Vazgen Galstyan’s bold ideas outsize the town he hails from. Originally from Jermuk, a mountain spa town of 5,500 in southern Armenia, Galstyan moved to Yerevan to study and ended up settling there. Exposed to the buzz of the capital, though, he often wondered what prevented towns like his to have some of the simple, yet creative initiatives that Yerevan boasts.
“What prevents people, for example, from riding bicycles, why are all the start-ups located in the capital?” maintains the 29-year-old who then gave up life in the capital and moved to Jermuk.
Once back, Galstyan set up an NGO, the “Jermuk Development Center,” with the aim of bringing the region back into the limelight and develop its economy, tapping into its tourism potential. Since 2012, initiatives have taken off both in Jermuk and its neighboring villages of Gomk and Artavan, with 250 and 400 residents respectively. A rock climbing club was set up and from winter 2017, Armenia’s only ice-climbing school will start operating, while bed-and-breakfasts have mushroomed in the region, offering tourists a much-needed service and locals crucial extra income on top of their mainly agricultural activities. Events like the Eco-Tourism Festival in Artavan and the Snowman Winter Festival in Jermuk, a regular event since 2012, have contributed to put the region into the spotlight.