Pandemic support for new adventure tourism in Armenia

Pandemic support for new adventure tourism in Armenia

The high mountains and the deep gorges, all outstanding rocky beauties of Armenia can now be seen through a fascinating and breath-taking motorcycle ride. This has become possible in Armenia thanks to Neo Ride Armenia, a startup that has put the small Caucasus country on the map for motorcycling tourism.

From tour guide to tour developer

“At university, I got the chance to work as a tour guide for Italian tourists,” recalls 36-year-old Ani Muradyan, Neo Ride Armenia’s CEO and Product Manager. “I fell in love with tourism so much that I made it my career. I worked both as a tour guide and a tour manager, and in 2016 my husband Michael Papikyan and I founded our family business, Neo Tours & Travel for inbound tours in Armenia.”

Neo Tours & Travel has three main brands: Neo Armenia provides adventure and special interest tours, Neo Incentives offers incentive tours and business travel, and Neo Ride Armenia organizes motorcycle tours and rental services, as well as enduro training.

Ani’s husband Michael is in charge of Neo Ride Armenia. An active biker for 18 years he has been organizing motorcycle tours since 2017. Just as the couple saw that riding tour adventures were getting popular, COVID hit.

“We decided to apply for financial support and I'd say that it helped more than we expected!” says Ani. “In November 2021, we received a EUR 31,620 grant covering various costs from the EU4Business Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia (ITTD) Project. In addition to financial support, ITTD also offered us the opportunity to participate in Incubation and Pre-acceleration programmes.”

Neo Ride Armenia aims to engage off-road communities of Armenia’s north in motorcycle tourism to develop an additional source of revenue. They were able to buy a new type of motorcycle and GPS navigators for motorcycle tours, which is a completely new service in Armenia.

“We are also generating a lot of online content and trying to raise Armenia’s visibility as an attractive destination for motorcycle tourism,” Ani reports. “In May, we will attend an expo in the US to establish new partnerships with US tour operators and riders. One of our most important achievements was the chance to get the internationally recognized TÜV Rheinland Certificate for ISO 45001 Standards on the rental of touring motorcycles thanks to the EU and the Management Mix Consulting Company.”

TÜV certification: A seal of trust

TÜV is short for Technischer Überwachungsverein in German, which means Technical Oversight Association. Highly recognized worldwide as a trademark of trust and quality, TÜV certification ensures that a product, service or process has been tested for safety and that it complies with the requirements of national, regional, and international regulations. It assures consumers that the product has been checked thoroughly for any defects or potentially dangerous materials.

The entire process of getting TÜV certification involves multiple steps: the identification of statutory regulations, an assessment of qualified trainers, the selection of methodology and examination approach, and the development of examinations with expert examiners in their fields. It’s a long process but it is worth it for companies like Neo Ride Armenia.

When the product or solution goes through a series of rigorous tests, the examiners ascertain reliability, evaluate product characteristics including safety and quality, and check for faults and any potential health hazards. They also make sure that the latest environmental standards, such as banned chemicals and optimal energy efficiency, are met.

“Neo Ride Armenia is the only TÜV-certified tour operator in Armenia,” notes Ani. “Without the support of EU4Business, it would have taken us a lot more effort, time and money to develop this type of tourism in Armenia. The grant was definitely the best that could happen to us after the COVID crisis. We’re very glad that we applied for it.”

The EU4Business Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia (ITTD) project is ongoing in Armenia. Its overall objective is to ensure shared, balanced and inclusive growth in tourism and innovative industries. The project is working with innovative tourism ventures in the northern regions of Armenia, providing support to hi-tech and innovative entrepreneurs, organizing international knowledge exchanges for hi-tech researchers, and establishing networks to foster a business culture among students and the general public.

Under the ITTD project, more than 100 ventures have already received support, with has helped sustain or generate a total of 300 jobs, and provided training for over 800 individuals.

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