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Today Tourism Sector is Gaining a Momentum

Government of Georgia is actively involved in the sector development and promotes an implementation of various projects.

2017 was fruitful year for Georgia’s tourism sector. A record number of tourists arrived in the country and the sector earned unprecedented revenues.

In 2018 National Tourism Administration plans to intensify efforts to increase Georgia’s perception and attract more tourists. Giorgi Chogovadze talks about the work that the tourism administration performed in 2017 and the plans of the organization for 2018.

-How would you appraise the 2017 tourism season? Are you content  with the current indicators? What are the current challenges before the country in 2018?

– 2017 has shownimpressive outcomes for the tourism sector, and we have achievedrecord results. In January-November period of the year, we hosted about 7 million international arrivals, up by 1 081 031compared to the same period of 2016. Annual growth reached 18.4%. But this is not only the growth in numbers; this shows that 2017 is a successful year for the tourism sector and this will be reflected in the international revenues that the Georgian economy will receive.

The sector revenues in 2017 will amount to about 2.7 billion USD. The sector’s contribution to GDP, according to the January-June indicators, constituted 6.7%. In 2018, National Tourism Administration will actively work on growing Georgia’s perception, attracting more international tourists, improving quality of services and enhancing cooperation between various stakeholders. Active work will be undertakenfor the fulfillment of Georgia’s tourism strategy 2025.

-Private sector stages criticism that marketing campaigns are delayed on markets. Have you performed preparatory works for carrying out marketing campaigns and do you plan to enter new target markets in 2018?

-National Tourism Administration follows the long-term strategy 2025, which was developed with the support of World Bank Group (WB). We have determined the 2018 target markets and the 2019 plans accordingly. Two years ago, we alsobegun an intense cooperation with Google, which has appraised the last campaigns as successful. We have met with managers of Google’s offices in Dublin and Kiev to receive information about the results and plan our future cooperation.

Google has taken active part in planning and monitoring of the 2017 summer marketing campaign. The Tourism Administration has been carrying out the 2017-2018 winter campaign in cooperation with Google as well. The campaign covers 19 countries: Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Japan…

As to new target markets, in 2017, Georgia started marketing campaigns in Great Britain, Estonia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, with the aim to highlight Georgia’s tourism potential on these markets.

We have to of course wait for the results of these campaigns, but we are already witnessing very encouraging signs;for example, to airlines have started directflight toGreat Britain, as well as flights between Estonia and Georgia look to be promising.

Georgia’s perception, as a City Break Destination, grows in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and other countries of theMiddle East. We are witnessing positive trends of tourist inflow from all of the mentioned and othercountries. We believe these indicators will grow further as a result ofmarketing campaigns.

We have active advertising campaign on one of the world’s biggest tourism portal – “Expedia”. We are continuing our cooperation with tourism portal – “TripAdvisor”, which among other markets, also covers Scandinavian countries. TV advertising and clips about Georgia are broadcast by the world’s influential TV channels: Discovery, Channel, Euronews, BBC.

-In 2017 you started working on shaping a business tourism promotion strategy. Why have you decided to develop this direction and what is Georgia’s potential in this direction?

-In 2016, the Convention and Exhibition Bureau begun operating as part of the National Tourism Administration. The bureau aimsto support the development of business events tourism(MICE – Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Events) to Georgia. The Bureau has already achieved considerable success, with Georgia winning the bid to host the 18th congress of World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations in 2019.

Business events tourism is one of the mostlucrative segments of the industry. Although, marketing and customer relations for this segment also differ. Consequently, development of separate strategy and action plans for this direction has become important and a priority. With the support of GIZ, an Austrian company ENITED has undertaken the project According to international experts, Georgia has real potential for business events tourism and they have highlightedpositive market components.

-The country is working on improving service quality, but there are numerous pretenses anyway. What steps should the country take so as Georgia come up with the neighboring countries in terms of service level? What is the problem solution?

-Small infrastructure and tourism products development is one of our main priorities. Improvementof service quality is an inseparable part of tourism strategy and significant steps will be taken for the upcoming years to support this sectors. It is essential to train corresponding service providers and staff, and we as the Administration have been conducting various training and capacity building activities for the private sector. In 2017, we trained about 1300 representatives of tourism industry (guides, hotel staff…). We have alsohostedinternational experts toshare successful models and train various groups.

-What is Georgia’s potential on tourism markets of various directions, for example, medical, adventure…?

Georgia is a four-season destination, and we strive to exhibit each segment on the international market, although there are key directions which the strategy has outlined as focus points, these are:

nature-based tourism (adventures, mountain, eco….); culture tourism (archaeological, religion…); wine tourism combined with Georgian cuisine; as to medical tourism, Georgia is able to compete with the regional countries by offering lower prices. Beginning in 2018, we plan to intensify work on development of medical tourism. It is necessary to identify perspective, competitive medical fields jointly with theMinistry of labor health and social affairs.

-Does Tourism Administration work on outlining new tourism directions?

-Looking at global trends, adventure tourism is gaining more and more popularity. Our nation has high potential, but detailed analysis of the sector have shown factor which hinder development According to the world market tendencies, adventure tourism becomes popular. The country has much potential, but analysis has showed factors that hinder development of this sector:

To resolve these issues, we have planned to develop joint footpath-adventure routes network. Routes were divided in three main categories: internal routes of the each region of Georgia; routes connecting regions with each other and routes surrounding main tourism destinations or resorts.

As part of the project, based on international experience, we have prepared an unified standard for planning and marking the first national footpath-adventure routes; We have examined 6 regions of the country and identified footpath-adventure routes; footpaths were marked under new standards in 3 regions and total length constituted more than 600 kilometers; On the routes that have been marked there also were trainings for the local guides. Mountain guides underwent training courses in abrupt cliff environment, management of avalanche situations and so on;

We started cooperation with government entities and nongovernmental sectors to developa network of paths. Donor organizations operating in the regions are interested in marking the pathsselected by us. In the future we plan to perform the same type of work in all regions, create and mark paths;

For the purpose of network expansion we will add new paths; popularize network of paths; organize events to popularize various adventure or extreme tourism fields(hiking, canyoning, and so on); prepare printed materials. At this stage, we have prepared catalogs for canyoning and climbing. We plan to prepare cliff climbing catalog and so on.