Travel blogger about Georgian tourism industry and hospitality
13 November, 2017
Georgia is becoming more popular for tourists from all over the world. Until the end of October of this year, the number of international arrivals in Georgia amounted to 6,4 million, an increase of 18,8 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. Georgian Journal talked about the development of the Georgian tourism industry with Daria Kholodilina, also known as Dariko, a foreign travel blogger based in Tbilisi who works for the Georgian National Tourism Administration.
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Why is tourism in Georgia becoming more popular?
In my personal opinion, the country deserves a lot of attention because of its rich nature and its warm people. That’s why the tourism has developed not only thanks to the promoting campaign that we do but also thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations. People come here and then go home and tell their friends and family about it.

What has changed in Georgia in recent years?
There are more things to do in the cities, especially of course in Tbilisi, but Batumi and Kutaisi grew quite a lot as well. There are more interesting places to see, there are more cafes to spend time in. The infrastructure, well, there is still a lot of work to do, especially with the roads in the countryside. But I believe that in general there are just more activities to do: There are quest rooms in Tbilisi, there are places like Fabrika where you can attend classes and lectures or just have a drink. Before you went to Georgia mostly to see the nature, but now it’s getting more hype!
As you said in terms of infrastructure, there is still a lot of work to do. What else needs to improve to bring more people to Georgia?
I think the biggest problems we have in terms of tourism and everyday life are the conditions of the roads, the traffic and greenery. I think the cities are not green enough. Of course, you get amazing nature outside of Tbilisi, but the cities could be more comfortable to walk. There is a lack of parks and public areas That is the main problem that tourists are complaining about. The very basic infrastructural problems.

Last year there was an exceptional growth in arrivals of citizens of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran. Why?
First of all, it is because of the more liberal visa policy Georgia implemented two years ago for Iran and the Gulf states. It’s much simpler now for them to come to Georgia. Also, the flight tickets are affordable, the night life is booming. And as I know many people from the Gulf states come to experience the mountains and see snow! Even in summer, they are going to see the glaciers. And of course, we are constantly campaigning in these countries.

The mountainous regions are developing and offer adventure treks and mountaineering. Is the Georgian tourism industry ready for this high-risk-tourism?
There is happening a lot. For example, we cooperate with a Mountain Resort Development Company. They are responsible for the promotion of the resorts and take care of things, like repair the roads, plan new rope roads. At GNTA we develop the mountain paths for the tourists and mark the roads. We constantly have ongoing projects in the less developed regions and send our specialists there. They are checking if the paths are correctly marked. The big effort consists of those small efforts. Plus, there are a lot of great mountain guides that are now teaching others. The association of mountain guides is constantly doing training. And there are many ex-professional skiers and snowboarders who are now providing high-quality tours.

The breakaway regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia are not under control of the Georgian state. Does this conflict still burden the touristic development of Georgia?
Myself I have never been in these regions, with my passport it’s impossible. Georgia doesn’t have any control over these regions, there is no normal police system for example. So I wouldn’t recommend tourists to go there, it could be quite dangerous. But as for the rest of the country: I have been traveling a lot on my own as a woman and so far I have never had any problems. I think the conflict can be a moral burden because there are still a lot of internally displaced people. And maybe there are some Western Europeans who are afraid that the war could escalate again. But in terms of tourism Georgia is very safe and available for tourists. It’s a good place to be.

What is it that you personally like most about your new home?
To me, the most important thing is that Georgia is super diverse. When I came to Georgia for the first time I was thinking, I had seen quite a lot. But every time I came back I discovered more. Now I have been living here for 4 years and still haven’t seen everything. So for me, the chance to get so many different experiences from just one country is exciting. Plus, I made a lot of friends here and I am attached to Georgia personally as well. I think it is possible for travelers to make friends here quite quickly because Georgian people like their guests. Maybe they are not super professional in the means of service, but their sincere hospitality is overwhelming sometimes. Even if they don’t have a lot of things to offer, they will give you their last piece of bread to you if you are hungry. That is what is still keeping me excited about this country.

28-year-old Daria Kholodilina was born in the Ukraine and has been living in Tbilisi for 4 years now. For her work and her blog she has traveled a lot all over the country and has recently published a book about Georgian wine tourism.

Author: Simone Herrmann
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