ARTUR VOSKANYAN – Hospitality Expert
How do you evaluate the dynamics of the development of the hospitality industry in Armenia in recent years?
The development of the hospitality industry in our country can conditionally be divided into two stages.
The first stage can be considered the period from the end of the nineties to 2001, when the government of Armenia began to independently develop the field of inbound tourism after obtaining independence. According to the data of 2001, the main amount of accommodation facilities was concentrated in the capital, and according to the experts, the number of beds in Yerevan hardly exceeded 2,000. The circumstances in the regions of Armenia were much worse. It was practically impossible to find a hotel or a guesthouse in any regional center or city that will meet the expectations of foreign tourists and will be on the level of international standards.
The second stage is closely connected to the increased flow of inbound tourism, including from European countries and from Russia. In response to the growing demand for Armenia, leading hotel tour operators started to enter the market of accommodation facilities in Armenia. In parallel with the increased number of hotels in Yerevan, hotels and guest houses began to be opened in the regions of Armenia. In this regard, such cities of our country as Gyumri, Dilijan, Vayk, Tsaghkadzor, Goris, as well as Stepanakert and Shushi can offer their guests accommodation services that will meet the expectations of the tourists.
Tell us, please, what kind of problems exist in the hospitality industry, as well as in the hotel business, particularly in our country.
Hospitality industry is a service driven field where properly selected and well-trained staff counts for a lot. This is determined by the fact that the main object of sales is considered to be the impressions of our guests. Tourists who visit Armenia and stay overnight in hotels should firstly get impressions exceeding their expectations. In this respect, the employees, and primarily the line staff of the hotels who communicate with the guests directly, are a kind of “ambassadors of hospitality in Armenia. The way our guests are welcomed, served and escorted, how professionally and competently are solved the inescapable problems in the service sector the more our guests share their positive and negative experiences and impressions of their stay in our country when they return to their countries. This directly affects the choice not only of the country, but also of a specific hotel for new guests. That is why I give a very significant role to the employee trainings.
How are held the employee trainings for hotels in Armenia?
A number of universities in Armenia have faculties preparing recruits for the field of tourism and service. Nevertheless, unfortunately, there is yet no specialization in hotel business. Trainings of specialists for hotels is also held at the level of specialized secondary education in appropriate schools and colleges. As I know, here they train middle and lower-level staff: maids, waiters and cooks. However, both for university education and for the secondary special, the problem that remains is the issue of the skills and practice of graduates. Unfortunately, graduates who come to work in a hotel do not have sufficient experience and practical skills of communicating with guests, as well as working with appropriate computer programs of managing and booking rooms. Different organizations are now engaged in solving this issue, for instance, the German GIZ foundation together with the Ministry of Science and Education. However, the complete solution of this issue is possible only in a systematic, productive cooperation between educational institutions and hotels.
In spite of the existing problems, I still assess the situation in this industry as positive and tending to develop. In order to assert my opinion with facts, I can note an increasing number of tourists visiting Armenia that according to various assessment is approximately 10-15% annually.
In addition to the undeniable merits of the national tour operators and agents, we need to understand that no efforts of the private sector alone can achieve results if the tourist is dissatisfied with the level of service in hotels. However, we know that tourists who come to Armenia for the most part share their good impressions about the warm-hearted and qualified service of the staff. When tourists from various countries are asked numerous questions about their impressions of Armenia, they reply that they are taking with them warm, bright impressions of this magnificent country and wonderful Armenian hospitality.