SCO looks for the opportunity to enhance the viability and competitiveness of sustainable mountain tourism development in the South Caucasus countries.
All three South Caucasus countries – Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan – are mountainous countries, with mountains comprising 54%, 86%, and 60% of the countries’ overall territories respectively. As usual, more accessible urbanized areas are often located on flat open plains and result in more diverse economic activities, higher added value per capita, and more diversified and developed economies and infrastructures than sparsely inhabited population centers in mountainous areas.
Populations living in the mountains face challenges such as poor infrastructure, hard living conditions, limited economic resources for households, and a lack of food security. Thus, the development of tourism and its supporting infrastructure is particularly important for such communities as they bring much-needed income to remote areas.
The objective of this study was to identify the main constraints of tourism development in mountainous areas both on the demand (market access) and supply sides (e.g., underdeveloped and/or undiversified SMEs). The study summarized the current state and donor-funded interventions in support of mountain tourism development in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in order to determine possible value-added activities by the Swiss cooperation. The study also looked through the regional approaches linking up communities in Georgia and Armenia (to a lesser extent Azerbaijan) as regards the development of mountainous tourism in the region. Furthermore, the study assessed the potential contribution of tourism to generating income and reducing poverty, especially for women and youth.
Based on the findings, the study provided suggestions and recommendations for defining the scope of the anticipated interventions for SCO.