BUSINESS
EBRD launches new project to support agrotourism development in Georgia
12 February, 2018
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has initiated a training program to support the agritourism sector in Georgia. Mukhrani, a historical lowland district in eastern Georgia, has been selected as a pilot area for the project. The EBRD has appointed Tourism Development International (TDI), an Irish company which provides consultancy advice for the tourism industry, to implement the project.

According to the managing director at TDI, Peter Mac Nulty, Mukhrani has significant tourism potential for the development of
Georgia’s agribusiness sector and agritourism.
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Mukhrani

A newsletter about Mukhrani’s tourism and agritourism potential, created by the TDI, says that opportunities exist in hospitality and traditional food production, particularly for women and youth.

In 2016, the Foundation for Regional Economic Development of Mukhrani commissioned TDI to prepare a Tourism Development Plan for Mukhrani Village. The consultants concluded that Mukhrani has significant untapped tourism potential.

The analysis of a pilot area was conducted for the Tourism Development Plan for Mukhrani, and highlights the potential opportunities for Mukhrani in agritourism along with challenges to be addressed.
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Mukhrani.Photo courtesy Badri Vadachkoria

As the analysis show, Mukhrani’s strengths and advantages are as follows:

Center of food production/agrarian economy
Natural environment
Friendliness/hospitality of host community
Community support for tourism, traditions and culture e.g. wrestling

On the other hand, Mukhrani have some weaknesses as well such as:

Lack of awareness/destination identity
Lack of ‘market-ready’ attractions
Very limited accommodation/restaurants base
Limited visitor facilities i.e. toilets, information, visitor information/orientation
Lack of tourism knowledge and skills
Lack of tourism training
Current unsafe food hygiene practices
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Vineyard in Mukhrani. Photo courtesy Badri Vadachkoria

According to the newsletter, growing market of active, wealthy, independent travellers looking for alternative holiday experiences is one of the opportunities for Mukhrani.

The authors of the study believe that the proximity of Mukhrani to Mtskheta, one of the oldest cities of Georgia which represents existing tourism hub and UNESCO World Heritage Site coupled with the fact that Mukhrani is on the national wine tourism route creates additional opportunities to Mukhrani.
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Mtskheta

On the other hand, lack of awareness of the region and lack of capacity to respond to market opportunities e.g. accommodation and visitor facilities are the main threats for Mukhrani, the newsletter says.

As for Mukhrani community feedback, TDI conducted a telephone survey with representatives of the Mukhrani community in December 2017. The survey identified strong interest in tourism with many respondents interested in launching their own agritourism business.

Mukhrani citizens are also interested in capitalising on their strong food traditions by selling agricultural produce to visitors (both tourists and locals) and running restaurants offering traditional Georgian dishes.

There is also strong interest in providing tours, guiding services and transport services.

The main challenges facing potential beneficiaries wishing to work in tourism are lack of experience of the tourism sector, in addition to lack of information.
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Mukhrani Fortress

The poor condition of Mukhrani’s infrastructure and lack of finances are also identified as significant issues, reveals the surveyYet majority of respondents want to receive training in business operation, sales and marketing, finance and funding, and customer care. There is also a strong desire for training on food safety and standards.

The next newsletter will be issued in mid-February. Also, the TDI is organising a Beneficiary Forum on February 28, where further details will be provided about the second newsletter.
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Mukhrani valley. Photo courtesy Sky Travel

Mukhrani is a historical district in eastern Georgia, currently within the borders of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, north of the town of Mtskheta. It lies within the historical borders of Kartli Region, bounded by the Mtkvari River, and its two affluents: Ksani and Aragvi.

Strategically located on major transit routes traversing ancient and medieval Georgia, easily irrigable and fertile, Mukhrani was an economically advanced area and, in some sense, a link between Kartli’s lowland and highland districts.

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