Georgian guides – ‘the ambassadors of the country’ talk about what tourists like and dislike
10 March, 2017
Georgian guides – ‘the ambassadors of the country’ talk about what tourists like and dislike
More and more tourists visit our country each year and they are most often hosted by private companies and tourist guides. There is an Association of Guides in Georgia, which represents a group of many professional guides. Their goal is to provide a highest-level service in compliance of all the norms, etiquette and standards. That is exactly why the president of this association says all the guides are like diplomats and ambassadors that represent their country.

In order to find out what most tourists are interested in, what they expect to see in Georgia and how they are met by locals, spoke to one of the professional guides from the abovementioned association, Giorgi Gvishiani.
Giorgi Gvishiani

Giorgi has been working as a guide for more than three years already. He likes his profession, because it gives him an opportunity to meet new people.

“A guide is a diplomat and tourists are guests. I have noticed that they look at the country the way a guide shows him. That’s why it is very important how professional and well-trained will be the guides who host them,” Giorgi says, adding: “People who come from Asian countries have different interests from, let’s say, people who come from the post-Soviet countries. The Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and others are more interested in the nature and beautiful views and people from post-Soviet areas are more attracted by the history of Georgia.”

To the question of what may a tourist be unhappy for, Giorgi answered that the visitors are sometimes complaining about a hotel, a restaurant or infrastructure. Our respondent leads the tours in Tbilisi as well as in different regions

“I always tell the visitors that our country and people have always been tolerant to any ethnicity or religion. Georgia is a multi-confessional country, where the representatives of many religions have lived together for centuries.”

Generally, each tourist needs an individual approach and in spite of the fact that he is a professional guide, who is not supposed to get involved in too close relationships with tourists, some category of them are very friendly and you can’t help but befriend them, Giorgi says.

“I think I have had about 4 000 of them since I began to work as a guide. Sometimes I have corporate tours, carrying about 50 people in a bus. In similar cases I am obliged to satisfy everyone’s taste and attract everyone’s attention.”

Sometimes some
very interesting encounters happen, he retells, when two people who had not seen each other in their country for 30 years, meet in Georgia. “This proves that our country attracts many people. They like Georgia so much that almost everyone wants to come back. I know some people who have been here four times since last year and they are planning to come again. Everybody says that our country has a very big touristic potential and we only need a correct approach, as well as creating new and interesting projects.

Giorgi says that he even knows a woman from Moscow, who first came to Georgia in 2011 and she came back 14 times since then. Now she wants to buy a house in Kakheti, with a view to Alazani valley.

“There is also one story to recall: two years ago some Ukrainian schoolchildren were here too, together with their principal and teachers. They had been pen-pals with the children from one Georgian school and they came to meet them in person. They liked khinkali [Georgian dumplings] very much and before leaving one of the boys told me he could bet I wouldn’t be able to eat 35 Ukrainian vareniks [traditional dumplings]. I said I would. After some time, when I travelled to Ukraine, met them, gave a lecture. Afterwards, they invited me to the local canteen and made some vareniks. In short, I lost the bet and they were very happy,” Giorgi says.
Psychologist by profession, Maia Tabidze began working as a guide for more income at first. In order to do that she underwent some very serious tests and passed trainings before she was able to begin working.

“You have to be a leader, not let yourself carried away in particular circumstances and not change your decisions too often. Besides, you have to be able to work under stressful conditions, because sometimes unexpected things happen, like, for example, you’re hiking in the mountains, together with the tourists, and suddenly a landslide happens. Of course you have to know foreign languages as well. Being a guide is an art you learn in the real world. The more you work the more experienced you become,” Maia says.

However, Maia says there are also certain things you don’t learn, you just have to know them: “The elderly come here as well. So, there was an incident once, when a woman who was well on in years, broke her rib in her hotel room in Kazbegi. That was the day when I was to take other members of the group to a tour. But after that unfortunate incident, I had to look after that woman and organize her transfer to a hospital. She could not even move. I am telling you this story, because it proves that you have to act very fast in some situations. You have to decide what your priority is.”

The situation is sometimes very tiring, but the guide is obliged to always be in a good, she says: “Even when someone is very annoying, you have to smile.”
Once, our respondent found herself in a very extreme situation: an earthquake happened and the rocks began to fall from a mountain. The reason was serious enough to return to the hotel, but when they were on their way back, they found themselves trapped again by a landslide. So, they had to wait for quite a long time, until the emergency groups cleaned the road.

As for what are the main demands the visitors have, Maia says:

“That depends on the particular tourist company. For example, the Japanese love to enjoy the sceneries and flowers; the Germans like hiking in the mountains and the eastern Europeans prefer wine-tasting tours. It depends. The main interests are mountains, Georgian wine, temples and the history.”

She says, she has never met the tourists who were too obstinate. In particular cases some of them complain a little bit about a hotel, a restaurant or a cleanliness, but if you explain everything well enough, the problem will be solved at once. “However, the drivers are really a big problem. Most of them drive too fast, like crazy and our tourists are not used to that,” Maia notes.
Horse tour in Tusheti. Source: Georgian Association of Guides

Keti Meladze
, the President of the Guides Association of Georgia:

“There was a serious problem in this field until 2000. Somebody had to think about that and I decided that I would be that ‘someone’. I opened the first school for guides in 2005 and created a program myself. We had a very good group of teachers. I like this profession very much.

We call the guides the ambassadors of the country. You have to be a leader, communicative, know several languages, be a diplomat, an actor or even a film director.”

By Lali Patsia

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