DIAGNOSIS OF TOURISM ENHANCEMENT OF THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE ENSEMBLE OF APOSTOLIC CHURCHES OF ARMENIA
Among thousands of UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world, three groups belong to the Republic of Armenia; Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots (2000), Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin (1996, 2000), and Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley (2000). All of them are distinctive representatives of Armenian Apostolic Church. Their uniqueness lies in their historical origin (dating back to the 4th century), singular architectural style and their ability to provide spiritual support to Armenians from ancient times. Almost all of them are still used for their original (religious) purpose. Nevertheless, in some cases poor public visitation is observed. Being the first example of this kind of research in Armenia, the objective of this study is to analyse and make a diagnosis of the current condition of the sites regarding the public visitation and tourism uses, as well as to propose heritage enhancement tools to improve the physical and intellectual access to them. The methodology includes the combination of observational fieldwork, revision of scientific bibliography, as well as preparation of a complete heritage inventory of these sites. Assessments are performed both from the tourism point of view and for the intrinsic values of these monuments, following technical criteria. The results of this study attest to the tourism potential of those churches. Particularly, the Monastery of Geghard and the Cathedral of Echmiatsin are unique and of significant importance due to their accessibility, good conservation conditions and attractiveness.