Georgia changes its tourist image
07 July, 2011


To make Georgia popular as a tourist destination Georgian government deems it essential to rebrand the country’s tourist image. Some sector representatives find rebranding premature.

Georgian government plans to change the active tourist slogan “Europe starts here” [made by Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the international advertising fames] soon. Governmental standpoint is that Georgia entered a new era of tourism development and the currently active slogan somewhat misleads potential tourists in making up their mind where to go.

‘Of course , slogan “Europe

starts here” is interesting but we need more tourist-oriented message that can attract the interest of a tourist. This slogan cannot attract attention to our specific features, because nobody comes here to see Europe; we have to expose our identification factors thanks to which a tourist should come here and not to Germany for instance. If they want to go to Europe, they will go to Germany where the Europe is and not to Georgia,” Maia Sidamonidze, Head of Tourism Agency of Georgia, explained to Georgian Journal. The logo of the country - a red flower on a white background, as well as music, video clip and the country’s tourist strategy - worked out by Saatchi in 2007 is to change in coming months so as to position Georgia at international market according to its new identification qualities.

Based on the recent marketing research, Tourism Agency together with L-C-D Company has already identified key factors making Georgia special: hospitality, nature and cuisine.

The second phase includes a competition for foreign companies to decide which of them will shape out the new tourist brand and strategy. The competition was already announced early in June and deadline is July 20, 2011. The key requirement is brand-creation experience of applicants. The winner is supposed to start working in August and complete rebranding and new marketing strategy by this coming October. Starting October the third phase will launch extensive PR and advertising campaign tailored to the new brand and strategy. The web-page of Tourism Agency will be also refreshed based on new criteria and logo.

Sidamonidze assures that the identification factors [hospitality, nature, and cuisine] were revealed in consensus of the state officials, private sector and independent experts.

Some private sector representatives [who prefer to remain incognito] disagree with the frequent change of country brands and find the underway rebranding premature. They claim government changes brands and slogans according to taste of active top officials, that the tour operators were not included in the marketing research process, and that the underway rebranding is squander of money for it is not necessary [Georgian government paid about half million US dollars to Saatchi and most probably the new brand will cost the same] as far as the current brand is pretty fine and the money earmarked to this here rebranding might be diverted on other much more pressing problem. Countries with developed tourism do not change brands for 10-20 years – frequent changes bespeak of non-professionalism. Spain for example did not change its brand for two decades and Italy - for at least a decade.

“We have been changing country slogan and brand almost each year till 2007 and people at the international market did not perceive us seriously. Finally Saatchi & Saatchi worked out a pretty fine brand ultimately including the slogan “Georgia. Europe starts here” and we expected it to stay for longer than five years. It is based on intriguing “catches” like that since human remains dating back 1.8 million years and acknowledged as the first Europeans were unearthed in Georgia, that gold processing started in Georgia, that Georgia is a cradle of wine and it simply situates in Europe why not to say that Europe starts here? It sound quite exciting and catches attraction. Besides by identifying Georgia with Europe they settled the name confusion problem as our country is frequently mistook for the Georgia of the US,” an incognito source said.

Rossitza Ohridska-Olson, a macro-strategist with focus on the business of cultural tourism, also approved the Saatchi way of thinking underlining that “Not that Europe, as destination existed 1.8 million years ago, nor that the civilization of Europe started there – for that you have to look south-west. Nevertheless, first, Saatchi & Saatchi “detached” the country from Asia, where most people believed it was, and second, they placed the accent in the past – not on the current war and conflicts situation in the Caucasus.”