On November 20, 2015 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with Smithsonian Institution have launched an innovative project to support cultural sustainability through cultural tourism in Armenia. The official ceremony took place at the Matenadaran Scientific Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan. The ceremony included remarks by the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., Prime Minister of Armenia Hovik Abrahamyan, and the Senior Advisor of the Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations, Halle Butvin. About 100 people attended the event, including representatives of the Government of Armenia, the private sector and the tourism industry at large. The goal of the USAID-funded four-year project implies using unique combination of research, scholarship, support for artisan craft, capacity building, and a strong focus on fresh thinking for tourism development, enhancement and increase of cultural heritage in the regions outside of Armenia’s capital Yerevan.

“The global tourism market continues to grow and touch new destinations. Armenia’s rich cultural heritage, unique cuisine, beautiful natural environment and welcoming people make it a special place,” said Ambassador Mills. “The purpose of the “My Armenia” project is nothing less than to put Armenia on the map as a world-class tourist destination. We intend to not only contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Armenia, but also ensure that the benefits of that growth are widely distributed across the country by promoting tourism to regions outside of Yerevan, thus enhancing the economic prospects of Armenia’s rural communities.”

“Tourism can be a driver of economic development by generating employment in hotels and restaurants, as well as increasing business for taxi drivers, those making and selling souvenirs, or those providing goods and services to tourism-related businesses,” Ambassador Mills said. “However, to spread the wealth generated by tourism, Armenia needs to develop anchor tourism sites outside of Yerevan and link them together in a tourism circuit that spans the length and breadth of the country. This new project will provide technical assistance to develop such a circuit, which will encourage travelers to travel outside of Yerevan and spend more money in the regions. This is just one of the many ways the U.S. Embassy is partnering with the Armenian people to strengthen the economy of Armenia’s rural regions.”

The Smithsonian has a long history of working with USAID on international programming to support the conservation of biodiversity, museum workforce capacity building, and emerging cultural institutions.  Reflecting a renewed partnership between the two organizations established through a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding, the “My Armenia” project signifies a new, collaborative approach to combine the strengths of the two organizations for greater impact.

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About the Smithsonian Institution
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There are 6,400 Smithsonian employees, including approximately 500 scientists, and more than 5,500 volunteers. Approximately 28 million people from around the world visited the Smithsonian in 2014, with more than 175 million visits to the Smithsonian websites. The total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at 138 million. To learn more about the Smithsonian, please visit http://www.si.edu. For information about “My Armenia” project, please contact myarmenia@si.edu.

Sources: http://armenia.usembassy.gov/news112015.htmlhttp://www.lragir.am/index/eng/0/economy/view/34954