Promoting cross-border tourismPublished: Jan 1, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
Hiking trails in Armenia are being developed and promoted to enable people to explore the country and learn from local people about their traditions and touristic services. To keep the trail development traditions, People in Need initiated a regional program in Georgia and Armenia to enlarge the Transcaucasian Trail growing initiative with funding from the USAID Economic Development, Governance, and Enterprise Growth (EDGE) project. The "Transcaucasian Trail – Promoting Cross-Border Tourism" project is led by PIN Georgia and implemented in partnership with PIN Armenia and Transcaucasian Trail NGOs in Georgia and Armenia.
Thanks to the project, new trails have been scouted in Georgia and Armenia—in Aragvi (122 km), Akhalkalaki (200 km), Lori (110), and Shirak (102 km) regions. The newly developed trails serve as a "honeypot" in the Caucasus to attract new visitors to rural areas in Georgia and Armenia. Check the GPS track here.
The project focuses on trail scouting and development and working with local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to enhance their capacities for tourist services. In Armenia, marketing training was conducted with over 20 SME representatives. The beneficiaries worked on their marketing plans and strategic development with the trainer. We also have helped beneficiaries with the creation of promotional materials.
One of the project beneficiaries is Gohar. Gohar is a painter and potter. She has been making pottery since childhood and is experienced in creating beautiful souvenirs. She has a cosy and welcoming workshop named after her in Hatsik village. Hatsik is the destination to visit for the workshop and historical places. The village is also known for the pilgrimage of the "Tsak Kar " [perforated stone]. Next to it, there is a tomb called "Seven Brothers", which is also a shrine.
At the workshop, visitors can make pottery and paint. Gohar has a hearing disorder, and while communicating with visitors, she uses paper and pen or help from family members. Hasmik is Gohar's sister. She is a rehabilitator by profession and is also the Gohar brand manager. Hasmik is very thankful to PIN for helping their business to grow. "People in Need's project was an opportunity to meet and make friends with fascinating people and receive huge support in marketing," says Hasmik.
A key focus of the project is networking and sustainability. To help with that, the project implementing partner Transcausatian Trail conducted trail-making training for 16 local activists from Lori and Shirak regions; Local Action Groups (LAGs) in Georgia and Women's Resource Centres (WRCs) in Armenia play a vital role in bringing together key public, private, and civil society stakeholders in their respective regions. They will facilitate initial buy-in for the activities and coordinate trail maintenance in the future.
Arevik Yeghiazaryan, the co-founder of WINNET Vanadzor (Women Resource Center), says: "The marketing training gave us new prospects for developing social entrepreneurship ideas we had in the master classes for tourists. We could design the services based on the knowledge we got from the training and develop a marketing strategy, which is a road map for us in this process. Also, due to the individual coaching, we have polished the strategy and come up with many ideas on how to make the organisation more sustainable through this social enterprise and be able to support more women and youth. The visit and an article from Absolute Armenia were additional impulses in this process, and many people became interested in our services."
In the framework of the project, PIN initiated a three-day familiarisation trip to the Lori and Shirak regions. Nine guides, tour operators, and journalists travelled to the regions and explored new local touristic services based alongside the newly scouted trails. The trip participants also met with over 30 members of Lori and Shirak Destination Management Organisation NGOs - they presented their services to the tour operators and discussed possible cooperation.