The opening of the country's borders to foreigners by the Armenian authorities does not mean the same for their own citizens. If the problem with Russia is resolved in the near future, then in the case of neighboring Georgia and Iran, the issue is still open. The main difficulty is the epidemiological situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic in these countries.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that Tbilisi and Tehran have not decided what to do with their closed borders. Yerevan also does not hide that the lifting of restrictions should be carried out with caution and in compliance with all epidemiological norms and rules in order to avoid the third wave of coronavirus.
What does the Foreign Ministry say?
In order to clarify the situation and clarify, we turned to the country's foreign policy department. The Armenian Foreign Ministry replied that the consultations of the relevant departments on the possible opening of borders for the citizens of our country, both in the case of Georgia and Iran, are consistent.
The press service of the Foreign Ministry recalled that on September 11, the legal regime of the state of emergency was lifted on the territory of the Republic of Armenia and the government decree 1514-N on the introduction of quarantine in the country due to coronavirus infection came into force. Later, the quarantine was extended until January, and then until July 2021.
"According to the changes that came into force on January 12, the ban on the entry of foreign citizens into the territory of Armenia through the checkpoint of the air and land borders has been lifted," the Foreign Ministry noted.
However, the Foreign Ministry urged to take into account the fact that the ban on the entry of foreign citizens into the territory of Georgia is still in force. Thus, citizens of Russia and other countries will not yet be able to visit Armenia by land route through Georgia. The exit remains air traffic.
When asked whether Yerevan is negotiating with Tbilisi on the provision of a corridor through the territory of Georgia for the citizens of Russia or Armenia, the Foreign Ministry noted that "the Armenian side maintains regular contact with the competent structures of the neighboring country through appropriate channels."
Uncertainty in Armenia
The Tourism Committee welcomes the authorities' decision to open the borders and predicts activity in the tourism industry. However, the projects that should be implemented this year and the tourist visits are treated with caution.
According to the Committee, in January-September 2020, the number of tourist visits to Armenia amounted to 327,735, which is 75.5% less compared to the same period in 2019. At the same time, for 2020, experts predicted an increase in tourist traffic by 14-15%.
"We cannot predict anything for 2021, given the unstable epidemic situation caused by the pandemic in the world. However, we assume that some activity will be already in the second half of 2021," the Committee told Sputnik Armenia.
The department also noted that, despite all the measures and the opening of borders, the indicators of previous years in 2021 will still not be. At the moment, progress in the travel industry will be ensured by an agreement between Armenia and Russia to remove restrictions on the entry of citizens of the two countries. The Committee notes that Russia is the largest travel market for Armenia.
As for neighboring Iran, whose citizens regularly came to Armenia for Novruz, the Committee noted that they cooperate with the neighboring country in this direction.
"We are cooperating in this regard with Iran so that the flow of citizens from the neighboring country would be orderly and controlled," the Committee said, noting that large flows are associated with great risks.
The ministry stressed that when planning, they proceed from the epidemiological situation in the country and the need to comply with epidemiological rules, since a large flow of foreign citizens increases the risk of a third wave.
As for the negotiations with colleagues from Georgia and Iran on opening borders for the citizens of Armenia, the Committee also referred to the uncertainty in these countries.
Coronavirus plans are not a hindrance
Against the backdrop of world idleness, the Committee does not sit idle. Experts are preparing for a meeting of the Tourism Council of the CIS member states, but the format will be determined later and depends on the epidemiological situation. In addition, the Armenian side this year will take part in the international tourism exhibition MITT-2021 in Russia.
At the moment, steps are being worked out to activate domestic tourism, as well as represent Armenia on online platforms. In this context, specialists are working on the creation of a new travel site, as well as rebranding of the image of Armenia in the world. In the near future, it is planned to launch a system for separating visitors from tourists, specifying the age and gender of the arrivals.
Recall that when entering the territory of Armenia through air and land border checkpoints, foreigners must present a certificate no more than 72 hours old, confirming a negative test for coronavirus. Otherwise, these citizens are instructed to self-isolate until a negative PCR test result.
The document must be in Armenian, Russian or English, on the form of the medical institution where the test was carried out and indicating the passenger's personal data. The certificate must be signed by the head of the medical facility and sealed.