Bed-and-breakfasts established with EU support make villages stronger in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor

Hundreds of tourists visit the Ayrarat guesthouse in the Vayots Dzor village of Artabuynk in order to see the Smbataberd fortress, sitting 2000 meters high on a hill opposite, EU4Armenia reports.

“We’re on Google Maps as well as, we work with tourism agencies and are a member of the Armenian B&B Association. Our guests come from a variety of locations, from China to the USA. They come for both a relaxing holiday as well as more rigorous outdoor activities. Our trails take them to Smbataberd fortress and Tsakhats Kar. We have guests that stand for hours on our balcony and enjoy the view of Smbataberd on the hill opposite,” said B&B founder Karen Karamyan.

Just six years ago, Karen Karamyan lived and worked in Abkhazia. But then a moment arrived when he realized that he wanted to return to his homeland and be a part of the country’s development.

With the support of the European Union and the Arevadzor programme for renewable energy and ecotourism in Vayots Dzor, Karen Karamyan returned to his home village in 2014, turning his ancestral home, where three generations of his family had been raised, into a bed-and-breakfast.

“I was studying the tourism sector at the same time, trying to understand whether or not there would be a demand for it in our region. And it turned out that we did have it – it was a bit low at first, but it had the potential to grow. The support that we received from the Arevadzor programme funded by the European Union was crucial for us. The rooms in our B&B did not have their own en-suite bathrooms, but to be a B&B you require at least one bathroom for three bedrooms. Now, we have five rooms and two bathrooms,” Karen said.

He noted that the support from the European Union had both a direct and indirect impact on helping them increase the number of guests.

Karen assured us that any support to small businesses is important. “You realize that you are not alone. Even the sum of money is not as important as the fact that there are organizations and individuals that are not targeting the big players, but rather helping the small ones grow. The money is given only to people that truly invest it in their work and help their businesses develop. Naturally, I have invested my own money as well, every small business owner should do so, that inspires confidence in the people that want to support you.”

Karen is an auditor and economist by training. Over the years, he has participated in various training programmes and gained knowledge in the hotel business, discovered the secrets of the tourism sector and learned foreign languages.

He believes that village tourism helps develop the standard of living in the community.

“This business sets off a chain reaction. When we have many visitors, the members of our family are not enough to serve them, so we hire workers from the village. We buy everything we need for the B&B from the village store and the villagers provide us with meat, vegetables, and dairy products. We prefer to keep the money in the village this way. I offer work to the drivers in the village that can take their cars into the mountains. Imagine how big the impact of a group of ten guests can be. Of course, the villagers need to show some interest as well and work hard to bring more tourists to the village, because that has a direct impact on their lives.”

Ayrarat B&B hosted more than three hundred tourists in 2019 alone, while also providing lunch services to groups of hikers.

“We have agreements with tourism organisations. The groups come and go up to Smbataberd, then have lunch at our B&B after their descent and continue their journey. This is a business that needs constant development, and we are doing everything we can to provide the best service possible,” said Karen Karamyan.

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