ArmInfo. ArmInfo. The most extensive area of pavilions at the ARMENIA EXPO 2016 universal trade and industry exhibition that opened in Armenia last Friday was provided to the representatives of the Czech Republic. The Czech resorts and travel destinations familiarized the visitors with excellent promotional products about the advantages of recreation and treatment in Czech health resorts, as well as historical and architectural sightseeing attractions in the country’s regions. “We did not expect so many Czech companies would express an intention to present themselves at the exhibition. This is why we had to extend our participation in ARMENIA EXPO, occupying the largest exhibit area as a matter of fact,” said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Czech Republic to Armenia, H.E. Mr. Petr Mikyska, who kindly agreed to speak to ArmInfo’s correspondent on the Armenian-Czech economic ties.
Mr. Ambassador, the Czech exhibits cover mostly the field of tourism and recreation. How could you explain this interest of the Czech tourism sector in small Armenia?
It’s no wonder they are interested. A lot of tourists from Armenia visit the Czech Republic. Besides Prague, the sights of which are known worldwide and which is visited by a lot of tourists including from Armenia, the citizens of your country very often visit such resorts as Karlovy Vary. Besides, there are a lot of very interesting tourism regions and health resorts in the Czech Republic, where one can spend a wonderful vacation and improve health. In order to expand geography of Armenian tourists’ visits, our tour companies and representatives of resort centers expressed interest in wider participation in the exhibition. In fact, according to data of our embassy’s visa department, more than 5 thousand tourists from Armenia visit the Czech Republic annually. Many of them visit the country for treatment combined with active recreation.
And what about the Czech tourists traveling to Armenia?
Of course, Czech people know about Armenia but few of them know that Armenia is a very attractive tourism destination. We lack knowledge about beauty spots, a great number of ancient historical and cultural monuments in your country. Due to sports, particularly football, the Czech people have learned more about Armenia in recent years. There is a comparatively large Armenian Diaspora in the Czech Republic and due to its activities the Czech people learn more about Armenia. Essentially, the Czech people know little about Armenia as a country with tourist attractions. Relevant agencies in Armenia, including Armenia’s Embassy to the Czech Republic, should work on creating the image. A lot of work is being done now, but there is still much to be done.
Czech Airlines has greatly contributed to the development of the Armenian-Czech economic relations. It was one of the first European companies to enter Armenia. The company not only launched direct flights between the two countries, but also allowed the Armenian passengers to use the Prague Airport as a transit hub to dozens of destinations in Europe and even U.S. Why did Czech Airlines leave Armenia? Recently the company’s leadership has arrived in Armenia for talks, but the flights have not been resumed.
Since Czech Airlines left Armenia in 2014, we have been doing everything possible to return it. We are working much on this. Although representatives of Czech Airlines arrived in Armenia this year and even met with the prime minister, no decision was made to resume the regular flights. The Airlines tried to make charter flights within a month to test if there is sufficient demand. Although the demand was high, the company did not resume the regular flights due to low efficiency of the direct flights, as more than 70% of passengers are transit ones. Specialists of the company say the regular flights would be economically viable, if the direct passenger traffic between Yerevan and Prague were larger.
Actually, the prices in the air communication market of Armenia are not sufficiently flexible even in case of demand…
I cannot comment on the situation to this end. I have brought the reasons I learnt from the Czech company. Perhaps, the situation in the market is not exactly correct. I have no firm conclusion on the issue. I will repeat myself and say that I tell you what I have learnt from the company’s leadership. Anyway, we continue our efforts towards returning Czech Airlines to Armenia, since we consider it not only an important element of the Armenian-Czech political and economic ties able to boost trade, investments and tourism, but also a factor promoting contacts between the ordinary people.
During the first 7 months of 2016, the foreign trade turnover between our countries fell 41% as compared to the same period of 2015 totaling $7.9 million. Armenia’s export to the Czech Republic grew 5% to some $1.3 million, amid 47% decline of import to $6.6 million. What do you think about these data?
Well, we are not happy with these figures. Of course, it would be good if export of the Armenian goods to our country grew, but the export volumes are so small that it is early to speak of any steady trend so far. Armenia is experiencing a decline of the foreign commodity turnover with other countries too, including in Europe. I think import fell due to the crisis and the shrinking purchasing power.
Before my appointment to Armenia, I headed the Foreign Economic Relations Department for CIS, at the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic. We seriously studied the opening of the Embassy in Armenia then. The forecasts for the development of the trade and economic ties were the most optimistic. This was the reason why we opened the Embassy in Armenia four years ago. We were confident in further enhancement of the economic ties and growth of the commodity turnover. It seemed natural that there would be upward trend. Unfortunately, the economic crisis should be blamed for the current situation. Now, we weigh more prior areas of cooperation, besides import of the Czech products to Armenia and promotion of investment in the country. We seek to reveal the export capacities of Armenia that could work for the Czech market. Armenia is a small country with limited sales market, and development of export-oriented production is a priority for your economy. Yet, this requires investments that could be raised among others from the Czech Republic.
We hope very much that Armenia will become a bridge linking Iran and European countries, including the Czech Republic. Armenia has good capacities for that and Czech businesspersons can start working here with their Armenian colleagues in the Iranian market. With sanctions against Iran lifted, Armenia has got big advantages, I think.
The strong Armenian Diaspora in the Czech Republic that is actively engaged in business, including with Armenia, gives a significant impetus to our economic cooperation. This is an important factor. Here, at the exhibition, I learnt that the owner of one of the health resorts in the Czech Republic is an Armenian who is very much interested in attracting his compatriots to receive treatment there. I hope we will manage to speed up the trade and investment relations between the two countries, after the crisis is overcome.