Davit Simonyan, 24, was born in Areni village. Areni is in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor region. Many years ago, when Davit was a child, his family moved to Yerevan, the country’s capital. Davit graduated from high school and from the university in Yerevan. Living in the city for most of his life, Davit always wanted to return to his native village. So, one day he did.
Davit moved back to Areni—home to a 6,100 year old wine cellar—a few years ago. It is at this winery that Davit answered his entrepreneurial calling. In
addition to making wine and delicious homemade food for tourists, he started a small business that provides hiking tours of famous historic sites around Areni. And now tourists have the opportunity to learn how to bake lavash (Armenian flat bread), strain honey, and make wine and cheese at Davit’s winery.
Davit’s smart business sense and entrepreneurial skills have helped him form partnerships with the local tourism agencies to bring even more visitors to Areni.
As more people made Areni their vacation destination, Davit decided to renovate his parent’s old house and turn it into a Bed & Breakfast (B&B). He named it Areni Wine Art. Davit obtained loans from microfinance organizations to establish his B&B.
With the dream of turning Areni Wine Art into a fully functioning BYB, Davit applied for the Advanced Rural Development Initiative (ARDI) in 2014. ARDI is a small grant program funded by USAID and implemented by Heifer Armenia and Fuller Center for Housing Armenia. After donations of furniture, including beds, and an ARDI investment of AMD 700,000, or about $1,500, Davit’s B&B has become a popular place for tourists to stay in Areni.
For a newly established B&B in a rural community, Areni Wine Art had a successful first year: Davit hosted 80 tourists for overnight stays and served delicious meals to 3,500 people.
“This year I managed to make about AMD 12 million ($25,000) of income,” Davit said. “Rural tourism is indeed a profitable business if you identify its know-how for yourself. I hope rural tourism will further develop in Armenia and will seriously support Armenia’s economic development.”
With his talent and passion, there is no doubt Davit will continue to make a great impact on the rural tourism business in Armenia.
Story by Liana Hayrapetyan
Communication and PR Coordinator for Heifer Armenia
Photos by Davit Simonyan
Owner of Areni Wine Art B&B
ARDI is a five-year program funded by the USAID. The program aims to increase rural employment by tackling constraints to rural economic development in Syunik, Vayots Dzor and Lori Marzes of Armenia. The program supports interventions in three value chains involving dairy processing, fruit processing and rural tourism.