Georgia has always been an appealing country for tourists, yet over the recent years its popularity has sharply increased and more foreign travelers started to flock to its capital and regions.Tourism is one of the main industries of Georgia. Record-breaking number of international travelers visited Georgia in 2017.In 2017, 7,554,936 international travelers visited Georgia, which is 1,194,433 more compared to the same period of the previous year and + 18.8% increase in growth.Unprecedented growth of tourism in Georgia has been spotlighted by many leading international editions, such as Forbes, which devoted an article to the country’s emerging tourism strategy in 2017.
Emerging Europe, a think tank headquartered in London, whose mission is to foster the economic and social development of the CEE region, is one of them.According to the article written by Craig Turp, Georgian tourism first took off in 2012, jumping from 2.8 million visitors to 4.4 million in the space of 12 months. However, 2017 was especially successful year for Georgia’s tourism strategy: “It was 2017 which really placed the country on the map: more than 7.5 million people visited Georgia, an increase of 18 per cent on 2016. The number of visitors from Western Europe increased by almost 30 percent,” reads the article.
“Yes, Georgia is a relatively new travel destination for western European tourists,” says Rusudan Mamatsashvili, the impressive young deputy head of the Georgian National Tourism Association (GNTA). “We are focusing on this market more and more, and have seen considerable growth from several important countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands and France with overall numbers from western Europe increasing 28 per cent this year.”
The article stresses the importance of increasing the number of flights serving Georgia’s two main airports, in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. It is at Kutaisi, the capital of the western Imereti Region of Georgia, that Wizz Air, emerging Europe’s largest airline, has based itself.
“The Hungarian company now serves 19 destinations from Kutaisi – capacity expanded by 77 per cent in 2017 – and plans to add more routes in 2018. From May it will fly to Barcelona, Paris, Prague and Rome. Flag carrier Georgian Airways – based in Tbilisi – will also be adding a number of routes this year, including Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cologne and Paris. Altogether, Georgia’s three international airports – the third is on the Black Sea coast at Batumi – served 4.03 passengers in 2017, an increase of 43 per cent on the previous year”, reports the publication.
Georgia’s beautiful capital, Tbilisi, is one of the most attractive places to visit in Georgia, but it should be mentioned that there is quite more to see in this small, but extremely beautiful and hospitable country. The best of Georgia is to be found outside the capital.
“There’s Ushguli, a community of four villages located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti. Recognised as the Upper Svaneti UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe,” says Rusudan Mamatsashvili “and don’t forget Tusheti – the most picturesque and mesmerising region of the country, tucked away at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains,” Rusudan Mamatsashvili, the deputy head of the Georgian National Tourism Association (GNTA) told Emerging Europe.
According to Ms Mamatsashvili, the country’s relatively small size and strong historical ties with agriculture mean that the development of rural, agro and eco-tourism are highly promising and beneficial.
Emerging Europe also offers interview with Nino Kvernadze, the project manager at the environmentally-conscious Adjara Group, which currently manages four hotels across Georgia, including one in Stepantsminda, about a dozen kilometres from the Russian border and the Kazbegi National Park.
“Our main focus is not the quantity of tourists but the quality of each person’s stay. We want people to visit Georgia for our hospitality, culture, traditions, history, various beautiful sites and of course food and wine,” Kvernadze noted.
According to her, world-famous Georgian cuisine and wine are very important factors for developing effective tourism strategy and improving the quality of food and wine served. This will benefit not only the business sector, but the local community as well.
The article also mentions Gudauri, one of the most popular ski resorts in Georgia and stresses that it offers one of Europe’s cheapest lift passes: just over 50 US dollars for a week on the slopes.Emerging Europe also offers the interview with Marc Openshaw, a former British ski instructor who has skied in more than 30 countries across the world including Georgia.
In the interview, he recalls his first visit in Gudauri: “It was in either 1988 or 1989 that I first heard of Gudauri,” he tells Emerging Europe. “I used to avidly wait for the release of the new season’s ski holiday brochures, and one year in the UK the big story was that skiing was now possible in the Soviet Union. The resort was Gudauri – I think they had just built the first gondola lift. It was exciting, so I went, and remember heli-skiing out of a specially-chartered Red Army helicopter. Unfortunately, few others ventured that far, and by the next year Gudauri had gone from the brochures, as quickly as it had appeared.”
The resort has developed since then, but according to Piotrek Rząca, a Polish investor who runs a hostel in the Gudauri, more things should be done as there are still some problems which should be fixed: little common infrastructure, no ski bus, and maintenance of the slopes is not the best.
However, the resort is still developing and next year new lifts and another 20 kilometres of pistes will open.At the end of the article, the author recalls dramatic March 16 accident in Gudauri, which left 11 people with mild injuries and hopes that similar accident will never be repeated again: “It is to be hoped that the new lifts will ensure there is no repetition of a highly-publicised malfunction at Gudauri in March 2018, which saw a chairlift shift into reverse at high-speed. Miraculously, nobody was seriously injured.”
Sometimes, it is even suspicious if the country can handle such a growing number of the tourists. Ready or not, what Georgia can guarantee is a warm welcome, as Georgians are very hospitable people and they always do their best for their guest’s maximum comfort – this is the main message of the article.