Zhirayr Martirosyan and Nadejda Sevoyan were among the first people to offer hostel accommodation in Goris in southern Armenia back in 2003, and they have been welcoming guests from all over the world ever since.
From the beginning, the hostel stood out with its comfortable amenities, delicious Armenian food prepared by the landlady using only fresh ingredients, as well as its unique artistic decoration, with contemporary paintings by owner Zhirayr.
However, without experience in hospitality management or internet marketing and promotion skills, the business was slow to grow, despite the area’s outstanding natural beauty in the mountains of southern Armenia.
So when the opportunity arose in late 2017, the guesthouse got involved in an EU-funded project, ‘Boosting Competitiveness of Regional SMEs’, jointly implemented under the EU4Business initiative by the SME Development National Centre of Armenia (SME DNC) and the Strategic Development Agency (SDA) NGO.
The project provided continuous business consultancy support to SMEs in the region, and within this framework, the SDA team set about tackling a few important issues that were hindering the growth of the business.
The consultants recommended rebranding the guesthouse from the Goris Hostel to ‘Lovely Goris’ to avoid confusion with the Goris Hotel operating in the same area. At the same time, issues with the hostel’s presence on international booking platforms like Booking.com were fixed and the guesthouse started to receive online booking requests again after several months of interruption.
At the second stage of business consultancy support, the SDA team developed two additional services taking advantage of existing opportunities for growth. Zhirayr, who is a renowned painter, started offering art tours in the city, as well as master classes for hostel guests in his art studio located in a natural cave in old Goris.
This package, developed for explorers interested in art, history and culture of the Syunik region, has marked this hostel aside from other hospitality businesses in the city and created a distinct niche for Lovely Goris.
The SDA team also undertook a series of promotional measures, such as a familiarisation trip bringing over a dozen tour agency representatives to visit tourism businesses that had benefited from the programme. As a result, only a few months into cooperating with the project, the Lovely Goris guesthouse has registered more than 40 bookings in April-May 2018, as opposed to only three in the same period of the previous year, and bookings are rising steadily.
Boosting Competitiveness of Regional SMEs is a project funded by the EU under its EU4Business initiative. The project works to boost the competitiveness of regional SMEs and to create employment opportunities in the Armenian regions of Lori, Syunik and Armavir, focusing on the sectors of food-processing and tourism. It promotes the development of entrepreneurship by creating favourable conditions for start-ups and strengthening the capacity of local SMEs, while also providing relevant skills to job seekers, and developing local capacity to encourage the further promotion of economic development initiatives.