Microsoft word - tourism legal framework assesement report sda_eng _2_.doc
Tourism is one of the most dynamically developing fields of Republic of Armenia’s (hereinafter RA) economy. A significant input in the development of these processes was the declaration of tourism as a dominant sector of RA economy by the Government of RA (hereinafter GOA).
One of the major factors for increasing the competitiveness of a tourism industry is existence of a sound legal, regulatory and business environment, reasonably balancing the interests of both tourism service providers and consumers.
This research has been conducted by Strategic Development Agency NGO based on a signed agreement with Competitive Armenian Private Sector (CAPS/USAID) project in the period of January 15, 2007 – April 15, 2007.
The goal of the research was to assess the current situation and opportunities
for developing tourism sector in Armenia through improvement and
development of RA tourism legislation to insure sustainable development of
tourism in Armenia
The goal has been achieved through:
a. legal analysis of the current laws of RA to reveal the shortcomings and
b. examination of enforcement of the current laws and regulations and their
c. comparative analysis of tourism legislation in the view of the international best
practices, WTO recommendations and regulations, EU directives, research of best practices of tourism regulation in countries with similar economic situation, applicable in RA.
d. evaluation of efficiency of the existing practice and system for dispute
resolution arising between tourists and the suppliers of tourism services.
e. examination of participation of GOA in bilateral and multilateral treaties and
charters, cooperation with international organizations in tourism sector.
f. conclusions and recommendations for addressing problems and issues
relating to the legal aspects of prohibiting tourism development in RA.
Throughout the research, a number of coordination meetings were held with CAPS representatives to discuss various aspects of the work, including a more detailed structure of the research and the final report, areas to emphasize and review the process of the assessment.
During the research a combination of various tools and methods has been used such as: primary research (including over 150 formal/standard interviews and over 25 expert/in-depth ones with industry stakeholders etc.), desk research and analysis. The received data has been then cross-checked and analyzed, based on which the final report containing corresponding recommendations was drawn.
The report consist of the following main sections, with a brief summary prior to each one, analysis and recommendations’ sub-sections following as well as a general conclusions section.
2. Access to and maintenance of tourism facilities and sites
3. Environmental regulations that could create basis for ecotourism development
4. Safety standards and practices in tourism facilities and sites
6. Security of tourists and protection of their rights
Attached are 20 Annexes referred in the report with more detailed information on field research, sources and documents used.
1. LICENSING AND CERTIFICATION SCHEMES
1.1 HOTEL CLASSIFICATION/CERTIFICATION
Proliferation of hotel industry emerged the need for establishment of a certain system, which would enable to gain some insight about the quality of services offered by different accommodation establishments. As a result, hotel classification/certification system has been historically developed either on the initiatives of states or various associations in the field. Since then, many efforts have been made to develop a uniform or model classification system.
remains diverse and special for each country (state established and controlled
in countries such as: France, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania etc.; NGO sector established and controlled
in countries like: Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland and a combination of the two
such as Estonia etc.), though with some common features. In Armenia, the hotel classification system is a voluntary one established and controlled by the state (i.e. Ministry of Trade and Economic Development).
Another important issue in classification remains the base-line approach towards the criteria for the evaluation:
, the most traditional set of requirements towards technical
standards the hotel should meet (such as: room sizes and numbers, room soundproofing, heating and air-conditioning, bathroom facilities, phone system, electrical equipment etc.)
one of the recent trends in classification of accommodation
establishments; subjective and objective evaluation of the range and quality of services offered as a result of growing interest of customers in service and not just facilities available (e.g. 24-hour room service, the number of languages spoken by the reception personnel or the general attitude and helpfulness of the personnel, certain managerial practices and the concierge's knowledge of local restaurants etc.)
¾ Mixed criteria of infrastructure and service,
combining the both criteria.
Here, the accommodation establishments in general are classified by stars mostly based on infrastructure criteria, but at the same time they can apply to receive a classification for quality of service (like in Mexico, where accommodation services are awarded one to five stars depending on hotel facilities, and one to five diamonds depending on the quality of service).
The major legal acts addressing the hotel classification system in RA are the Law on Tourism and Tourism Activities and GOA Decree of 10.06.2004 N 946 on “Adoption
of Order and Conditions of Providing Accommodation Services, Certificates of Category of Accommodation Establishments and Procedure of Certification”.
Gaps in the existing classification system/procedure in RA and
recommendations on further legal improvements:
¾ The provisions of the GOA Decree of N 946 should be further developed in order
to address issues such as: who may not act as a member of the Evaluation Committee for conducting the certification, as well as conduct the follow up inspection of the accommodation establishments,
¾ It is advisable to further specify the provisions in the Law on Tourism and GOA
Decree regarding the inspections of the accommodation services, whether the inspections are made individually or by a certain committee or group, composition of the body for exercising the inspections.
¾ GOA Decree of N 946 should limit the grounds for unjustified rejections of
certification for shortcomings providing an opportunity to set deadlines for eliminating those. Moreover, the applicant must be provided with clearly formulated reasons for non-conformity.
¾ Examination of classification standards provided by the GOA Decree 946
demonstrate that the latter are “quite complicated”, detail and “difficultly understood” by the sector. There is a need for further simplification of these standards. It is advisable to provide clear distinction between infrastructure and service standards, and further divide the standards into subcategories in order to make them easy to understand and use.
In addition, in order to make the hotel classification system popular within the
¾ the benefits, costs and other implications of certification systems should be made
¾ there should be provided technical consultancy options from the initial expression
of interest and through the application phases onward, as well as guidance to the applicant at every stage of the process,
¾ there should be a good media coverage to the awarding ceremonies.
1.2. TOURIST GUIDES AND TOUR ESCORTS
Tourist guides and tour escorts are persons in direct contact with tourists, so that the quality of their service largely determines the impression of the tourist of both; the tour and the country in general.
The guide guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of an area and possesses an area-specific qualification. Under RA Law on Tourism the basic difference between the “tourist guide” and “tour escort” is that the guide has special informational knowledge which is being provided to tourists and that constitutes the essence of guide’s service, meanwhile the tour escort is responsible only for organizational issues during the tour.
States pay special attention to qualifications possessed by a person acting as a guide or tour escort and establish special licensing procedure for pursuit of such activities. In RA there also exists a mandatory state licensing procedure for exercising tourist guide’s and tour escort’s activities. Exception form the licensing
requirement is provided only for the employees of a certain tourism object (site) (e.g Guides in the State Historic Museum, Matenadaran, etc.).
The procedure of licensing and requirements to the applicant for licensing are governed by the GOA Decree No 954 On Adoption of the Procedure of Licensing of Tourist guides And Tour Escorts of 10.06.2004 and the Order of the Minister of Trade and Economic Development N 190 on Adoption of Statute of the Committee for Qualification and Licensing of Guide and Tour Escort dated 23.11.1004.
During the research of the existing legal framework and the field the following
the major gaps have been revealed:
¾ Certain amendments should be made to the examination of professional
qualification of tourist guides (escorts) in RA, so as to combine both: formal questionnaires and oral phase enabling the evaluation of academicals knowledge and certain professional qualities necessary for the guides, such as communication techniques, guiding skills, etc.
In addition, the licensing procedure should provide opportunity for checking linguistic skills of the candidates. The latter should include Armenian language testing for foreigners that are not aliens of Armenian origin or citizens of RA (such practice exists also in Greece, Scotland, Quebec, etc.), as well as knowledge of foreign language on behalf of candidates of Armenian origin/citizenship.
¾ From the point of promotion of professionalism of tourist guides (tour escort’s) it
is advisable to provide either certain mechanism of renewal of guide’s license or providing a binding requirement of annual trainings.
¾ Special attention should be paid to promotion of contractual relations between the
tourist guide (escort) and travel undertakings, introduction of model contracts, in order to prevent the distorted practice of obliging the guides to exercise functions which do not directly derive from the profession of the tourist guide.
¾ The guides are often obliged to endanger themselves as a result of certain
unpredicted actions of tourists or emergency situation during the tour. Thus, it is advisable to pay certain attention to insurance of tourist guides, which may be provided either by the tour operator on behalf of the guide (escorts) or be set as a binding requirement for issuance a licensing to a guide (e.g. like in Austria).
¾ Organization of professional education for guides should be further actively
promoted and encouraged by the GOA (its authorized body), and be promoted with a wide involvement of professional unions of the sector. Examination of foreign experience makes clear that countries differ in their approaches to organization and duration of the training. However, basic principles of organization of such trainings include:
a) wide general knowledge
with specific reference to the history, geography, art,
architecture, economics, politics, religion ad sociology.
b) specialized linguistic knowledge
with all languages spoken fluently including
the special terminology in various fields,
c) interpersonal skills,
knowledge of communication techniques comprising the art
¾ Besides the training for preparing professional guides, an important issue is also
ensuring continuous retraining of already licensed guides, which is necessary for their professional development.
¾ Serious measures should be undertaken for capacity building of the professional
association uniting interests of majority of guides, namely: Armenian Guides’ Guild, which represent their interests, initiate changes and development in the sector, dialogue with state and non-state institutions etc. The professional association can significantly assist travel undertakings by keeping database of working guides and providing information about those (e.g. languages spoken, knowledge in special area and other qualifications), as well as receive and register the feedback about the quality of service provided by the guide.
1.3. REGULATION OF TOUR OPERATORS’ AND TOUR AGENTS’ ACTIVITIES
For marketing Armenia as a beneficial tourism destination major input have the tour operators and travel agencies. The quality of organized tour packages, especially in inbound tourism, directly influences the rating of Armenia in the world tourism industry.
Tour operators are engaged in preparing tour packages and making relevant arrangements for those (e.g. reservation in accommodation establishments, organization of sightseeing trips, distribution of tourists and arrangement of food etc), as well as disseminating tour packages. In the meantime, tour agents act like an intermediary in distribution of the results of tour operator’s activities.
Tour operators can be categorized into two major groups: inbound
(offering for sale packages that include travel services provided in Armenia,) and outbound
(offering for sale packages that include travel services provided outside of Armenia).
RA Law does not provide any kind of licensing or registration procedure for activities of both: tour operators and travel agents. International practice is also different in its approaches to this issue. Some consider existence of licensing schemes as an artificial bar for the access of newcomers to the industry and thus ineffective (e.g. Thailand, Mongolia, where licensing schemes have been discouraged). On the other hand, examination of the existing practice in many European countries and countries with Anglo-American traditions shows that they are prone to keeping a mechanism of state control over the activities of tour operators and travel agents (e.g. Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, Greece, Finland, France, Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia, Estonia, Lithuania, etc.).
Insuring the quality and reliability of tour operators’ and travel agents’ activities in Armenia and protection of consumers’ interests from possible swindle of inexperienced travel undertakings, emerge the need for a certain “soft control" over the industry, which has been raised by the sector representatives themselves.
However, such interference should, in no case, be limiting for the industry and the criteria for licensing/accreditation should not imply artificial limitations for access to the market for new travel undertakings, as well as create invincible obstacles for the ones who are already in business, thus stimulating “unfair” competition amongst the existing tour operators (agents).
In general, it should be underlined that elaboration and implementation of licensing schemes in RA should be done hand in hand with existing travel undertakings and their professional unions. Moreover, introduction of licensing procedure should be done gradually, in a non distorting way for the industry. One should bear in mind also
the fact that the costs of licensing should not be quite high, as these costs will undoubtedly pass on consumers.
The analysis of the existing legal framework and practice of the field allows underlining the following major issues, which need to be considered in order to create beneficial legal preconditions for providing travel services:
¾ To have a complex idea on operating tourism undertakings and thus to efficiently
exercise the state policy on tourism development in RA, it is advisable to
establish a State Register on Tourism Services
(relevant examples exist in
Poland, Croatia, Serbia, Lithuania, Estonia, etc.).
¾ During the field research, the field representatives particularly mentioned two
main criteria that should be prioritized while establishing licensing criteria at first:
educational or relevant work experience requirements
(e.g. the manager of
the travel undertaking must be an experienced professional having either X years
experience at managerial level, or a university or college-level education in
tourism and two years experience in tourism, etc.). In addition, the examination of
foreign experience shows that certain other requirements, such as knowledge of
at least one foreign language, absence of criminal record on behalf of the
manager of travel undertaking, existence of relevant business premises etc, are
also considered (e.g. Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia, Cyprus, Greece, etc).
¾ Examination of foreign practices makes clear that another basic condition for
licensing travel activities is an existence of financial guarantees on behalf of travel undertakings. They are used for returning to the passenger the difference between the contracted price of the journey and the price of the journey reduced in proportion to the amount of services contained in the program of the journey but not rendered, or incompletely rendered, and for the costs of the passengers' return trip in the case of the receivership or temporary insolvency of the organizer of the travel. Safety funds generally may take the form of an insurance policy, a bank guarantee, trust accounts, consumer restitution funds (administered either by government or professional unions), financial deposit etc. Another mechanism for this purpose is also establishment of a special requirement to the minimum capital of the travel undertaking. It should be mentioned that financial guarantees and safety of funds are more appropriate for outbound travel, while liability insurance considered more important for inbound operators. However, bearing in mind the absence of relevant practice in RA, it is advisable to provide alternatives to travel undertakings in choosing the form of required safety.
2. ACCESS TO AND MAINTENANCE OF TOURISM FACILITIES AND SITES
2.1 EQUAL ACCESS TO CULTURAL SITES FOR NATIONALS AND
Attractiveness of tourism sights and facilities in Armenia largely depends on two major elements:
¾ easy access for tourists ¾ condition and quality of the site, which can be guaranteed by proper
Generally, there are neither physical nor financial obstacles for tourists visiting cultural sites and monuments. Foreigners are provided the same opportunities as
local visitors, fees charged are also equal. Despite the fact that there are no
regulations on discounts on legislative level, in practice most of the cultural sites
apply discounts for different groups of visitors, such as students, pupils, disabled,
The main shortcoming with access in practice is that visitors are often not
aware of discounts and other favorable terms of service in tourism sites. It is
therefore advisable for the authorized state body to order visibility of
information on existing discounts and other relevant terms of entrance for the
tourists, visiting the site.
2.2. MAINTENANCE OF CULTURAL SITES
Another important issue is the proper maintenance of tourism sites and facilities, which is a prerequisite for attracting tourists. Maintenance is largely interconnected with the issue of ownership of the cultural monument, as it is usually carried out either by the owner or by his tenant. From the point of ownership, there are three main groups of monuments: state owned unalienable monuments, state owned alienable monuments and monuments not owned by the state. Legal acts, regulating the regime of ownership, possibility to pass the monument under lease contract and obligations of the tenant with respect to preservation and maintenance of the leased cultural monument, are the Law on Historical and Cultural Monuments of State Ownership not Subject to Alienation (11.04.2003), and the Law on Preservation and Use of Immovable Historical and Cultural Monuments and Historical Environment (11.11.1998) The lease contract contains specific provisions on preservation and maintenance of the monument. In case of alienation the new owner still has the obligation to preserve the monument and undertake actions for its due maintenance.
Accessibility of historical and cultural monuments for tourism has been considered as an important direction of GOA policy since 1999. In the Protocol of GOA meeting of 28 January 1999 the GOA emphasized the necessity to use tourism as a tool of preservation of historical and cultural monuments, by placing signs, advertising and popularizing monuments, publishing booklets and other materials, containing information to attract tourists. It should also be noted that though existing legislation provides for an opportunity to lease the monument to an organization, capable of performing all the above-mentioned measures, which would lead first, to implication of cost based approach and self-financing, and then, to profitability, few practical steps have been taken so far. Therefore, it would be recommendable to undertake the following measures:
¾ Draft model contracts and introduce terms, necessary for the leaser to develop a
maintenance strategy and plan tourism activities in the territory of the monument.
¾ In order to secure monuments the law can be amended with additional
mechanisms of control, such as preliminary approval of plans for restoration and maintenance of the monument by the authorized state body, as well as permitting modernization of monument or some parts of it only upon schemes, prepared by licensed specialists.
2.3. DISABLED ACCESS AND FACILITIES, BUILDING REGULATIONS AND
Disabled access to tourism sites and facilities in Armenia is regulated under general rules on disabled access. The main acts in the field are the Law on Social Protection of Disabled (14.04.1993), the GOA Decree on Approval of Strategy of Social
Protection of the Disabled for 2006-2015 (03.11.2005), the GOA Decree on Approval of the Procedure for guaranteeing accessibility of social, transport and engineering infrastructures for disabled people and less mobile groups of population (05.04.2006), Building norms for “Accessibility of Buildings and Other Constructions for less mobile groups of population”(10.11.2006, approved by the Minister of Urban Planning). The main trend in legislative developments is approximation of norms on accessibility for disabled with basic international and European acts, such as UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society: improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in Europe 2006-2015.
Nevertheless, practical implementation of approved norms is still insufficient.
Results of the study demonstrate that main problems with accessibility for disabled tourists in Armenia are the lack of professional education for designers, builders and other staff on accessibility for disabled, poor implementation of universal design principles, insufficient state control.
Measures, recommended in order to overcome the shortcomings in the field include but are not limited to the following:
¾ It would be reasonable to strengthen state control over observance of
accessibility norms by architects and state officials, responsible for approval of project papers, by introducing administrative responsibility.
¾ Disability component and principles of universal design should be included into
educational programs for architects and planners. Also, it would be advisable for the authorized state body to organize and promote training on universal design, which would contribute to better understanding of the main ways of guaranteeing accessibility for disabled.
¾ A database of information on accessible tourism, containing information on
accessible hotels and other accommodation services, food, trade and other services, places of interest for tourists (historical-cultural monuments, museums, concert halls, etc.) should be established.
¾ It would be advisable to provide comprehensive training for stakeholders on UN
and European standards, national legislation in the field of disabled access and examples of best practices of its implementation.
3. ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS THAT COULD CREATE BASIS FOR
ECOTOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN ARMENIA
3.1. ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PRACTICES, COMPANY POLICIES AND
There are two basic ways of promoting the use of environmentally friendly practices in Armenia: state imposed measures in form of either administrative-mandatory or economic-promotional, and voluntary initiatives, such as eco-labeling. It should be noted that mandatory measures in the field of energy, water saving, waste treatment and other eco-friendly practices cannot be considered as an effective measure and has not been recognized as such in most states.
On contrary, economic measures stimulate implementation of eco-friendly practices by private sector. In Armenia, tax and customs duty exemptions were introduced for
importing certain types of technological goods or energy carriers by legal entities or private enterprises. Promoting energy and water saving by the state can be seen in basic legal acts in the field, such as the Law on Energy Saving and Restorable Energy (09.11.2004), as well as the Law on Fundamentals of National Water Policy (03.05.2005).
Another way of promoting eco-friendly polices and providing both cost-saving and marketing benefits is the eco-certification, which is not realized because of absence of such initiatives in Armenia. In practice, there are few companies implementing eco-friendly practices and even less tourists, aware of these practices and benefiting from those. Recommendations, aiming at promotion of environmentally friendly practices, are the following:
¾ Environmentally friendly facilities, used in hotels, restaurants and other places
visited by tourists should be promoted: consumers are usually not aware of the fact that organization has chosen to follow environmentally friendly policy in certain issues, concerning service or products. Therefore, it should be advisable to place signs or notices, calling the customer’s attention.
¾ State bodies, responsible for executing state policy in the fields of energy, water,
waste should take measures to implement the principles and directions of state policy in the field of environmentally-friendly policies. Such measures could include assistance to training and information dissemination in order to enhance use of energy saving, publishing guidance and arranging training on modern environmentally friendly technologies, undertaking exhibitions of modern equipment on eco-friendly practices, etc.
¾ Voluntary eco-labeling by the NGO sector can be assisted by developing criteria
and minimum requirements for eco-labeling. In case of establishment, national eco-labeling organization could use the EU experience while developing such criteria.
¾ Promotion of eco-labeling should be assisted by the state, e.g. dissemination of
case studies, illustrating how certain producers or service providers benefited from eco-labeling has proved to be one of the best ways to make eco-labeling popular.
¾ The state should undertake legal and economic measures in order to implement
recommendations of WTO regarding sustainability certification systems in tourism.
3.2. PROTECTED AREAS LAW
(TOURISM ZONES, BREACH OF REGULATIONS, PLANNING)
Under Armenian legislation there are four types of protected areas – state reserves, state preserves, national parks and monuments of nature. Basic acts, governing peculiarities of regime, as well as scope of tourism activities and tourism infrastructure within each type, are the Law on Specially Protected Nature Areas (27.11.2006), Bylaws of state reserves, Bylaws and Management Plans of National Parks, approved by the GOA. Land issues and building restrictions in protected areas are regulated under the Land Code of RA (02.05.2001) and GOA Decree on procedure of granting the land to lease in the territory of national park (08.05.2003). It must be stated, that recent legislative developments have created a basis for tourism development in protected areas. Legal regulations in the field are in consistence with internationally recognized standards in the field. There are detailed
regulations on zoning, issues of granting land to lease and building up. Observance of legal regulations and restrictions is supported by responsibility provisions, which are specifically designed in order to correspond with peculiarities and needs of protected areas.
With some exceptions, legislative basis for tourism development in protected areas is sufficient. However, most of the infrastructure is still in a poor condition. There is also no pricing policy in existence. First and most important task is formation of necessary infrastructure in the territory of protected area, setting management priorities, promotion and dissemination of information for tourists. Some progress has been made in respect to tourist centers, which provide tourists with information on protected area, including security, liability information and information on sites and places of interest.
A number of recommendations for promoting tourism activities in protected areas include but are not limited to the following:
¾ Elaborate pricing policy and introduce fees and other revenue generating
mechanisms. Absence of flexible fee system lowers the potential benefit from tourism in protected areas. Moreover, fees serve as an important funding for the protected area and contribute to its maintenance.
¾ Provide legal regulations for entrance on the territory of state reserve in order to
guarantee equal principle of granting access.
¾ Approve necessary acts (bylaws, management plans) for state preserves and
¾ Organize regular building up of national parks in compliance with General
Scheme of the park, ordered by the administration and providing for unified general planning of the park
¾ Allocate funds from recovery of damages so that the needs of preservation and
development of the protected area are met
¾ Develop comprehensive strategy of ecotourism development in protected areas ¾ Develop and implement a system of impact evaluation mechanisms ¾ Grant certain privileges (tax exemptions, etc) to B&Bs operating in or near
protected areas. This would also help improve the situation with rural tourism.
4. SAFETY STANDARDS AND PRACTICES IN TOURISM FACILITIES AND
4.1. FIRE SAFETY
Developed tourism industry assumes also ensuring safe environment during tourists’ stay in the country. One of the constituents of safety of tourists relates to the fire safety issues. Fire safety issues in RA are regulated by “Fire safety law” of RA and “Fire safety rules”. RA fire safety rules provide binding regulations for fire safety issues in general and do not specifically address fire safety issues in accommodation establishments and other tourism services.
In the meantime the European Council Recommendation of 22 December 1986 On Fire Safety In Existing Hotels
is especially aimed at regulation of fire safety issues in hotels. Thus, the Recommendation is a valuable source for elaboration and further development of fire safety regulations for hotels in RA.
Analysis of RA fire safety legislation from the point of the needs of tourism
industry revealed the following gaps and recommendations:
¾ It is advisable to include fire safety requirements also in classification standards
for accommodation establishments (e.g. like in Lebanon, Estonia, Germany, etc.).
¾ Joint measures should be undertaken for regular and efficient training of the
personnel of accommodation establishments on fire safety rules.
¾ Relevant legislation of RA should include not only the definition of fire
extinguisher but also provide basic rules of using that. Moreover, it is advisable to state that the instructions should be at least in Armenian and English.
¾ In all accommodation buildings there should be information about fire safety in
visible places. People should be able to easily read not only where from to escape and leave the building during the fire but also provided with all necessary information on other steps to do in case of fire emergency.
¾ Current technical developments allow thinking also about new technologies such
as sensors in order to prevent fires more effectively, technologies which will make possible the detection of smoke and fire behind the door.
¾ It is advisable to consider the regulation on fire safety issues provided in the
European Council Recommendation referring to the safety instruction for coverings and decorations, electric lighting, heating, ventilation systems, fire-fighting, alarm and alerting equipment, as well as prohibitions to make any obstacles on the evacuation routes, sufficient number of staircases, etc.
4.2. FOOD AND SANITARY STANDARDS
Armenia has made significant legislative developments in the field of food and sanitary safety. There are sanitary norms on almost every aspect of sanitary and food safety in public food organizations. Additionally, numerous legal acts of the GOA and the Ministry of Health regulate issues of packaging, labeling and information, which must be provided to the consumer. At the same time, analysis of recent regulations on sanitary and especially food safety demonstrates that legal solutions are fully based on experience and approaches of EU countries and other industrialized states. The problems are therefore of non-regulatory nature and lie within the level of implementation of legislative provisions into life. This is particularly important for legal regulations that are relatively new and unusual for Armenian practice, such as introduction of HACCP standards in the field of food safety, for instance. Major problems, revealed during the field research concern the complexity of legal regulations, lack of training on proper fulfillment of requirements and lack of assistance from the state.
In order to overcome the deficiencies, the following recommendations could be useful:
¾ It would be advisable if the state bodies responsible for policy making and control
in the field of sanitary and food safety regulations cooperate with the stakeholders in order to achieve better conditions for implementation. This cooperation should cover not only implementation of HACCP, but also other aspects of sanitary and food safety legislation.
¾ It is recommended that state bodies responsible for policy making in the field of
standards in cooperation with NGOs operating in field of public food services, take measures to promote voluntary conformity assessment of public food
providers. The obligatory assessment proves the conformity with GOA requirements, which are not always known by visitors. Voluntary HACCP, as well as ISO certification could be useful. Existence of internationally recognized certificate is one of the factors (though not the key one, according to experts) contributing to increase of popularity of public food organization.
¾ It would be preferable to provide more details on regulations, concerning
traceability of food. Taking into consideration lack of practice on traceability in Armenia and relatively new legal regulations, regulations on minimal data for tracing should be provided in GOA acts, based on the Law on Food Safety.
5. TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE
Development of tourism in RA is much dependent also on the developed transport infrastructure, in order to make the access to various tourism sights possible.
RA legislation relating to transport includes in particular the Law on “Automobile transport” of 05.12.2006, Law on ”Road Traffic Security” of 08.07.2005, Law on “Automobile Roads” of 05.12.2006, GOA Decree of 23.05.2002 N 924 “On Adoption of the Rules of Road Traffic” and others.
Safety of transportation, compliance to traffic rules and road ethics are of concern for tourists. Hereby such issues as seat belt regulations, road ethics, street lightening, road signs and signals are underlined.
RA Law on ”Traffic Security” prohibits transport passengers without safety belts being fastened. By recent amendments in the RA Code of Administrative Offenses the responsibility for driving of transportation means without fastening the security seatbelts has been restricted to the amount of fine of 5000 Armenian drams. However, in order to implant seat belt fastening culture in Armenia it is necessary to influence the public mentality, as well us to ensure the unavoidability of responsibility.
Another issue, much spoken about all over the world nowadays, concerns the road ethics. Yet very few countries have separate regulations on road ethics, because road ethics rules are generally included in common driving regulations. The basic document establishing more or less precise set of rules on road ethics in RA is the GOA Decree N 924, which provides the rights and obligations for drivers and pedestrians, establishes rules of traffic for both drivers and pedestrians. For dissemination of road ethics serious measures have been recent amendments in the Code on Administrative Offenses, which provide more restricted rules for exploitation of vehicles and enhanced fines for breaking these rules. In terms of improving the road ethics is important to design special courses for teaching future drivers road ethic rules in details.
Development of transport infrastructure in RA is much dependent also on existence of dually furnished bus stops, elaborated bus schedules, existence of relevant roads design, etc. To address these issues in 2006 GOA adopted the Program on enhancing the capacity of roads, reduction fussiness of traffic areas, regulation of public transport stops.
Transportation of tourists to sights by tour buses has its peculiarities and needs special regulation deriving from the needs of comfort and safety of tourists. RA legislation relating to automobile transport does not provide any specific regulations for tour buses. One of the most important issues while transporting passengers by tour bus is existence of relevant facilities and accommodations inside the bus (air
conditioning, WC rooms, etc.). The tour bus drivers need also a special professional training in reacting in emergency situations, communication technique, etc. European Council Regulation No 516/72 on the introduction of common rules for shuttle services by coach and bus provides that authorized transportation of passengers by tour buses in EU, should specify the route of the service, giving in particular place of departure, place of destination, stopping points, the length in kilometers of the route, the number and dates of the journeys, schedules, etc. In addition existence of a certain document containing relevant information for identification of passengers using a shuttle service and other details of the journey is required.
Promotion of taxi service, car rental regulation, as well as developed airline transport infrastructure is other major issues which may have significant impact for making Armenia an attractive tourism location.
Under RA Law on “Automobile transport” the vehicle for providing taxi service, should be furnished with a) taximeter, b) special signs which show the taxi’s occupied condition, c) have information about driver and the organization providing the taxi service, d) all taxi-cabs a chessboard pattern in order to make their identification for passengers possible.
Development of taxi service market created the need of elaborating a separate procedure and special requirements for licensing of taxi services, which has been introduced by the Draft GOA Decree. The latter in addition provides that the date of production of cars should not be than 10 years, the cab be equipped with a light indicating that the taxi-cab is free, as well as a yellow “TAXI” sign etc. However, further development of taxi service regulation assumes certain measures in particular including:
¾ Encouragement and dissemination of information on taxi services that can
provide taxi-drivers with the knowledge of foreign language.
¾ Promotion of certain mechanism for reporting complaints by the passengers. ¾ As a further going policy the following can also be noted:
Fixing special areas for taxi pick up/drop off points, 24-hour hotline and/or other measures for lost property reporting,
¾ Increasing number of taxi services in RA, creates mature ground for creation
of a professional association which will participate in the further promotion of sector development and self-regulation in RA.
The tourism relations are important to overview also from the viewpoint of air
Nowadays, air relations in RA are mainly regulated under the Law on
Aviation. Armenia is also a member to the Convention for the Unification of Certain
Rules to International Carriage by Air signed in Warsaw on 12 October 1929, as well
as by convention on International Civil Aviation, done at Chicago on 7 December
1944. GOA has outlined the crucial role of open skies policy and promotion of
entrance of foreign airlines into Armenian market as far back as 2000. Monopoly in
the field of civil aviation, which resulted in high costs and low quality of service, as
well as lack of cooperation with foreign airlines, was considered to be one of the
main reasons of low quality of tourism product in Armenia. Thus, Armenia has signed
air transport agreements with a number of countries (e.g. Estonia, Netherlands,
Romania, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Austria, Italy, Germany, Lebanon,
China, Iran, Egypt, Syria, etc).
Examination of the mentioned issues is accompanied with useful examples of transport regulation in other countries, as well as analysis of EU regulations and other international documents.
6. SECURITY OF TOURISTS AND PROTECTION OF THEIR RIGHTS
Supporting attractive tourism environment in the country is much dependent also on the existence of effective mechanisms for tourists’ right protection, ensuring their safety and security.
WTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism declares that public authorities must provide protection for tourists and visitors and their belongings, as well as should facilitate introduction of specific means of information, prevention, security, insurance and assistance consistent with the needs of especially foreign tourists. The relations between the consumers and providers of tourist services in RA are addressed both by the Law on Tourism and the Law “On Consumer protection”.
One of the important guarantees for protection of tourists’ rights is existence of proper contractual relations between travelers and organizers of travel services, providing details of the offered tour package and regulating the issues of responsibility for the beach of tour contract. Another significant issue for civilized tourism service is that the tourist should be provided with precise information about the details of the tour, the country visited and other adequate information necessary for the tour. The latter, on the other hand, assumes regulation of the responsibility of travel service provides for delivering misleading information to travelers.
Continuous and steady growth of international tourism leads to far more divergences between people from different cultural systems, with difference in speech and customs. This implies a strong need for simple and widely understood tools for communication, like signs and symbols relevant to safety, security and comfort of tourists.
Issues of safety of tourists at accommodation establishments and tourism sights, assistance in various emergency situations, organization of first aid and emergency, or rescue services, as well as their life, health and property insurance are also of significant concern.
Upon the examination of the existing legal framework and practice of regulation of the mentioned issues, the following major issues that needing special attention have been in particular underlined:
¾ For better protection of the rights of tourists, as well as promotion of use
legally correct tour contracts it will be helpful to elaborate Model tour contract form and introduce it to the industry.
¾ The RA Law on Tourism should provide separate provision addressing the
nature of tour brochures and the binding character of the information contained there.
¾ A useful mean for supplying information on the country visited, tourists’ rights
and security is also establishment of tourist information centers.
¾ It is advisable to provide specific regulations for the cases of breach, non-
fulfillment or cancellation of the tour contract/travel package by the tour organizers in the RA Law on Tourism bearing in mind the specificity of the travel services.
¾ It is advisable to address also the issues of sharing the responsibility between
organizers of travel services and providers of certain service for the package (e.g. transport, accommodation).
¾ Bearing in mind the peculiarities of tourism disputes including the little time for
tourists to apply to a state courts, lack of knowledge of foreign legislation and procedures create the necessity of developing certain simplified and quick procedures for out of court settlement of tourism disputes, as well as setting time limits for raising issues on breaches and shortcomings during the provision of tourism services. As a further going policy, establishment of certain Board for Protection of Tourist Rights, accepting the tourist’s claims, can be considered.
¾ In order to insure the security of tourists as sights GOA should develop a
time-schedule for placement and replacement of signs in tourism sites and facilities.
¾ From the point of promotion of investment in the tourism sector it is advisable
to draft a new law on Investments, which would be based on the principle of equal opportunities for local and foreign investors. In addition it is advisable to foster establishment of trade delegates’ offices in the states, which would be eager to invest in tourism in Armenia.
¾ Certain measures should be undertaken also to improve the existing
regulation for export cultural values and souvenirs, in particular reviewing the criteria for requiring a certificate or license for export, insuring the availability of information on export for the tourists in advance.
Tourism is one of the most dynamically developing fields of Republic of Armenia’s (hereinafter RA) economy. A significant input in the development of these processes was the declaration of tourism as a dominant sector of RA economy by the Government of RA.
One of the major factors for increasing the competitiveness of a tourism industry is existence of sound legal, regulatory and business environment, reasonably balancing the interests of both tourism service providers and consumers.
In this respect the concept of Armenian tourism development adopted by the Government in 2000 underlined the need for a legislative basis which will promote fair competition in tourism sector, will provide basic requirements to the quality of service through classification of the hotels and setting other standards, creating effective consumer rights protection mechanisms.
In recent years wide legislative actions have been taken to address the needs of tourism sector in RA. In the meantime, currently of topical importance remain certain issues, which concern the development of certification schemes for accommodation establishments, ensuring the reliability of the activities of organizers of travel services, promotion of professionalism of tour guides, regulation of access to various tourism sights, development of transport infrastructure, ensuring relevant level of sanitary and food safety, as well as protection of tourist rights and ensuring their security.
The Research is the first in-depth study of this type, which provides a legal analysis of RA tourism-related legislation, addresses perceived shortcomings and imperfections, based on the examination of the enforcement practice of the current legislation and its impact on business. It also provides a comparative analysis of RA tourism legislation in the view of the international best practice, World Tourism Organization (WTO) recommendations and regulations, EU directives, as well as best practices for tourism regulation in a number of countries.
The Research is of interest to the Government and its authorized agencies in tourism sector, providers of tourism services and consumers, and should serve the industry in improving policy and business environment.
The goal of the research was to assess the current situation and opportunities
for developing tourism sector in Armenia through improvement and
development of RA tourism legislation to insure sustainable development of
tourism in Armenia
To reach the research goal and test the hypothesis the following objectives were set:
a) To provide a legal analysis of the current laws of RA to reveal the
shortcomings and imperfections of tourism regulation, much of which have particularly showed up in practice, as well as to present the cases of incompliance with the adopted international practice of tourism regulation.
b) To examine the enforcement of the current laws and regulations and their
c) To carry out comparative analysis of tourism legislation in the view of the
international best practices, WTO recommendations and regulations, EU
directives, to research and learn best practices of tourism regulation in countries with similar economic situation, those are could be applied in RA.
d) To evaluate the efficiency of the existing practice and system for dispute
resolution arising between tourists and the suppliers of tourism services, and to make proposals on further improvement of this system, as well as introduction of more efficient ways generally applicable to the nature of this kinds of disputes.
e) To examine and promote the participation of GOA in bilateral and multilateral
treaties and charters, cooperation with international organizations in tourism sector.
f) To provide recommendations for addressing problems and issues relating to
the legal aspects of prohibiting tourism development in RA.
Throughout the research, a number of coordination meetings were held with CAPS representatives to discuss various aspects of the work, including a more detailed structure of the research and the final report, areas to emphasize and review the process of the assessment.
During the research a combination of various tools and methods has been used such
as: primary research (including field research etc.), desk research and analysis.
Thus, a huge volume of available internet and other electronic and hardcopy
resources have been assessed (e.g. to examine international practice, RA
legislation, various researches and surveys conducted by other organizations, case
studies etc.), over 150 formal interviews (through questionnaires designed and
tested by the research team) were conducted with a sample of industry stakeholders
such as: hotels, tour guides, travel undertakings, museums, food services etc. and
more than 25 expert/in-depth interviews with industry representatives such as state
officials, hotels, tour guides, travel undertakings, professional unions/NGO sector,
food services etc. The received data has been then cross-checked and analyzed,
based on which the final report containing corresponding recommendations was
Countries Identified for Benchmarking
Examination of background of legal and economic development of post soviet countries reveals many common problems that these countries had to overcome after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The post soviet development of each of these countries in some ways differed from each other under the influence of various factors as social mentality, economic and political preconditions, geographical location, etc. However, the experience of many of them in regulation of tourism industry is a valuable source of information for further development of beneficial legal framework in Armenia.
Thus, for the research as benchmarking countries have been chosen Lithuania,
Estonia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic,
which have relatively high ranking in tourism
and with some of which RA has also signed bilateral treaties in joint
improvement of tourism relations.2
1 Under the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness index Lithuania scores 4.34, Estonia-4.90, Bulgaria 4.31,
Czech Republic 4.75
among the countries with Switzerland having the highest score of 5.66. (See World
Economic Forum, Competitiveness Index, available at http://www.weforum.org). It is noteworthy that Armenia
ranks the 74th among 124 countries within the Tourism Competitiveness Index. It is 3rd among NIS countries
with only Georgia and Russia ahead. However, it should also be mentioned that, another factor influencing the
choice of these countries, was that they have information available in English and Russian.
2 Governments of RA and Bulgaria have signed an Agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism in
December 1, 1999. Governments of RA and Estonia have signed Agreements on International Automobile
Being post soviet countries and not having a significant experience in building tourism sector regulation in accordance with international standards, most of these countries are nevertheless members or aspiring members of the European community. This means that their legislation is more or less in conformity with European law, and on the other hand their problems in the tourism sector as more or less similar to the one’s Armenia faces.
At the same time during the research references are made to the experience of a
number of countries with developed tourism industries, including Germany, Austria,
Switzerland, Finland, Canada, France, United Kingdom
, etc,3 and provide
interesting examples for further development of a tourism-friendly legal framework in
Transportation of October 29, 2004 and on Air Transportation of September 19, 2001. Similar Agreements have been signed also between Governments of RA and Czech Republic in respectively in 13.06.2002 and 20.04.2004. 3 From the point of tourism competitiveness Switzerland has the highest score of 5.66, Austria-5.54, Germany scores 5.48, Canada- 5.31, United Kingdom-5.28, France-5.23, Finland-5.16, (Available at http://www.weforum.org).
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