Already featuring a record-length cableway, Armenia plans to launch the world’s longest, nearly 2.7-kilometer-long zip line this summer to rope in more tourists.
Its ancient cultural heritage, which, incidentally, includes the world’s oldest shoe, may be Armenia’s main calling card, but the Caucasus nation is now increasingly betting on the world’s longest rope rides to give tourism a boost.
The partly crowd-funded zip line, slotted to launch July 26 (pending official approval) in northeast Armenia’s Yell Extreme Park, would stretch 1.7 miles across the Tavush Mountains. This would make it 135 meters (443 feet) longer than the longest existing zip line in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.
The park hopes that the attraction will draw regional and global visitors, but they might need to stand in line behind high-profile local riders. Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, for one, may be among the first to whiz down the wire. As part of a $1,000 donation to the project, Karapetian bought tickets for himself and his family. “I call on everyone to support this initiative which will help position Armenia as a center of extreme tourism in the region,” Karapetian wrote on his Facebook page.
How many other senior officials will choose to duplicate the prime minister's three-minute, 120-kph (75 mph) ride is not known, but little doubt exists that Armenia’s long ropes can attract the numbers. Down in the southeast, a 5.7-kilometer (over 3.5-miles)-long aerial tramway, the Wings of Tatev, holds a Guinness World Record as the longest non-stop, double-track cable car. Since its launch in 2010, the Wings of Tatev has reportedly taken some 70,000 visitors per year on a 10-minute ride to the 9th-century Tatev Monastery.
Yell Extreme Park, located almost equidistantly between Yerevan and Tbilisi, hopes for even better turnout. It says that its first zip line (one of five) attracted 15,000 visitors when it opened in 2015 -- mostly locals, but also adventure aficionados from Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
And from the United States. The US ambassador, Richard Mills, a Yell zipliner himself, also chipped in to this latest zip-line project, the brainchild of Park founder Tigran Chibukhchian. Most of the funding for the $200,000 line came from within Armenia and from unnamed corporate sponsors, Yell Extreme Park says.
Part of the reason for their interest is clear. As for neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan, travel and tourism have a growing economic impact. In 2016, the tourism sector directly contributed 3.8 percent – 200.5 billion drams ($416 million) – to Armenia’s GDP, the World Travel & Tourism Council states.
Currently, though, Armenia’s tourism sector ranks as the least competitive in the Caucasus, according to a 2017 World Economic Forum report, but the government recently pledged to address the weak spots. It’s even finally gotten around to building an official tourism site; or what the responsible official calls “a remote recognition field in digital space.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council does not predict rapid growth in Armenian tourism, but the country’s tourism officials hope that a proper combo of extreme sports, cultural sights and nature will take Armenia there.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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