YEREVAN – ONEArmenia (1A), the for-purpose organization that since 2012 has fundraised over $7 million for 35 socio-economic projects in Armenia, has announced a new shift in its strategic vision and mission from nonprofit crowdfunding to travel experience incubation and promotion.
Experiential travel is defined as travel that immerses travelers in a destination and transforms them through cultural, nature-based, wellness or adventure experiences. With more and more international travelers seeking authentic experiences that allow them to live like local people, experiential travel today is a $180 billion global industry that Armenia has not tapped into. ONEArmenia is changing that.
“Armenia is a destination for travelers, not tourists — a cultural capsule where one can find things that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. Over the next decade we will focus on connecting travelers to Armenia’s vibrant soul,” says Founder Patrick Sarkissian.
1A’s new vision is an Armenia that transforms travellers with experiences that combine the country’s age-old traditions with modern sensibility. Country Director Anahit Nazaryan elaborates. “Armenian tourism focuses largely on sightseeing, specifically sightseeing the country’s 400-or-so monasteries. While monasteries are certainly must-see heritage sites, Armenia has the potential to offer travellers much more in terms of authentic travel experiences. Experiences don’t just represent what international travelers expect in a destination, they’re also a significant opportunity for rural communities — 66% of revenue from experiential travel stays in-country, compared to only 20-33% with other forms of tourism.”
“For months we researched the regional and global experience market and found that Armenia, with its ancient customs, stunning natural landscapes, and hospitable people, is in a prime position to be the number one destination in the South Caucasus,” says Nazaryan. Those findings include Armenia’s high visitor satisfaction rate according to a 2013 study by USAID, which found that 96% of travelers to Armenia would recommend the country to others, despite minimal spending and investment in tourism projects in the country, and modest marketing budgets (just $330,000 in 2017).
“Armenia has the right ingredients to captivate travelers. As a travel experience incubator, we’re now bringing all those ingredients together with local entrepreneurs to create one-of-a-kind experiences that will leave lasting impressions on travelers and positively impact rural economies. This includes elevating existing travel experiences to world-class standards, and creating brand new ones that don’t exist. Creating liveable, sustainable incomes for local people has been our bottom line since our start in 2012. Now we’re doing that through the experiential tourism economy,” says Anahit Nazaryan.
“It’s a very exciting time at 1A. We’re applying our decade-long experience working on the ground with local people and organizations, as well as our content creation and marketing expertise, to attract the world’s travelers to Armenia and send them off with unforgettable memories,” says Creative Director Kyle Khandikian. “Invoking positive, profound emotions in travelers through local experiences will turn them into life-long ambassadors for Armenia.”
“This isn’t our first venture into tourism; in 2017 our community launched the HIKEArmenia app after we saw that it was difficult for international travelers to find reliable information on the country’s hiking trails. Today HIKEArmenia is an independent nonprofit promoting Armenia as a hiking destination, and the app has been downloaded over 13,000 times. In 2018, our community made Momik Wines, a boutique wine brand and tasting room in Areni village, a reality. The goal was to give small-scale winemakers the opportunity to become active players in the booming industry. The wine tasting experience we created there has not only been rated a 5/5 by international travelers, but the family operating the tasting room has increased their annual income by 160%. Diving fully into experiences makes sense, given our success with these two projects and the potential that exists,” says Khandikian.
While 1A is no longer crowdfunding for socio-economic projects, followers can still expect impact updates on their past work, plus new opportunities to support local projects. “As we search for extraordinary experiences across the country and develop new travel products, we’ll be sharing what we find, what we’re doing to support responsible tourism in Armenia, how our followers can support our new mission, and of course, how they can have an incredible time the next time they’re in Armenia,” Khandikian says.
To learn more about 1A’s new mission and how to get involved, visit their website at onearmenia.org or write them at [email protected].