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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.

(Also on Florida Armenians: American, Turkish, Armenian Universities Participate in Joint Tourism Project)

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.

University of Florida Hillel Raises Genocide Awareness

By Gillian Stoney
Alligator Contributing Writer

The opening ceremony of the “From One Witness to Another: Genocide Awareness Series” began Sunday on Bo Diddley Community Plaza at the University of Florida (UF).

The series will continue through Wednesday as UF Hillel recognizes Genocide Awareness Month.

(Also on FLArmenians: 98th Anniversary Armenian Genocide Commemorations in Florida)

Genocide is traditionally defined as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, particularly those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

Rabbi Daniel Wolnerman, of UF Hillel, lights a candle at a memorial ceremony commemorating genocide victims on Bo Diddley Community Plaza on Sunday. April is Genocide Awareness Month. Photo courtesy Tony Sadiku, Alligator

Rabbi Daniel Wolnerman, of UF Hillel, lights a candle at a memorial ceremony commemorating genocide victims on Bo Diddley Community Plaza on Sunday. April is Genocide Awareness Month. Photo courtesy Tony Sadiku, Alligator

During the opening ceremony, UF students Sarah Pila, a 22-year-old psychology senior; Kimmie Klaiman, a 20-year-old economics and family, youth and community sciences senior; and Stefani Pila, a 22-year-old history major; read testimonies of survivors from the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide and the Cambodian genocide. UF Hillel Rabbi Daniel Wolnerman spoke about being the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

The series is an effort to inform the community of the acts of hatred that have occurred in 43 countries, Sarah Pila said.

(Also on FLArmenians: American, Turkish and Armenian Universities Participate in Joint Tourism Project)

“I think it’s very special that here at the University of Florida, we’re able to not only acknowledge the Holocaust, which affected predominantly the Jewish population, but also able to incorporate that into the larger scheme of genocide awareness,” Wolnerman said.

Five candles were lit to commemorate the billions of deaths. White ribbons were handed out to represent people lost to genocide.

“It’s important because we always say, ‘Never again,’ and it’s still happening,” said Katie Gillen, a 21-year-old UF telecommunication senior.

This story originally appeared in the Alligator and is reprinted with the permission of the author.

Florida Armenians Profile: Tallahassee City Commissioner Mark Mustian

Florida Armenians Profile: Tallahassee City Commissioner Mark Mustian

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor

Mark Mustian isn’t you’re average City Commissioner, or Armenian-American. He was born in Panama City, Florida and grew up in Tallahassee, where there is no major Armenian presence. A first generation Floridian, Mustian’s Armenian roots in America date back to the early 1800’s, which he recently uncovered.

Mr. Mustian graduated from the University of Florida with his B.S. and J.D. in 1980 and 1983, respectively. A practicing attorney since 1983, Mustian today focuses on public finance, local governmental law, and land use and real estate law with the law firm Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson.

In addition, Mustian is also an author of two books and since 2003, one of five Tallahassee City Commissioners.

In 2010, Mustian published his second book “The Gendarme,” and recently concluded a book tour around the U.S, where I had a chance to meet him. He agreed to do an interview for Florida Armenians and last week, I sat down with Mr. Mustian and spoke to him over Skype.

What was life like growing up in Tallahassee?

Well it was different than most Armenian-Americans. There aren’t a lot of “Native Floridians” in Florida. It’s a lot different than what people think of Florida – this is not Miami. It’s more like southern Georgia. So I grew up in a small southern town.

My whole life people would ask if I was Armenian (smiling), and I would tell them ‘yeah.’ I always knew I was part Armenian, on my father’s side, but I never really knew what an Armenian was beyond the Armenian Genocide.

You are the author of two books. Your latest, “The Gendarme” is a story about a Turkish soldier who falls in love with a young Armenian girl during the Armenian Genocide. What inspired you to write this story?

I was hosting a party at my home sometime in 2002 and someone asked me, again, if I was Armenian. The gentleman also asked if I had ever read “Black Dog of Fate” by Peter Balakian, and I hadn’t. This led me to not only read the book, but also uncover my Armenian roots and learn about Armenian history. I only knew generally about the Armenian Genocide and when I got into reading the stories, the trek, the survivors, it really impacted me. I read everything I could find on the subject. Eventually I decided to try and write a novel about the genocide, but since the point of view of the survivors has been covered so well by the survivors themselves or their descendants, I decided to take the point of view of one of the gendarmes.

In addition to being an attorney and an author, you are also a 3-term Commissioner for the City of Tallahassee. What brought you to a life of public service?

My father was a Hospital Administrator in Tallahassee, so I grew up in a family with a history of public service. In 2002 a long standing City Commissioner passed away in office and I was in the running to be appointed to fill his seat. After much preparation, I didn’t get it. The following year, another Commissioner resigned and having already prepared, I ran in the open seat race and won.

That was around the same time you started to write about Armenians?

Yes, I started writing “The Gendarme” about the same time.

What is your favorite accomplishment, something you are proud to have achieved?

Before running for City Commissioner, I led a citizens group, the Economic and Environmental Consensus Committee (EECC). We put together a package of development projects for the city through an optional referendum on extending the sales tax. The Capital Cascades Greenway Project was approved and the projects are today being finalized.

In 2012 we will be opening Cascades Park, which, among other things, will have a cascading waterfall feature. Some people don’t know that the Florida state capitol was supposedly located in Tallahassee because of a similar geographical feature that over the years with the surrounding development became lost. With this project we cleaned up the area and restored some of the original beauty of Tallahassee. I am very happy to have worked with a dedicated group of individuals and give something back to our community.

Mark Mustian lives in Tallahassee with his wife Greta and three children, Bern, Eva and Jackie.