Armenia, a land rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage, inspires passionate tourism entrepreneurs to create unique experiences for tourists, and give a boost to rural communities. Two such tourism experiences – Beeography and Wine Formula – both created by young entrepreneurs, have flourished with the support of the EU4Business “Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia” project, showcasing the power of passion and innovation, and the transformative impact of EU support.
Beeography: A journey into the world of beekeeping
Born and raised in a family of beekeepers, Hayarpi Hakobyan, a 29-year-old geographer who was interested in rural tourism, established "Agri" LLC in November 2020. As the founder and managing director of the company, she aimed not only to address the challenges faced by Armenia’s agriculture sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to promote the art of beekeeping and honey production.
Thanks to a EUR 32,000 EU4Business grant awarded in 2021, Hayarpi and her partner Artur Shatvoryan initiated the Beeography Guest House in the village of Vardablur, in Armenia’s Lori region, to actively promote organic beekeeping.
“Beeography Guest House is more than just a place to stay; it's an alternative leisure destination for tourists, beekeeping enthusiasts, and honey lovers," Hayarpi explains. Beeography has succeeded, and will serve as a starting point for further rural development projects. Educational and marketing plans developed with EU support ensured the Beeography project was a distinctive innovation in the tourism sector.
With the EU's financial support and advisory services, beyond being a guest house, Beeography serves as a honey-tasting centre, featuring honey sourced from various regions across Armenia. "Visitors can practice beekeeping activities, explore this fascinating art, and gain valuable knowledge and experience."
Hayarpi’s plans include expanding services, utilising pine trees to build more beehives , installing solar panels to generate sustainable electricity, and offering creative and marketing services.
“The support (from the EU) has been crucial in shaping Beeography into an essential part of the community, attracting further personal investments to enhance its growth and impact,” says Hayarpi.
From architectural design and construction work to marketing activities and staff training, the EU funding paved the way to Beeography's success.
"EU support has been our guiding light, without which we wouldn't have realized these projects," says Hayarpi.
Wine Formula: Reviving Dilijan’s wine culture
Founded in 2018 and guided by a commitment to wildlife preservation and corporate social responsibility, Wine Formula named its first wine trademark Hovaz (Armenian for “leopard”), after the Caucasian leopard, which is currently endangered in the Armenian highlands.
In November 2022, Wine Formula opened the "Hovaz Wine Rooms" – a wine experience centre in Dilijan, a town in northern Armenia. The centre is a significant milestone for authentic wine-tasting experiences, and was opened with the aid of a grant of EUR 32,000 provided by EU4Business. The centre showcases the final steps of sparkling wine production and the creation of high-quality wines, using innovative presentation methods to raise awareness about regional endemic grape varieties.
"Our goal was to create a new and unique wine tourism product through the establishment of this centre to show off Armenia's rich winemaking history and potential to tourists from around the world, and also to Armenians," says Nelly Makinyan, the 35-year-old project coordinator of Wine Formula.
EU support played an essential role in Wine Formula's success. Funding was allocated for renovation, equipment procurement, and capacity-building initiatives. The establishment of three new jobs in Dilijan further empowered the local community and enhanced tourism opportunities.
Through the www.winesofarmenia.store platform, tourists from Europe can still buy Armenian wines even after leaving the country. The centre also hosts wine tastings for their brand and other producers' wines, inviting winemakers and industry representatives to foster collaboration.
"Our wine tastings exclusively feature Armenian products, promoting local producers and enhancing the tourist experience," Nelly says. This fosters partnerships with local guesthouses, hotels, meat, and cheese producers, as sales increase due to longer tourist stays.
In a short time, Wine Formula has successfully introduced Armenia's winemaking heritage to tourists worldwide. The EU's financial aid and consulting assistance have been game-changers for Nelly, empowering Wine Formula to be a flag-bearer for Armenia’s winemaking heritage.
The EU4Business “Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia” (ITTD) project is ongoing in Armenia. Its overall objective is to ensure shared, balanced, and inclusive growth in tourism and innovative industries. The project is working with innovative tourism ventures in the northern regions of Armenia, providing support to hi-tech and innovative entrepreneurs, organizing international knowledge exchanges for hi-tech researchers, and establishing networks to foster a business culture among students and the general public.
Under the ITTD project, more than 150 ventures have already received support: this has helped sustain or generate a total of 400 jobs and provided training for over 1,000 individuals.