The World Bank has disbursed a new $55 million loan to Armenia that will be mainly used for improving the country’s tourism infrastructure and preserving its medieval architectural heritage.
According to a statement released on Wednesday, the bank said the Armenian government will contribute $13 million of its own funds to the same project designed to benefit communities that are home to some of the most famous Armenian tourist attractions.
“As demonstrated around the world, with careful strategic planning and relatively modest public investments, tourism activities can be nurtured into a critical source of economic and employment growth at the local level,” Laura Bailey, the head of the bank’s Yerevan office, was quoted as saying.
Much of the low-interest loan repayable in 25 years will be spent on upgrades in and around a dozen medieval monasteries and other historical sites in five Armenian provinces. Among them are the Garni pagan temple built in the 1st century AD and the Geghard, Sanahin and Haghpat monasteries recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The World Bank will also finance the rehabilitation of the old towns of Goris and Meghri and three heritage villages also located in the southeastern Syunik province. “This includes restoration of public infrastructure, building facades and roofs, public spaces, museums, access roads, water and sanitation, drainage and street lighting,” explained the statement.
One of those villages is adjacent to the historic Datev monastery founded in the 9th century. The monastery overlooking a deep canyon has seen a sharp rise in Armenian and foreign visitors since the construction in 2010 of a 5.7-kilometer-long cable car leading to it. Most of an estimated $50 million spent on the facility, the longest of its kind in the world, was provided by Rupen Vartanian, a Russian-Armenian philanthropist.