More than 7,000 people have visited the Medieval Monastery of Tatev in Southern Armenia since the October inauguration of a 5.7-kilometer-long aerial tramway that transports visitors from the village of Halidzor across the Vorotan gorge to the village of Tatev, within walking distance of the monastery.
The cable car line, dubbed “The Wings of Tatev,” is the world’s longest reversible aerial tramway, allowing tourists and visitors to bypass a grueling 90-minute drive on a dilapidated road in and out of the rocky Vorotan River Gorge.
The tramway’s director, Tigran Ghazaryan, spoke to reporters Tuesday about the Monastery’s recent influx of tourists, underscoring that in 40 days, from October 23 to December 1, the tramway has carried 7,000 people to Tatev. 30% of those visitors, he noted, have been tourists.
Since it began operation on October 16, the Monastery has experienced a boom in tourism, with the number of visitors to the area doubling compared to the same months in 2009, according to Syuzanna Azoyan, the Director of Programs at the Armenian Tourism Development Agency, who was with Ghazaryan.
“I would like to stress that we expect a sharp growth in the number of visits in 2011, as the world’s longest reversible passenger aerial tramway is a separate source for tourism,” she told reporters. “Tourists arrive in Armenia only to see the reversible passenger aerial tramway, which is unique by its length.”
The ropeway has also created 30 new jobs in the area, including 29 for residents of neighboring villages, Azoyan said, adding that the average salary of employees working on the tramway is 100,000 AMD a month (roughly $360).
The reversible cable car line was constructed by the Swedish-Austrian Garaventa Doppelmaye Group. It cost 18 million dollars to construct, with much of the funding coming from private donations, according to the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, which oversaw the project through its Tatev Revival Project.
The cable car travels at a speed of 37 kilometers per hour (23 miles per hour) and a one-way journey takes 11 minutes. At its highest point over the gorge, the car travels 320 meters (1,056 feet) above ground level.
It has two cabins, each capable of carrying up to 25 passengers. Local residents will be able to ride the cable car for free while others will have to pay 3,000 Armenian drams (eight dollars/six euros.)
A two-way ticket on the tramway costs 3,000 AMD ($8.30), while a one-way ride costs 2000 AMD ($5.50). Residents of the villages surrounding Tatev can enjoy the tramway once a day for free.
The cable car is part of a 50-million-dollar (36-million-euro) public-private effort to develop tourism at Tatev and in the overall region of Syunik, one of the traditional 15 provinces of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia.
The Tatev Revival Project will leverage the monastic and touristic significance of the complex to develop the region into an attractive destination nestled in a prospering local community.
The project consists of several components: conserving the monastery, reviving its monastic and scholarly traditions, and developing tourism in the adjacent river gorge and six local communities. A hotel chain will be developed in the area to accommodate tourists visiting the region.