Wilhelm Hugo: Becoming stronger together - Mediamax.am

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Wilhelm Hugo: Becoming stronger together

Wilhelm Hugo
Wilhelm Hugo

Photo: ITTD


GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, started to implement projects in Armenia in the early 1990s. It expanded the projects in 1996 and opened its first office in Yerevan in 2002 on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

 

EU4Business “Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia (ITTD)” is a joint project co-financed by the European Union and implemented by GIZ, with a duration until March 2023 and a total budget of 15 million Euros. The main aim of the project is to support private sector development in Armenia.

 

Over the past year, the project provided coronavirus recovery grants to 45 companies. In this period more than 350 jobs were sustained, 50 jobs were created, and 13 startups were established in the technology sector. 50 innovative tourism ventures are now in the contracting process.

 

We talked to Wilhelm Hugo, the team leader of the EU4Business “Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia (ITTD)” project.

 

Wilhelm Hugo, who has been living in Armenia for more than 5 years now, has led the EU4B “ITTD” project since June 2020. The project scales up the previous experience of GIZ’s PSD TVET project (Private Sector Development and Technical Vocational Education and Training in South Caucasus) in the fields of local economic development and private sector support as well as technological and educational projects.

 

“Armenia has a great potential to develop innovative tourism and make remarkable achievements in the field of technology. We are here to support the entrepreneurship landscape of both industries, to create the linkage between them, and level-up the economy in its recovery path.”

 

Achieving sustainable results

 

“When we started to conceptualise this project some years ago, we realised that the technology and tourism sectors have high potential and play a big role in Armenia’s economic growth. They are also a political priority for the government.

One part of our project, “Technology Development for Armenia”, is focused on the transformative creation and development of SMEs to enable the diversification of economic growth. It supports the entrepreneurship ecosystem and technology ventures through direct grant schemes as well as through innovation partnerships between science, education and businesses. We believe that it will add to the innovation of the economy and contribute to the creation of a favourable environment for businesses”, Wilhelm Hugo says.

 

“Our tourism component has just summed up the results of a grant scheme with the overall budget of EUR 1.5 million. Now 50 innovative tourism ventures are in the contracting process. Each of them has a product or service to offer, which will enrich Armenia’s touristic market, making it more innovative and sustainable.”

 

Back on recovery track

 

“Armenia has a lot to offer its visitors. This is already known and over the past years until the beginning of 2020, Armenia was attracting a steadily growing number of international visitors, especially from Europe. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit the country hard and highly affected Armenia’s economy, especially the tourism sector. Now we need a quick recovery, we need to move forward, adapt to the new reality as best as possible, become flexible and agile, and look for new opportunities and markets. Steps are already being taken in that direction”, notes Mr. Hugo.

Photo: ITTD

In cooperation on the institutional level with the Ministry of Economy, ITTD organised and implemented a series of events to raise the awareness of Armenia on the international market. Very recently, the state Tourism Committee, with the support of ITTD, hosted the “fvw DRV Destination Forum Armenien” event. About 70 participants representing tour operators, travel agents, airlines, and media companies from Germany came to Armenia. The event aimed at raising awareness about Armenia as an attractive tourism destination in Germany, as well as creating a platform for discussion with local tourism industry and governmental institutions on improving Armenia’s representation on the German market. The event was a real success, and Mr. Hugo is hopeful that the impact of the event will be visible soon.

 

“Every crisis brings new big opportunities. When we started this project, we couldn’t imagine that the combination of tourism and technology would be so relevant. But as you can see now, technologies have penetrated the tourism sector in such a way that they have become an integral part of it. So – with reference to our project name – innovative tourism and technology development are crucial. For this reason, we are working towards supporting transformative and innovative tourism ventures and high-tech and innovative entrepreneurs.”

 

Through networking with the Business Angel Network in Armenia (BANA) and SAP, ITTD established the SAP Startup Factory, which has already announced the selection of 10 B2B teams from 51 applications. The teams are now a part of a 16-week acceleration programme and have an outstanding opportunity to integrate with SAP. SAP Startup Factory gives architectural advice for integrating with SAP products and provides knowledge support from the SAP Learning Hub.

Wilhelm Hugo Wilhelm Hugo

Photo: ITTD

“ITTD brings in international investors, attracting them by raising the quality of the ecosystem for technology development and for tourism. This is the approach that we are following”, Mr. Hugo says.

 

Domestic tourism can grow

 

“I am sure that the tourism potential of Armenia has not yet been fully discovered. As I said, Coronavirus is a challenge but also an opportunity. In this regard I am very happy that during the last year we had a significant increase in domestic tourism. This is very important. Together with my family I am also travelling a lot through Armenia, and I am delighted to see new tourism ventures in different villages and new services. Our project supported many innovative tourism ventures, which now provide a much higher quality service. It is also important to provide the necessary security measures for the Coronavirus”.

 

“Armenia is an ideal place for adventurous tourism as it has fantastic mountains. Right now we are working on an adventure tourism project. A German certification agency will test and support adventurous touristic items, so if the international tourists come, they will see, this is certified. The tourists should know and be sure that this is a safe place – and that they can sit, camp and climb here”, says Mr. Hugo.

 

What is the future?

 

Now ITTD is elaborating new innovative ways for tourism development together with Creative Armenia Foundation and the Tourism Innovation Academy. By boosting the business aspect of arts and the creative industry, we can foster tourism development. The creative industry brings art fairs, exhibitions, various festivals and other mass events to the country which brings new tourists and attracts new markets.

Wilhelm Hugo Wilhelm Hugo

Photo: ITTD

ITTD also supports the State Tourism Committee in the development of Armenia’s new official website as a tourism destination and in the development of Armenia’s branding. There are cooperation projects with the Tourism and Urban Foundation (TUF) of Armenia for Gyumri and COAF in Lori.   

 

“Armenia has a great potential in gastro and wine tourism which is very popular in the world. What is the most important thing about wine tourism? The quality of the wine. If you have a high-quality product, then you can sell it and more and more tourists will come to Armenia. Another important aspect of tourism is, of course, service. In this regard we are one of few who adopted a holistic approach and see the industry as a whole. We focus on both on quality and service, ensuring that the tourist coming from abroad will find not only the best-quality wine but also superb service”, mentions Mr. Hugo.

 

Wilhelm Hugo thinks that the crisis is the right time to explore the future. “Through the educational platform Tourism Innovation Academy (TIA) we support all enthusiastic entrepreneurs in the tourism sector so that they can level-up their ventures and implement innovative ideas. “Innovative Tourism for Armenia” is focused on the development of enhanced tourism offerings, especially in the northern regions, which leads to good jobs and sustainable businesses”.

 

Lusin Mkrtchian talked to Wilhelm Hugo

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