Tumanyan, once an industrial hub, aims to turn into a tourist center
Hidden in woods, the town of Tumanyan, which is located close to Yerevan-Tbilisi highway, is some 158 km away from the capital.
The small settlement with distinctive two-storied houses and tiled roofing stretches across the right bank of the Debed River. The town that was once known as Dzaghidzor, some sixty years ago was renamed after great Armenian poet Hovhannes Tumanyan.
Following the 2016 enlargement Tumanyan has grown into a community that embraces the neighboring settlements of Shamut, Atan, Lorut, Marts, Qarinj, and Ahnidzor.
Head of the Tumanyan community Levon Zavaryan believes the community enlargement will boost development of tourism, and will bring new job openings, which is one of the most urgent priorities of the town.
Zavaryan smiles at the portrait hanging on the wall of his office, saying: "We don't need another brand; Tumanyan is the best brand we may possibly have. Anyone would love to walk the roads Gikor walked, and see the marvels of Matevossian's Ahnidzor. We are currently planning tours to include those sites. And all we have to do is to work."
Anush Navasardyan, an accountant by profession, opened her first guest house in Tumanyan in 2014 seeing perspectives for tourism development in the region. Before that Anush also worked at school and the local municipality.
After participating in a training course by the Small and Medium Business Development program to obtain business skills, Navasardyan, 55, invested in her privately owned house and turned it into a guest house. She says she believes in herself, and never hopes for miracles.
Within just a year after the opening Anush Navasardyan's guest house hosted 500 tourists from around the world.
Anush Navasardyan helps her guests know the local traditions, the town, the cuisine, the sites of interest, and the everyday life of ordinary people.
"We have had some 60-70 visitors in the last year or two against the hundreds that visited us before. But I am sure the tourist flow to Tumanyan will tangibly grow once the road is repaired," says Navasardyan, who has just started the rebuilding of the new guest house.
The number of the tourists has decreased following the launch of reconstruction works on about 90 km long section of the M-6 interstate motorway, which leads to the Georgian border via Vanadzor and Alaverdi (the €101 million worth program is financed by European Investment Bank and Asian Development Bank).
Head of Tumanyan community Levon Zavaryan believes the reconstruction of the road will boost tourism and will also add to the quality of life of the locals.
"We plan to have market points along the highway to give the residents of the enlarged community opportunity to sell their produce - local fruit, dried fruit, herbs, as well as hand-made souvenirs, sculptures, which are all of interest to tourists," he says.
The community head recalls the Soviet times when the locals were employed at the refractory brickworks factory built in 1951 as part of the fireclay mines located near the town. To work in the plant hundreds of residents of other towns and villages settled in Tumanyan.
The huge brickworks factory located on the brink of the town spreads across the Lori Gorge.
The huge plant, which used to provide 600 jobs, looks abandoned now.
It once used to produce refractory bricks, triple layered nozzles.
The former industrial giant is dormant today, employing just 15 people in the only operating production shop.
Rafayel Yeganyan, now 66, has spent 50 years in the brickworks factory as a crane operator.
The revenues of the plant are just enough to cover the organizational expenses of the enterprise.
Although brick is of low demand in the market, its manufacturing continues hopeful for new orders.
Director of the enterprise, Yervand Shakaryan, says the plant has guards and controls to ensure every single stone on the territory of the plant stays safe where it is.
"Time has worn out some of the buildings, yet we do our best to preserve what we have. Who knows we may one day re-launch the whole factory. We produce the bricks and store them, despite the little demand in the market, with a hope to save time when an order arrives. We have already accumulated a stock of some 5000 pieces," says Shakaryan, who has been heading the plant since 1996.
Meruzhan Asatryan, a resident of Tumanyan, has been working as a driver at the plant since 1989. He is glad to have job and be able to support his family.
"Yes, I can hardly provide for my family's living with the money I get (AMD 70,000), but I am happy, no matter what; I have twice been in Russia for work, and I am now sure I better earn less, but be home," says Asatryan.
Yervand Shakaryan says the annual turnover of the factory is only AMD 35 million, which is barely enough to cover its own expenses. Part of the plant territory has been leased: the income it provides is steered to the maintenance and operation of the plant, as well.
"We have raw materials remaining from Soviet times enough for ten years ahead, which is what we actually use for production. Of course, malfunctions happen, too, but we fix them shortly," says Shakaryan.
Brickworks factory worker
Many people leave the town because of the lack of jobs. Some leave for seasonal jobs, others leave for good, taking their families with them. Only 1300 of the registered 1765 residents live in Tumanyan.
The head of the community Levon Zavaryan believes, though, life in Tumanyan will revive, if tourism development programs are put on the right track; he says tourism will trigger job openings, and will attract the residents who have left the town, back to Tumanyan.
"A program for a touristic route from Tumanyan to Ahnidzor and hiking tours in the community are currently being developed; we plan routes to Dilijan through Lorut village for future, too," says Zavaryan.
The beautiful location of the town and the historic sites of the enlarged community are advantageous in terms of tourism development. As one such example of a heritage site, Zavaryan recalls the Qobayravank, founded in 1171 by the Kyurikyan branch of the Bagratuni dynasty, which is located on an altitude, and is known for its limited accessibility.
"We don't need another brand; Tumanyan is the best brand we may possibly have," says the head of the community Levon Zavaryan.
One of his priorities is to make the historic and cultural sites and the beauty of the Motkor sub-region accessible and more visible to tourists, yet keeping those sites both smart and clean. Zavaryan underlines the areas near the natural water springs across the roads of the community have been cleaned and tidied up.
"We have already asked the residents to join in the works, to watch and guard the territories. Later we will place waste bins near the water springs, will create recreation zones in a select number of areas, and will have guards. All these, of course, will be done with both the community and investment funds," says the community head.
"We don't need another brand; Tumanyan is the best brand we may possibly have. Anyone would love to walk the roads Gikor walked, and see the marvels of Matevossian's Ahnidzor. We are currently planning tours to include those sites. And all we have to do is to work," says Zavaryan, looking up at the portrait on the wall of his office.