Chinese tourists looking for new discoveries start choosing Armenia more frequently
YEREVAN, JANUARY 17, ARMENPRESS. In recent period number of Chinese tourists visiting Armenia has significantly increased. According to statistics, in 2018, compared to 2017, the number of Chinese tourists, who visited Armenia, increased by 59.9%. Growth dynamics also existed in 2019, as nearly 14.500 Chinese tourists visited Armenia compared to the 8430 in January-October 2018. Armenia’s state policy, the active work of the private sector contributed to this process.
Founding director of Sotu Travel LLC Sona Sahakyan is working in the tourism sector already for several years, mainly on the direction of China. She told Armenpress that there is huge potential in this direction but is not fully utilized which means that active works are needed to be done.
Sona Sahakyan moved to Armenia in 2015 from the Russian city of Irkutsk. She studied Chinese as this language was widely used in that city.
“Years ago I visited my relatives in Armenia. At that time I got acquainted with director of the Confucius Institute Gor Sargsyan. I had a chance to visit that Institute to get acquainted with the teaching staff, and they advised me to apply to the Chinese Embassy in Armenia as the latter was looking for an assistant to the Consul. Success came to me as I started working following the interview”, she said. “The Embassy was a good opportunity for me in terms of gaining experience. I liked working with the delegations. The organization process, developing program, hosting and guiding them was a pleasure for me. I decided to open a tour agency, focusing on the Chinese direction. I thought that I have communication skills, had no problems with Chinese, that’s why I started my job. And now my tourism agency is working quite actively”, Sona Sahakyan said. She remembered the work with the first group of Chinese people. It was a photo-tour, the guests were professional photographers. They stayed in Armenia for six days, visited several historical-cultural sites and revealed the country thanks to the specialists of the tour company.
Sona Sahakyan said they carry out consistent works to raise awareness on Armenia. They are participating in tourism exhibitions in China and are also working separately with the tourism agencies.
“This is not just a business initiative for me. I see here love towards the job, an interest and patriotism. I think that if you look at your work only from commercial perspective, sooner or later you will fail”, she said.
Sona Sahakyan said mainly those Chinese people visit Armenia who traveled a lot, but now are looking for new discoveries. Sona said the Soviet Union is in their memory, and now, by having this chance, they want to visit the post-Soviet states. Chinese tourists mainly are conducting a regional visit, as they visit Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
“Chinese tourists perceive Armenia as the homeland of Noah. They may not know much about Armenia, but when you say the homeland of Noah, they mention Armenia. We take the Chinese tourists to all beautiful sites of Armenia. We include Etchmiadzin, UNESCO heritage sites in the tours”, she said.
Sona Sahakyan said Chinese tourists like the Armenian cuisine a lot. They like very much the Armenian lavash, soups, vegetables, and of course, the barbeque.
Talking about the upcoming programs, Sona Sahakyan said they want to bring tourists from China as much as possible. According to him, the initiative on lifting the visa regime is very important, but the absence of direct flight makes difficult their work. She highlighted the need of increasing the number of Chinese-speaking tour guides.
Interview by Anna Gziryan
Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan