27 June, 2013
Georgia had no official tourism strategy until now. It worked out its development strategy at last and aims to make tourism one of the leading sectors of Georgian economy.
To give an impetus to Georgian tourism, Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) worked out a strategy for the sector development under the initiative of its newly appointed head Giorgi Sigua, who took the post three weeks ago.
“I do not want to criticize anybody but all was based on the PR
campaign and a will of one person [hinting on the President of Georgia] alone,” Sigua said during the presentation of the tourism development strategy on June 18, 2013. “Now this will be changed and we will be cooperating with the private sector and everyone who wants to contribute to the sector development.”
According to him, a council of consultants, including representatives of tourism business has already been created with the GNTA. A law on tourism will be worked out and regional Development Management Organizations will be set up. On-line marketing will be developed and a hot-line opened for tourists. Also the method of calculation of the tourist inflow statistics registering each person crossing Georgian border as a tourist up to date will be changed and streamlined with the international standards.
According to Sigua, research of the tourists’ statistic in Georgia showed that only 57% of people crossing Georgian border are tourists. The tourist interpretation of the World International Organization states that tourist is a person who crossed a border and spent at least one night in the country. Accordingly, out of the declared over 4.3 million alleged tourists entering Georgia in 2012 only 57% or roughly 2.4 million was a real tourist inflow.
“Up to recently all international visitors who crossed Georgian border were estimated as tourists. This is deception,” Sigua told Georgian Journal. “Tourist is each Georgian residing in Racha [Georgian highland region] for example who goes to other region in Mtskheta for example for sightseeing. We will pay equally high attention to internal tourism development not only on the international tourism.”
Inclusive tourism will be also a priority. According to Sigua 10% of the global population is made by disabled people who also want to go touring while Georgia has almost nothing to offer to this people. GNTA plans to carry out active marketing campaign to make Georgia popular as a tourist destination on the global map and GEL 3.5 million is allocated form the state budget on this purpose. The financing is not sufficient but Sigua hopes to achieve maximum available through this sum and also plans to attract additional investments to hit Kazakhstan and Russian target markets. The Free Tourism Zones (FTZ) deployed by ex-power and laying almost untouched by investors remains in force but the law on FTZ will be amended so as to attract more investors.
“The entire country should be attractive to investors but if we give no preferences to certain places the tourism infrastructure will be developed disproportionally, investors will be building hotels only in Batumi or spa resorts. So FTZ will remain but we will think of more reasonable solutions,” Sigua said. He expects 37% growth in tourism inflow this year that translates into 5-6 million international visitors and around 3.5 million real tourists.