Monthly Archives: July 2013
U.S., Turkey, Armenia Conference on Tourism and Hospitality: The Highway to Sustainable Regional Development
By Caucasus Research Resource Centers – Armenia Blog
July 3, 2013
On June 28-30, 2013, ATA Fellows (American, Turkish, and Armenian Fellows), which is a partnership of academics from the University of Florida, U.S.A., Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey, and Armenian State University of Economics, Armenia, as well as industry practitioners from each country, organized a conference on tourism and hospitality: “The Highway to Sustainable Regional Development.”
The conference was attended by CRRC-Armenia Junior Research Fellows Tigran Sukiasyan and Ani Karapetyan and brought together academics, researchers, NGO representatives, industry practitioners and scholars of different disciplines to focus on the knowledge development and implementation in the field of tourism and hospitality.
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John A. Heffern gave the opening statement, emphasizing the importance of the ATA Fellows Project. In turn, Dr. Artak Manukyan, Armenian Director of the project, made a presentation on the prospects of the opening Armenia-Turkey borders, where detailed analysis from different angles were presented.
The three-day conference integrated separate sessions focusing on the theoretical, empirical and sustainable development opportunities. The discussions of the first session were dedicated to Peace and Tourism, Tourism and Sustainable Development, as well as Tourism Management and Corporate Responsibility. Dr. Mahmood Khan, a professor from Virginia Tech, talked about tourism and peace, stressing that governments should not intervene in the process of tourism development; indeed, people should do the job. In that way, only tourism will lead to peace facilitation process, he stated. Another interesting presentation was made by Dr. Kaye Chon, a professor from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He talked about innovative approaches to tourism and hospitality, and how they would lead to better quality and outcomes.
The second session of the conference was devoted to the Sustainable Tourism Issues and Capacity Building as a Prerequisite for Sustainable Development. During this session, several interesting comments were made by Armin Zerunyan, Country General Manager, Hilton Worldwide, Turkey, referring to the tourism development in Armenia. According to Mr. Zerunyan, high prices of flights to Armenia create a serious obstacle to the tourism development. Also, he pointed the importance of Armenian Diaspora for attracting more tourists to Armenia, bringing an example of Eastern Europe countries, which used their diaspora connections to create a well-developed tourism infrastructure. Lastly, Mr. Zerunyan marked out the importance of winter tourism for Armenia. As a supporting example, he noted that in winter, significant number of Turkish people travel to Bulgaria, where winter tourism is highly developed; indeed, by developing its own infrastructure, Armenia could be a strong competitor in that field. In addition, Dr. Muzaffer Uysal, Professor of Tourism at Virginia Tech, mentioned Italy with its free skiing and snowboarding schools having a huge positive impact on the tourism development, and suggested to implement similar projects in Armenia.
The last day of the conference summed up with a brainstorming session related to the further development of the ATA fellows project. The participants were divided into three groups: Research, Product Development, and Policy Making. In the Product Development part leading role of marketing and training for the actors providing tourism services, and investment opportunities for tourism development were emphasized, also stressing the fact that Armenia is the first Christian country (similar examples in other countries, where the religion played an important role for tourism development, were brought by Dr. Kaye Chon). More specific research in the region and cross border collaborations were proposed in the Research part, where CRRC Fellow Tigran Sukiasyan made a speech related to the project idea, which may contribute to the knowledge development and its implementation within the framework of the ATA fellows program. Database creation and analysis of the tourism trends in the Caucasus Region, cooperation with universities, NGOs, public and private institutions concluded the last Policy Making part of the brainstorming session.
The presentations will soon be posted on the ATA Fellows website.
This article originally appeared on the Caucus Research Resource Centers – Armenia Blog and is reprinted with the permission of the author.
By Michael Toumayan
FLArmenians Guest Contributor
In a landmark ruling for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights, the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law signed by then President Bill Clinton blocking federal recognition of same-sex marriages. In a separate case, the court ruled that it could not take up a challenge to Proposition 8, the California law that banned same-sex marriage in that state. That decision means that marriage equality will once again be legal in California.
This is a watershed moment in the fight for equality with the Supreme Court delivering justice to millions of Americans and to the thousands of LGBT Armenian-Americans who have been denied their rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Yet it is increasingly clear that we now have two Americas – one where our relationships are recognized and we are protected from discrimination in 13 States and the District of Columbia, and another that has yet to feel the effects of our progress and LGBT people remain second-class citizens, including in the State of Florida.
Sadly, we find many LGBT Armenian-Americans living under this same pretext for far too long – in an America that celebrates and protects who we are as Armenians and the other in our community centers and churches that marginalize and stigmatize LGBT Armenians for whom they love. No one should choose between who they are and whom they love.
I recognize that there are deeply held views on this issue and deeply fierce opposition by the Armenian Church hierarchy. But we cannot pretend to be a nation seeking restorative justice and recognition of our painful history and add the word “but” if we are truly genuine in our collective quest for justice for all.
This is a debate about equal rights under the law. It is about freedom from discrimination and stigmatization the way we were once discriminated and stigmatized as Christians in the Ottoman Empire. It is about the legal protections and responsibilities, and more than 1,100 rights, obligations and benefits afforded by the legal institution of marriage that, prior to the DOMA ruling, were denied to same-sex Armenian American couples. It is also about real people: your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and neighbors. And finally, it is about witnessing and reflecting the love and commitment between two people.
Given our 1,700 years of Christian heritage, I’d like to sum up the whole law in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Galatians 5:15.
For if truly we, as the Armenian nation, are on a quest to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice for all, then surely we must stand on the right side of history by resisting all forms of bigotry and dedicating ourselves to the advancement of social justice and human dignity of both the living and the deceased.
And if truly we belong to the body of our Lord Jesus Christ through the One, Holy, Catholic (Universal) and Apostolic Church, then surely we are commanded to love, treat with respect and defend our LGBT Armenian sisters and brothers and any other marginalized groups both in the U.S. and in our beloved Hairenik (fatherland), no matter what your Biblical conviction is on homosexuality. This we know as absolute: Christ’s ministry was inclusive and he said that if we commit hate in our hearts we have committed murder – thus, we should take discrimination, hate-talk and the bullying of any marginalized group very seriously. If our tragic history hasn’t taught us anything, then I do not know what will. To learn more specifics on how the Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 might affect you, please visit www.hrc.org/SCOTUS.
Michael Toumayan is a program assistant at the Human Rights Campaign and an independent political commentator on the Caucasus and Middle East. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, he holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution and mediation from Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.