SO “CLOSE AND FAR” FROM YEREVAN
Aragatsotn is one of the four marzes, which is located next to Yerevan, the capital of the country. On one hand, this circumstance creates big opportunities for the development of the marz, as nearly the half of the economy of Armenia is in Yerevan, on the other hand it limits those opportunities because of a range of reasons. The marz does a “transition” function from the point of view of tourism. Only in an hour one can reach the borders of the marz. The advantage is given to Yerevan while launching a business, especially when the investors are from abroad. That is the reason, that the proportion of the marz of Armenia’s GDP is only 3%. The territory of the marz is 9% of the general territory of Armenia, and that gives an ideal strategic location to the marz.
First, Ashtarak is the nearest regional center to Yerevan, being far from it only 22 kilometres. Second, 3 roads of state importance are crossing Aragatsotn: Yerevan-Ashtarak-Talin-Gyumri, Yerevan-Ashtarak-Spitak-Vanadzor-RA state border and Yerevan-Armavir-Gyumri. Third point is, being located near Aragats (4090 m) the highest mountain of Armenia, it reaches from Talin mountains to the gardens of Ashtarak and alpine pastures of Aparan, providing the climate variety and the development of economic different directions.
Greenhouse economies, food processing enterprises, winemaking, alternative energy, gardening, cattle breeding and, of course, tourism, are only several directions, which have an enormous potential. As it is said, it is time for changes. And the first one can be the change of the name into Aragats marz, which will make the marz more presentable and attractive.
ASHTARAK: TOURISM WITH TASTE AND SCENT
Ashtarak is one of the exceptional cities that has saved its unique “face”. Being 1175 metres above sea, there are 11 churches and more than 100 monuments. Every yard in Ashtarak has its “taste and scent” and have the potential to become the center of ethnic tourism.
There are such suggestions in the territory of Ashtarak that can satisfy tourists of different preferences. Specifically, near the regional center in the Oshakan village the tomb of Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of Armenian alphabet, is located. The tomb of Arshakuni dynasty kings has been discovered in Aghdzk village, which is going back to the 4th century. Nearby Ashtarak there are also a lot of medieval buildings, either preserved or ruined. Amberd, Saghmosavank, Ohanavank are especially famous. The prominent observatory of Byurakan is also located in this territory.
The fact of the territory is mainly centred on the inner tourism. In real, lately there is an activity in involving tourists from abroad due to the companies having touristic directions. Specifically, the café “Pascal and Deodato” founded by Baghdatyan brothers, has become a mandatory place for tourists, as it is essentially distinguishes from “Ashtarak Dzor” type of restaurants. By the way, “Gourme Dourme” the chocolate production founded by Baghdatyan brothers is also located in Ashtarak and can be an attractive place for cognitive tourism. The gallery-museum founded in 2018 is supplementing the concept. Here, the visitors can get acquainted with both the production, the taste of the chocolate and the prehistory of it.
In the territory there are gardens in hundreds of acres: from here not only the fresh fruit is sold, but they are also a raw material for several big and medium factories. “Tamara fruit” is one of the best examples. The gardens in Parpi, Karbi, Ohanavan, Saghmosavank have also promoted dry fruit production. “Agrolog” company has founded a dry fruit production center in Ashtarak, which is one of the best examples in Armenia of dry fruit production, dry fruit preparation teaching and packages for tourists. Another example is “Dry fruit house” factory in the place of previous landfill, where dry fruit production, greenhouse of organic strawberry, intensive garden, a guest booth are acting.
The territory is also a known winemaking center. Once again, the winemakers of the marz combine viticulture, wine production and tourism by proposing interesting packages both for inner and outer tourists. With the efforts of “Gold Grape Armas”, “Armenia Wine”, “Voskevaz wine factory”, “Van Ardi” the quality of Armenian wine has been improved and the assortment has been added, also the visits to grape gardens and factories have become more attractive due to periodic organized concerts and other events.
First steps are already taken. “Voskehat” wine festival, which was held on September 7 for the first time in Ashtarak city, aimed to discover and spread the traditions of winemaking culture in the territory.
Aparan city, being 50 kilometres far from Yerevan, is a perfect place for the first stop. It gives an opportunity to enter “Gntunik”: that is one of the important secrets of success. Lately, similar supermarkets are occurring on the roads of Armenia, but each of them is associated with “Gntunik”. Even instead of Aparan, the travellers use the word Gntunik. See, what can do the business, when it appears in the right place in the right time.
The high alpine zones of Aparan, the reservoir, clean air are the foundations for cattle breeding. There are hundreds of small and large cattle farms, which provide the meat demand of the citizens of marz and Yerevan.
In the marz there are several diary production factories (“Aparan group”, “Aparan’s cheese factory”), the production of which is mainly consumed in Yerevan.
TALIN: IN THE BORDER OF PAST AND PRESENT
While talking about the economy of Talin, one more focuses on the past than on the present. Almost nothing is left from dozens of farms and enterprises. One of the reasons is the climate of the territory, which is not much attractive. On the other hand, by taking into account the high level of education of the habitants in this territory, cultural heritage and enterprise abilities, it is possible to find ways for the sharp development of the territory.
“Barva” innovative center in the result of engineer special solutions has created a boiler due to which it is possible to get a cheap and eco energy through biomass (agricultural waste, dry leafs, grass). It will have a great demand among greenhouse economy businessmen, as it can be an alternative solution for the natural gas.
Talin has a serious potential for developing solar energy. “Talin-1” station with 1 MVt power is already in action. This is the first step that can and must be developed.
INVESTMENT UNLIMIT OPPORTUNITIES
Only the little part of the huge opportunities of the marz is used. The above said “not good climate” of Talin is making the territory one of the leaders for gaining solar energy in Armenia. Even more, on this territory one can develop greenhouse economies, by taking into account that in foothills in winter season the sun is mostly shining here and the weather is relatively cool.
The marz can have at least two winter sport centers on the peaks of Ara and Aragats mountains. The demand of winter sports is increasing in the world, and in Armenia, specifically in Aragatsotn marz one part of it can be satisfied. Surely, huge investments are needed, but in a very short time it can provide a good profit.
Being close to Yerevan can be used as an advantage through founding new entertainment centers. For example, national big shows, permanently acting expos, historical-cultural centers. There are dozens of examples in the world that can be adapted to local conditions.
The number of processing enterprises (factories of conserves and beverages) can be increased by producing new target products. Fruit vodkas, specific conserves, high quality dry fruits are the best examples of it. Several medium sized textile or other factories can be founded in Talin and Aparan in order to ensure the employability of the city habitants.
Yet, the presence of Byurakan observatory is not fully used. It can become a touristic center by providing a great amount of tourists to the territory.
As a summary, the Aragatsotn marz is a perfect combination of production, winemaking and tourism, and there is nothing similar to it in Armenia. The marz can become the leader of providing tourism diversity in Armenia. Archaeological, gastronomic, winemaking, mountaineering, winter and ethnic tourism directions are just few ones, which foundations are already build, but they are not enough, yet. As a consequence, they will be the need of building new hotels, guest houses, hostels and public catering establishments. centers.