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Giorgi Chogovadze: Georgia is Attractive Tourism Country, where One In-demand Destination Replaces Another Due to Seasons

As a result of successful marketing campaigns in 2016, quantity of international visitors and tourists has registered record figures.

Giorgi Chogovadze, head of National Tourism Administration of Georgia, noted that over the past period, number of business trips increased in Georgia thanks to significant campaigns carried out in the country.  International visitors arrive in Tbilisi most frequently. Their ratio makes up 46% in total number of visitors. Batumi is the second most in-demand tourism destination with 41% ratio. 

– Mr. Giorgi, how would you appraise the year of 2016? How successful was it for tourism sector?

– We appraise tourism administration performance in 2016 as successful. Record indicators and official statistics prove this assertion. This year Georgia attained two important objectives: quantity of international visitors exceeded 6 million persons and, for the first time, revenues from international tourism exceeded 2 billion USD. Various campaigns were conducted throughout the year with the aim to attract tourists. For example, summer, autumn and winter active marketing campaigns were held in various countries of the world. Moreover, we have been hosting reporters throughout the year from various countries of the world. This year we have invited and hosted about 600 reporters, who have prepared materials, TV programs, documentaries, newspaper articles and blogs about our country. Naturally all these efforts have increased perception of Georgia and emphasized Georgia’s tourism potential.

As to other projects and campaigns, in 2016 Georgia hosted the first international global wine conference. The event was conducted by UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). It should be stressed that conference of this type was conducted for the first time in Georgia. More than 250 guests attended the conference, including UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai. We have done our best to maximally emphasize the role of Georgia as the homeland of wine. We believe we have managed this. At this conference, UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai directly noted this country should be openly announced as a cradle of winemaking. To his words, Georgia is a country, where everybody should arrive just once in a lifetime.

In 2016 we implemented small infrastructural projects, including the city of Mtskheta was fully adapted to persons with disabilities. Access ramps were installed at historical monuments. Infrastructure was also arranged for the blind. We believe that it is very important to bolster inclusive tourism. Therefore, we will continue similar projects in the future too.

Domestic tourism development is very important for our country because of several reasons. Domestic tourism fosters development of tourism infrastructure and products in the country to serve both domestic and foreign tourists.

In 2016 we continued domestic tourism stimulation large-scale campaign – Know Georgia. We have conducted 13 press tours as part of this campaign. Media representatives have prepared articles, various materials about Georgia’s tourism potential. We believe these efforts have reminded many people of Georgia and inspired them to travel across their own homeland.

– Statistics genuinely prove that tourist inflows and tourism sector revenues grow in the country, but how would you appraise tourism sector growth paces in Georgia compared to other regional countries?

– Inflow of both visitors and tourists has considerably increased (visitors who stayed for 24 hours and more). According to January-November indicators, number of international  visitors made up 5 864 684 persons, up 7.9% year on year. Considerable growth was registered in tourist inflows too (tourists who stayed in the country for 24 hours and more) and 2 536 791 tourists were recorded in January-November 2016, up 19.3% year on year.

Increased inflow of visitors has brought additional revenues to Georgian economy and total revenues of two quarters made up 868 million USD, up 13.2%.

Quantity of international tourists is calculated by various methodologies in various countries. The comparison shows that quantity of tourists in Georgia is growing compared to other regional countries.

– I understand that in all seasons tourists choose various tourism destinations, but which directions are most in-demand destinations in Georgia and what is the ratio of foreign tourists in these directions?

– International visitors arrive in Tbilisi most frequently and its ratio makes up 46%. Batumi is the second popular destination with 41% of visitors, while 8% of tourists visit Kazbegi. Like the case with international visitors, Tbilisi is leader in terms of quantity of visits of domestic visitors with 24%. Kutaisi ranks second with 8% and Batumi is third with 7%.

– Which tourism direction has become the most in-demand destination, according to statistics of the past 2-3 years?

– Georgia is an attractive tourism country in many aspects, where demand grows for one tourism product on seasonal basis and then it may be replaced by other tourism product. In summer period seaside is the most popular direction. A major number of tourists arrive in summer period. Ski resorts of Georgia also become more and more popular. Growing number of foreign visitors spends vacations at Georgian ski resorts. Culinary and wine directions are also very important. The last period has recorded upturn in number of business trips. Important campaigns that were carried out in Georgia over the past period have considerably promoted this direction. A convention bureau was created for attracting tourists to the business trip segment.

– How would you appraise marketing campaigns in 2016? What are your expectations and plans for 2017? Will you make focus on the same market or penetrate new markets too?

– Thanks to our marketing campaigns, we have managed to considerably increase tourists inflow from traditional markets (for example Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Kazakhstan, Belarus). It is also important that we have entered new markets, for example, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India. Thanks to successful marketing campaigns, we have attained serious growth in inflow of international visitors and tourists in 2016.

As to future plans, we will continue campaigns on our target markets. Supposedly, this list will include: Russia, Persian Gulf countries (UAE, Qatar, Kuwait), Germany, Israel, Ukraine, Italy, Poland, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Armenia, Baltic countries.

We will also continue organizing press tours in various countries of the world. We believe documentaries, articles, blogs and various other materials prepared during these press tours will grow perception of our country and raise interest of foreign tourists.

– Education level should be developed to bolster the tourism field. What measures are taken for improving service level in the country? What is the demand-supply balance?

– National Tourism Administration actively cooperates with higher and vocational schools. We also promote entrance of foreign international schools to Georgia. In general, we hold various kinds of workshops to improve the quality issues. In 2015 we trained 1100 persons. In 2016 trainings were held in various regions of Georgia for upgrading service quality in private tourism sector. As a result, we have trained 1270 persons in the following directions: taxation code and financial accountability, hotel business and service skills; guesthouse management, marketing and sales promotion, wine – as a tourism product, base English language courses, urgent medical assistance, tourism development tendencies and grounds of management of accommodation facilities.

– Appearance of new airlines and introduction of new destinations are important factors for drawing more tourists to the country. What are your expectations in this respect?

– In general, aviation and entrance of new airlines is very important for tourism sector development, including low-cost airlines. Appointment of 6 new flights from Kutaisi airport is very significant fact in this respect.

And National Tourism Administration carries out marketing campaigns in cities, where these flights were appointed and this implies presentations about Georgia aimed at raising interest in our country. We also invite journalists and tour operators from various countries of the world.

According to information of civil aviation agency, in January-October 2016, Georgian airports transported 2 445 496 passengers by regular and charter flights, up 23.88% (471 461 passengers)  compared to the same period of 2015 (1 974 035 passengers). Considerable upturn was registered in all three international airports: Tbilisi International Airport served 1 931 285 passengers in the reporting period, up from 1 603 675 passengers of the same period of 2015. Consequently, the year on year growth marked 20.43%.

Batumi International Airport served 293 566 passengers, up 43.65% compared to the same period of 2015 (204 367 passengers). Passenger turnover rose by 34.10% at Kutaisi International Airport to 217 118 persons, up from 161 906 passengers year on year.

Currently, 33 airlines operate at Georgian airports and flights are performed to 46 destinations in 20 countries.