Armenian State University of Economics
ISSN (печатный вариант): 2073-0071
tourism, tourist, pilgrimage, religious tourism. Ключевые слова: туризм, турист, паломничество, религиозный туризм
The article presents the analysis of current statistics of tourism sphere in the RA and in the world. The brief history of Christian religious tourism, the main perspectives of religious tourism development based on the religion history and churches in Armenia are discussed in the article.
Nowadays tourism is one of the most rapidly developing branches of the world economy. International tourist arrivals reached 1,133 million in 2014, a 4.3% increase over the previous year. In 2014, travel for holidays, recreation and other forms of leisure accounted for just over half of all international tourist arrivals (53%). Some 14% of international tourists reported travelling for business and professional purposes and another 27% travelled for other reasons, such as visiting friends and relatives (VFR), religious reasons and pilgrimages, health treatment, etc. The purpose of visit for the remaining 6% of arrivals was not specified [15, 3-5]. According to UNWTO glossary ‘’Tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes.’’. The main types of tourism are leisure/holiday tourism, business tourism, cultural tourism, eco-tourism, study tourism, religious, pilgrimage tourism, health and medical tourism, visiting friends and relatives, agricultural tourism, sports tourism. In Armenia tourism was announced to be the main sector of economy. In recent years the number of tourists increased. In 2014 1.203.746 tourists visited Armenia. Pic 1. Incoming tourists of the Republic of Armenia for 2006-2014  In the RA in 2014 the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was AMD 578.5bn (12.7% of GDP) and the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 11.3% of total employment (133,500 jobs) [17, 12]. The number of hotel facilities was 229 in 2013 in the RA, which included hotels, hostels, resorts, rest houses, etc. Their accommodation capacity was 19004 places [8, 191]. A thorough research on tourism sector of Armenia was carried out by one of the world leading management consulting companies McKinsey&Co., and as a result the main intrinsic assets for tourism development in Armenia were mentioned: history/culture, religion, nature, wellness, mountain skiing, adventure, urban culture, sun and beach. As we see in the pic. 2, religious tourism is in current priorities section, as it is easy to commercialize and it is internationally strong asset. Pic. 2. Armenian tourism asset, religion [1, 13] Religious tourism is one of the oldest forms of tourism. It is as old as the religion itself when people began to travel to holy sites. According to UNWTO estimates, 300-330 million tourists visit the world´s key religious sites every year, with approximately 600 million national and international religious voyages in the world, 40% of which take place in Europe. Being key tourism destinations, religious heritage sites not only drive international tourism and economic growth, but also provide important meeting grounds for visitors and host communities, making vital contributions to tolerance, respect and mutual understanding between different cultures . The three major religions in the world - Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, with a 31%, 23% and 15% worldwide followers respectively have received highest proportion of religious tourist in their headquarters. For instance, Israel which is important for all Christians, Muslim and Judaism received more than 3.3 million foreign visitors . Christian pilgrimage was first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Aside from the early example of Origen in the third century, surviving descriptions of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the 4th century, when pilgrimage was encouraged by church fathers including Saint Jerome, and established by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. Pilgrimages were, and are, also made to Rome and other sites associated with the apostles, saints and Christian martyrs, as well as to places where there have been apparitions of the Virgin Mary. A popular pilgrimage site is along the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain, to the shrine of the apostle James . Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion (301 AD). According to tradition, the Armenian Church was founded by two of Jesus' twelve apostles - Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, who preached Christianity in Armenia between 40-60 AD. Because of these two founding apostles, the official name of the Armenian Church is Armenian Apostolic Church. There are many churches in Armenia. The Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots, Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, Monastery of Geghard are included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The basilica and archaeological site of Yererouk, the monastery of Noravank, the monastery of Tatev are submitted on the Tentative List . All the churches in Armenia are worth visiting. Among them are: 1. The Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, which was built and consecrated by St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Trdat the Great in 303 AD, the Cathedral is located in the city of Vagharshapat. St. Gregory chose the location of the Cathedral in accordance with a vision that he had. In his dream he saw "Miatsin", the Only Begotten Son of God, with glittering light on his face descending from the Heavens and with a golden hammer striking the ground where the Cathedral was to be located. Hence comes the name "Etchmiadzin", which translates literally to "the place" where the Only-Begotten Son of God descended . 2. Churches of St. Hripsime, St. Gayane and St. Shoghakat. Hripsime was one of a group of nuns who lived in Rome under the direction of their superior, Gayane, around 284-305 AD. When Roman Emperor Diocletian tried to force the beautiful Hripsime to marry him, the nuns fled to Armenia. There, the Armenian king, Trdat, fell in love with Hripsime's beauty and decided she should be his wife. But the nun refused to break her vows to God by marrying the king. King Trdat tortured Gayane, trying to get her to permit Hripsime to marry him, but Gayane refused to give in. Eventually King Trdat had Gayane, Hripsime, and the other nuns tortured and killed because they chose their faith and devotion to God over the wishes of a king . Now at the places of their graves are churches. Then the Church of Shoghakat (meaning "drop of light" because of the ray of light that came down from heaven upon Hripsimé's martyrs) was build. 3. Khor Virap is one of the most popular destinations in Armenia. When King Trdat III ruled over Armenia, his assistant was St. Gregory the Illuminator who preached the Christian religion. However, Trdat was a pagan and he subjected Gregory to severe torture and prisoned him for 13 years in Khor Virap (is translated “deep pit”). According to a legend the king caught a strange illness, his ears became the ears of a pig. His sister saw a dream as if only Gregory could heal him and he indeed healed the king with his prayings to God. After that Trdat turned to be the most loyal supporter of Christianity. Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion (301 AD). At the place where the prison pit had been located the Khor Virap monastery was built. 4. Geghard monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The monastery had thus been originally named Ayrivank, meaning "the Monastery of the Cave". The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank, meaning "the Monastery of the Spear", originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury . 5. Kecharis monastery is a medieval Armenian monastic complex dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries, located in the ski resort town of Tsakhkadzor. The monastery consists of four churches (Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church, Saint Nshan (Sign of Cross) Church, Saint Katoghike Church, Saint Harutyun Church (Holy Resurrection), a hall, two chapels and various cross-stones . 6. Sevanavank Monastery (founded in 874) is a monastic complex located on a peninsula at the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan. The monastery is comprised of two churches, Surb Arakelots (Holy Apostles) and Surb Astvatsamayr (Holy Mother of God) . 7. St. Mesrop Mashtots Church was built in 443 in Oshakan village on the grave of St. Mersrop - the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. Then during 1639-1645 and again 1873-1879 it was rebuilt. 8. Tatev Monastery is a 9th-century Armenian Apostolic monastery and is one of the most wonderful places of Armenia. According to tradition, Tatev Monastery is named after Eustateus, a disciple of St. Thaddeus the Apostle, who preached and was martyred in this region. His name has evolved to Tatev. The monastery consists of 3 churches - St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. Paul and Peter, St. Mary. In the 14th and 15th centuries the monastery hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, the University of Tatev, which contributed to the advancement of science, religion and philosophy, reproduction of books and development of miniature painting. Now the longest reversible aerial tramway in the world (5.7 km cableway) is located there (was included in the Guinness World Records as world's longest non-stop double track cable car) . 9. The Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin represent a fusion of vernacular and Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture. Both monasteries are located in the Debed Canyon, in the Lori-region of North Armenia. Their oldest structures date back to the 10th century . 10. The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan is currently the largest cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the world. It is located in the center of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The consecration of the cathedral took place on September 23rd, 2001, on occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as a state religion of Armenia. The cathedral houses the relics of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and the Holy Remains of St. Gregory that were brought from Naples, Italy. Shortly after the consecration of the cathedral, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to the cathedral . Thus, we have presented very few churches from the great list of Armenian churches. However, we may state that Armenia is to become a religious tourism centre for Christian pilgrims like the most visited sites of Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela in the world. For fulfilling this marketing activities must be done in order to present Armenia as a religious tourism country based on its treasures and history of Christianity and to attract international tourists; also conceptual plans must be elaborated and implemented by state and private sectors to develop tourism sphere and the main infrastructures.
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