|Going out or staying in?: Armenian holidaymakers prefer Georgia over “expensive” Armenia|
|September 06, 2010|
By Siranuysh Gevorgyan, ArmeniaNow reporter
With the tourism season at end the Armenia capital streets are full of locals whose golden suntans were not taken from Lake Sevan’s beaches, but rather from the Black Sea in Georgia resorts such as Batumi, Kobuleti or Ureki.
(Other travel destinations such as Turkish Mediterranean resorts, Cyprus, Tunisia, Ukraine, Russia or spas in Eastern Europe also remain favorite options.)
According to Georgian sources, this year Georgia has seen twice as many holidaymakers from Armenia as in 2009. Regnum news agency reports that as many as 34,000 people visited Georgia from Armenia by train in July-August alone. This is twice as high as the number of visitors by train during last year’s comparable period.
Long passenger queues at the railway station for Yerevan-Batumi train tickets are also evidence of this. In July and August people stood in lines from early hours of the morning to try to buy a train ticket.
This year, traveling by train with a family or friends has become so popular that demand for tickets exceeded supply. Ticket prices range from $20 to $65. (Compared to about $195 by air.) And, while the rail service has become popular, it is hardly convenient. The 723-kilometer train ride from Yerevan to Batumi – a journey of about 10 hours by car – takes 19 hours, as the train lumbers along over tracks no longer safe for high speed. The train leaves Yerevan at 2 in the afternoon arriving early morning in Batumi.
According to professionals in the tourism sphere, Armenia has a reputation of an expensive country for both locals and foreign tourists. Yerevan-based Alla Katunyan, who together with her husband and two children had a two-week rest in Kobuleti this year, says it is the third year that her family prefers to rest at the Black Sea, instead of going to Lake Sevan with its “dirty” shores.
“First of all it is going to the seaside, then we would not have got a normal rest here with the same money, a larger amount of money is needed to find a normal shore and a normal place to stay at the Sevan,” says Katunyan.
While a day of normal rest at Lake Sevan may cost a person up to 14,000 drams (about $38), then in Georgia, according to Armenian holidaymakers, a person can get it at half that sum or even less.
“Why do people choose Georgia? The thing is that Georgians turned out to be wiser than us and have done some great advertising work. But to say that conditions there are good, service is good is not true,” says the Armenia Incoming Tour Operators Association Chairman, Rector of the Institute of Tourism Robert Minasyan.
Imega Travel & Tour Agency General Manager Karen Antashyan says that this year little has changed in the preferences of Armenian holidaymaker spending their vacations within the country.
“Only there has been some greater interest in Karabakh and a boom has been observed in terms of student and youth hiking tours this year,” says Antashyan.
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