Ginosi Apartels
I live in Armenia because the standard of living is high and the business environment is good

Since its founding in 2010, Ginosi Apartels has emerged as a tech-based travel company in Armenia, where it is a top employer of choice. With hotel operations in the US and Europe, Ginosi Apartels is headquartered in Yerevan, where nearly 100 employees manage the company’s apartels abroad using its technology backbone.

The company has attracted talent from the global Armenian diaspora, which has been steadily trickling into Armenia following the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. Co-founder Areg Ginosian lived abroad for over 20 years before moving back to Armenia with his international apartel brand. RP sat down with him to discuss the advantages of living and operating an international company in Yerevan.
Areg Ginosian
Let’s go to the very beginning. How did Ginosi Apartels start?
— We originally began as an online travel agency (OTA) at a time when there was no instant booking platform that  listed most of the travel accommodations in Armenia. Instant booking was possible for only a handful of the major hotels in Yerevan. The idea to create our own selling platform for travelers came to us when we realized that we were not major hotel type travelers, and therefore spent a significant amount of time looking for accommodations when visiting Armenia. My partner and I recognized the need, and we had the right experience for this niche in the market, so we decided to launch a regional OTA for Armenia.
Areg Ginosian
We rented a small office room in Yerevan, in the very building where our global headquarters is currently located, hired a small staff of programmers, hotel account managers and customer service specialists, developed our own instant booking platform, secured contracts with most accommodation providers throughout Armenia, and started selling short-stay accommodations to travelers coming to Armenia. Unfortunately for us the big players like soon entered the Armenian market and turned our business belly-up. Since then Ginosi Apartels has pivoted its business model and turned into an apartel chain.

How did that pivot take place?
— We had purchased apartments in Amsterdam to support our business in Armenia, and by following the money we realized that the winner in this industry is the product owner, not the middle man. So we began leveraging our existing systems and infrastructure by using our Armenia-based business “nerve center” to run our own hotels in strong touristic markets like Amsterdam. With a market demand that was growing fast, we began offering travelers an alternative to the traditional hotel: the apartel, a fully-furnished, ready-to-use apartment that functions as a hotel, but feels like home. That is how Ginosi began to turn into an international apartel chain. Our failure in the beginning as a regional OTA was a push to become what we are now.

We have nearly 100 employees at our global headquarters in Yerevan today and about that many colleagues employed at our apartels in the US and Europe. Our engineers are building our own software and hardware such as kiosks for self-check in, for a fully-integrated, technology-driven product that allows us to focus on our customers. My dream is to see Ginosi become a global household name one day and a symbol of Armenia, like IKEA is for Sweden.
Areg Ginosian
What about the model? Is it really effective to run an international company from Yerevan?
— It sure is. I wish I could say I invented this model. I did not. I started my career in the pharmaceutical industry as a biologist in the US. After transitioning to the business side of the trade, I worked at a company that had a very similar model to the one we have today at Ginosi Apartels. At their headquarters in the Netherlands, I was in charge of clinical research projects conducted all over the world. That experience forced me to think globally and understand how to run a global project from one location by relying on powerful communication and organizational technologies.

You spent quite a long time in the US and Europe as you said. What made you come back here?
— I have never considered myself a spyurqahay (diasporan Armenian). I was born in Armenia and when the Soviet Union collapsed, our family moved to the US. I stayed there for eleven years, and then lived in the Netherlands for another eleven years. When Ginosi was founded I was still employed in the Netherlands. In 2013, the pharmaceutical company I was with was bought by a French conglomerate, and our headquarters moved from Amsterdam to Paris. So I had a choice: Paris or Yerevan. I chose Yerevan.

So relocating to Armenia was a pragmatic decision, not a call of the soil, let’s say?
— I’m not a patriot in the way that most people understand the word. I’m not here because the soil is calling, not at all. I could live anywhere in the world. I live in Armenia because the standard of living is high and the business environment is good. Armenia is very qualified to host the headquarters of any company that is in the business of exporting services. With a viable business model, any company can do what we do, and deliver services to vast global markets from Yerevan.
Areg Ginosian
You started with accommodations in Armenia, now Ginosi has apartels in the US and Spain. Why not Armenia?
— Armenia is a very small country with a small tourism industry centered primarily in Yerevan. It is not the next city that makes the most commercial sense after say Los Angeles, Chicago, and Barcelona. We do, however, believe in the continued success of having our headquarters here. There is a generation of well-qualified, highly motivated talent in Armenia whose potential we are unleashing with our business. That potential is being used to deliver a highly sought-after product in global markets.

Are you satisfied with the quality of the candidates you receive?
— For junior candidates – absolutely. We have lots of great young people entering the workforce every year in Armenia. When it comes to more senior jobs, we often have to turn to the repat community for colleagues who have had work experience elsewhere and are enthusiastic about the possibility of living and working in Armenia. The market for senior candidates is very small in Armenia. I am proud to say that we have created job opportunities for dozens of repatriates to come to Armenia and stay here with happy and sustainable lives.
Areg Ginosian
As a person who lived abroad for many years and who employs many repatriates, what do you think is the most important element in the Diaspora-Armenia relationship?
— As an ethnic group, we have accumulated vast equity of success all over the world because we are adaptable and good at understanding how business in different cultures works. We use that understanding to thrive in foreign countries. If there was one big thing I could export from the Diaspora, it would be the worldly perspective that comes with living abroad. As a small country, we can sometimes be too individualistic, tunnel-visioned, and self-centered.

In fact, at our maneuverable size, we have the potential to solve our economic and societal setbacks relatively quickly, if we broaden our horizons, accept each other with all our differences, and correctly channel the knowledge that we collectively possess. This is a unique position of the Armenian people and of Armenia. We should take advantage of it.

Interview:Areg Davtyan/ Photo:Ginosi Apartels Archive


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