CONVERSATION WITH GIORGI CHOGOVADZE, THE HEAD OF GEORGIAN NATIONAL TOURISM ADMINISTRATION
RECENTLY, GEORGIA HAS BEEN ACTIVELY APPEARING IN THE WORLD PRESS AS ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING AND ATTRACTIVE DESTINATIONS FOR TOURISTS. MOREOVER, IN 2015 THE NUMBER OF VISITORS REACHED RECORD FIGURES. WHY DO YOU THINK GEORGIA IS BECOMING SO POPULAR?
The tourism industry is growing in Georgia and it is reflected in the increasing annual number of international visitors. Last year it reached a record figure – 5,897,685, which is 382,126 (+6.9%) more travelers than in the same period of the previous year.
The increased number of tourists means the growth of employment, more currency income and investment in the sphere of tourism and development of infrastructure throughout Georgia.
The Georgian National Tourism Administration, along with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, is doing its best to host as many tourists as possible, as each new visitor to Georgia means more welfare, new jobs and more income for the citizens of our country.
Regarding the growing popularity of Georgia, as I have mentioned above, we’ve been working hard in this direction, conducting active marketing campaigns in many countries and hosting hundreds of journalists who prepared numerous articles and reportages about Georgia afterwards.
DO YOU THINK GEORGIA IS READY TO HOST THE INCREASING NUMBER OF TOURISTS?
The increasing number of visitors is definitely an incentive for the private sector to develop tourism in Georgia, to build new hotels, and to create new infrastructure. Of course, this is not enough, and we have lot more to do in this direction, such as to increase the quality of service. There is no need to build 5-star hotels in some touristic sites, as a number of tourists are rather into enjoying exotic holidays. That’s the reason why Georgia is a unique place- it covers a variety of different tastes and demands. With the support of the Georgian government, we are attempting to boost interest in our country among tourists and investors. We are also holding negotiations with different airlines in order to have direct flights with as many countries as possible.
TOURISM IS ONE OF THE PRIORITIES FOR GEORGIA. HOW WOULD YOU SUMMARIZE 2015? WHICH SIGNIFICANT PROJECTS WERE CARRIED OUT?
Based on official statistics and figures, the activities of the Tourism National Department in 2015 can be positively praised and the previous year has shown a record number of visitors – 5.9 million.
In 2015 we also created a new action plan, in order to find an adequate answer to improper conditions in regions, resulting from various political and economic factors.
Furthermore, a series of different events oriented to attracting tourists were held throughout the year. For example, nine active campaigns oriented to target groups in the scopes of the summer season campaign with images of Georgia appearing regularly on CNN and Euronews were launched in 2015. In addition, we hosted journalists from different countries who then went on to prepare TV reportages, programs, documentaries, articles and blogs about our country, and I’m sure that all this contributed to raising awareness about Georgia and demonstration of its tourism potential.
Last year we launched active marketing campaigns for summer, autumn and winter seasons. Approximately 18.6 million GEL were allocated for online, TV, radio and print media activities and also for putting summer and winter image spots on CNN and Euronews.
Moreover, we took part in 26 international tourism exhibitions.
One of the most significant projects was carried out in 2015, as the Tourism Administration has worked out a strategy plan supported by the World Bank.
In addition, some small infrastructural projects were carried out in 2015, in scopes of which the special signs indicating touristic sites were installed in 14 small towns and cities, and double lighting infrastructure was installed in 17 cities and small towns. There was also news for extreme sport lovers, as the special bicycle tracks have been made. As a result, our winter resorts have got the potential to become attractive venues in summer too.
Eight trainings were held in different regions of Georgia last year, the main purpose of which was to improve the quality of service. As a result of these trainings we have 1100 retrained professionals (in different fields, including service skills, operating of agro-touristic sites, retraining courses of alpine guiding, training of basic English, hotel service, first aid, guiding skills, tax and financial accounting, service to people with disabilities, operating of food spots and more).
Finally, in 2015 a large-scale campaign called “Get to Know Georgia” was launched to promote domestic tourism. In scopes of this campaign we prepared special video spots and arranged seven press tours in different regions of Georgia. As a result, media representatives prepared TV reportages and articles about the touristic potential of Georgia and, in our opinion, lots of local people were then inspired to explore their country.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE FUTURE INITIATIVES, IF YOU COULD?
In 2016 we will continue our main activities and projects – active marketing campaigns and small infrastructural development. It is planned to build new information centers. Moreover, Georgia is to host the first International Wine Conference in September 2016, initiated by the World Tourism Organization. The first of its kind, the conference will be held on 7-9 September in Kakheti. This decision was officially declared during the international exhibition in London by Taleb Riphai, the Head of the World Tourism Organization and me. The International Wine Conference will be attended by ministers from 20 countries and we will try our best to demonstrate Georgia as the cradle of wine. From January on we also plan to open the Convention Bureau. Thus, we have a very active and busy year ahead – full of numerous projects and events, promoting the development of domestic and international tourism.
WHAT ARE THE BEST MUST-SEE SITES IN GEORGIA?
There are a number of places in Georgia which should definitely be visited. Georgian wine culture and cuisine are significant values of the country. We are a country of four seasons with many unique historical monuments, some of which are included in UNESCO’s Cultural list. The highest village of Europe, Ushguli, is situated here, in Svaneti region. Our canyons and caves are simply breathtaking… It is difficult to point out one special place as there are so many to choose! One thing I am sure about is that a trip to Georgia is something you will never forget!