Way Tour, isn’t new to domestic tourism but is now offering new, undiscovered places for travelers.
“Now there is great demand for hotel leisure. Although hiking tours are also in demand. Many people prefer traveling to rather unknown places, more remote provinces”, One Way Tour’s domestic tour manager Lusine Hakobyan said. One such destination is Horbategh, a town in Vayots Dzor famous for a natural spring.
Horseback riding in Dilijan and rafting are also popular among travelers, she said.
Hakobyan reassures that they are paying special attention to the coronavirus guidelines and the safety of their customers is their top priority.
Anriva Travel Company, known for offering tour packages to Egypt, the UAE and Tunisia, is also working domestically these days.
Most travelers prefer the Goris-Tatev destination, as well as Sevan, Dilijan, Haghartsin, Haghpat and Akhtala, says Anriva CEO Hripsime Stambultsyan. She says the majority of travelers seek hotel leisure. But Stambultsyan says travel agencies can’t survive only by offering domestic tours.
“Hotels are expensive. Many have been left out of business these days. You need 60,000 drams a day for a one day stay at a normal hotel with breakfast for two adults and two children. It’s not that easy for people who get 150-200 thousand drams salary,” she said.
Stambultsyan has 30 employees in her agency, but 29 of them are furloughed without pay. The volumes of domestic tourism demand is such that only one employee was reinstated.
“Our only hope is that the flights resume and the roads are opened. We will be able to reinstate our employees with outbound flows. If just a single flight per week was to operate travel agencies would be able to gradually reinstate their employees. We don’t have clarity today, we don’t know when and what will happen”, she said, adding that they need to know timeframes about the resumption of flights to be able to start preparations and marketing.
Reporting by Anna Gziryan; Editing and Translating by Stepan Kocharyan