Mountaineer and pioneer: Nick Erkomaishvili
27 September, 2019
Mountaineer and pioneer: Nick Erkomaishvili
In 1989 Nick Erkomaishvili and some friends agreed to guide a group of Swiss climbers to Mount Kazbek. This encounter led them to become the first Georgian tour operators. And they founded the one and only Georgian Mountain Guide School. Nick Erkomaishvili is not so often in Tbilisi. The 48-year-old mountaineer prefers natural fresh air to the cool breeze of the air-conditioning system in his office near the old town. 

How a Swiss approach got to Georgian Mountains

When he was
young, he was part of the national Soviet team of mountain climbers. “Somehow famous, I suppose”, says the modest man. Maybe that was one of the reasons why he and some of his friends were allowed to leave the Soviet Union for a visit to Switzerland. They were invited one year after they had taken a Swiss mountain guide and his group of climbers to Mount Kazbek and Elbrus.

When they arrived in the Alps in 1990, the young Soviet citizens were impressed by the Swiss: “We learned how serious this stuff is”, as Erkomaishvili – now President of the Georgian Mountain Guides Association – puts it. The Swiss used similar techniques, but had a total different approach to organizing mountain tours. “We knew immediately that we wanted to export this approach to Georgia.”

The first at an international travel fair

Three years later – the Soviet Union had collapsed – they founded the Georgian Mountain Guide School in Gudauri. At the beginning they taught children skiing, climbing and environmental protection. Today they offer up to three years training for future mountain guides, but also for other disciplines in adventure tourism. “And after they finish, they all have full schedules. In high season I even have some difficulty finding a mountain guide for a group of tourists”, explains Erkomaishvili. He hopes that by next year, Georgia will become a member of the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Association). “The NATO of Mountain Guides”, as he puts it.

Even if the School was registered very early on as a state school, there is no support. “But a lot of voluntary work.” So Nick and his friends had to earn their money in other ways. They simply continued to guide travellers in the mountains – even during the civil war. In 1994 – despite the state crisis back home – they went to an international travel fair in Europe for the first time: “We were the only ones from the Caucasus.” And this was to remain like this for quite some time.

Travellers do not come from God


“We have the saying in Georgia that guests are sent by God”, explains Erkomaishvili, “so when we started for example going to the Tusheti region for example, nobody wanted to take money for their services.” Building something up in tourism also meant acquainting people with a new business model. “Meanwhile, for many of the remote regions in Georgia tourism became the most important source of income.”

And tourism did not just become important for the rural areas. Tourism is thriving. It is one of the most important and fastest growing economical branches of the economy in Georgia. Erkomaishvili has experienced three boom moments: in the late 1990s when the World Bank and other investors put money into the creation of new national parks; in 2004, when the state started promoting Georgia actively abroad; and in the past five years, when the number of international tourists grew on average by 10 per cent every year (and nearly as much as 18 per cent from 2016 to 2017), as the Georgian national tourist administration has reported.

“Georgia shouldn’t aim to attract the masses”

But Erkomaishvili does not agree with the state’s priorities. He sees Georgia aiming to attract the masses from Russia and the Muslim countries nearby, but he would prefer to attract more tourists from Europe and northern America. “These tourists seek quality, which is the better way for tourism and which is better for the country as well.” For example, Erkomaishvili’s business didn’t feel the current ban on flights Russia has imposed on Georgia. Russians simply aren’t its customer target group. Furthermore, Erkomaishvili talks about the wine embargo that Russia imposed on Georgia in 2006: “This actually helped the industry, because the producers had to increase their quality. Now Georgian wine is exported all over the world.”

“The biggest enemy of tourism are infrastructural projects”

Nowadays Nick Erkomanishvilis and his partners are presiding over the “Georgian Hospitality Group”. The holding contains seven enterprises that work in different fields: Culture, Archeology, Adventure and even conferences and business trips. About 60 people work for them. “During high season about 270 people get their revenue from our business”, he estimates.

What are his future goals? “I want everybody to be happy: The tourists, the locals and nature itself”, he says and talks about his latest project: Fighting the plans of the government to build a highway through the Khada Valley. “The most dangerous enemy of tourism at the moment are several projects which our government is planning to implement”, Nick Erkomanishvili says. He seems genuinely afraid for the natural beauty of Georgia.

By: Valérie Wacker

Related stories:

"Georgia has a long way to go in Tourism"

“Georgia could soon be ready for regulations”

How "Spend Your Summer in Georgia" campaign started?

Batumi awarded Europe's Leading Emerging Tourism Destination 2019

Print
Other Stories
COVID-19 Cases Hit 162, 36 Recovered
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 159 in Georgia.
First death by COVID-19 confirmed in Georgia
The first case of death from the coronavirus infection has been reported in Georgia. Levan Ratiani, Director of the First University Clinic, made the respective announcement.
Coronavirus cases reach 156, 28 recovered
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 156 in Georgia. The information is posted on the government-run website stopcov.ge.
COVID-19 Cases Jump To 148, 27 Recovered
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 148 in Georgia. The information is posted on the government-run website stopcov.ge.
Georgian Volunteers Working In New York Hospitals Tell Covid-19 Stories
Recently, the United States has outpaced all countries worldwide with the number of people infected with the coronavirus. According to the latest data, about 165,000 people have been infected with coronavirus in the United States, and more than 3,000 have died.
COVID-19 Cases Hit 130, Biggest One Day Jump in Georgia
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 130 in Georgia,
Number Of Coronavirus Cases Increases to 117
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 117 in Georgia, the government-run special website stopcov.ge reports.
"Georgia Perceived the Coronavirus Challenge Very Seriously"- Armenian Journalist
About 600 people are infected with coronavirus in Armenia, of whom 3 have died. The first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 1 in Georgia's neighboring country.
How Did Georgian Citizen Living in New York Overcome COVID-19
Georgian citizen living in New York, Khatia Meshveliani, who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, shared her story on her Facebook page.
"The Whole World Is Surprised By Georgia's Accomplishment"- Tengiz Tsertsvadze About Combating Covid-19
Tengiz Tsertsvadze, the director of Tbilisi's Infectious Disease Hospital talked about combating coronavirus.
The Number of Infected With COVID-19 Raises to 115 In Georgia
The number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 115 in Georgia
Coronavirus Cases Hit 110, 21 Recovered
Number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 110 in Georgia.
Georgian Citizen Dies From COVID-19 in New York
Paata Imnadze, deputy head of the National Center for Disease Control, confirms the death of a Georgian citizen abroad with a coronavirus.
5 Common Questions About COVID-19
Even though the respiratory disease COVID-19 has been known to the world for months, there are still unanswered questions left.
COVID-19 Cases Hit 108, Nationwide Quarantine Effective From Today
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 108 in Georgia, the government-run special website stopcov.ge reports.
The Prime Minister Declares Nationwide Quarantine In Georgia
According to the statement of the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, the movement of pedestrians and municipal transport will be prohibited from 21:00 till 6:00.
Why Don't Georgians Abroad Get Infected With COVID-19?
Doctor Inga Mamuchashvili responds to the statistics according to which Georgians living in Europe do not become infected with coronavirus or get recovered easier compared to others.
COVID-19 Cases Increase To 98
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 98 in Georgia, the government-run special website stopcov.ge reports.
Georgian Contestant's Amazing Performance in Russian Musical Show
Georgian singer Nutsa Buzaladze received the highest score from the judges in the final of the Russian competition "All Together."
The Number of Infected With COVID-19 Raises to 97 in Georgia
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases raised to 97 in Georgia, the government-run special website stopcov.ge reports.
COVID-19 Cases Climb To 91, 18 Recovered
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 91 in Georgia, - the government-run stopcov.ge reports.
COVID-19 Cases Hit 90
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has increased to 90 in Georgia, the government-run special website stopcov.ge reports.
How is COVID-19 Affecting India? Georgian Citizen About the Virus Outbreak
Georgian citizen Tamara Lashauri lives in Delhi, India for three years with her Indian husband and a child. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, she has been staying at home which is very unusual for a crowded and active city such as Delhi.
"Times Square is Deserted Now"- Georgian Citizen in New York about Lockdown
The new coronavirus center of epidemic moved from Europe to the US. The United States outpaces Italy and China in the number of cases
Coronavirus Cases Rise Steadily to 85
Number of cases of coronavirus infection has risen to 85.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
03.04.2020
04.04.2020
USD
1
USD
3.1813
3.1576
EUR
1
EUR
3.4778
3.4134
GBP
1
GBP
3.9629
3.8782
RUB
100
RUB
4.0593
4.1072
Other Stories
World famous British singer Jessie J has decided to wear clothes made by Anouki Areshidze, Georgian designer and wife of the mayor of Tbilisi.
Bassiani, one of the most popular underground clubs not only in Georgia but throughout Europe as well, has opened today
An amazing video made in Georgia by tourists from the Philippines have gone viral on the internet.
Over the recent two days May 12-13 Tbilisi city saw a peaceful protest rally in the center of the city.
Hundreds of people took to the main street Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi to protest the raid in Tbilisi’s popular night clubs.
Two bear cubs listed as endangered on the red list were handed over to Tbilisi Zoo,
Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and Deputy Tbilisi Mayor Ms. Sophio Khuntsaria have gifted a food stand
Pamela Anderson, famous Canadian American actress and model has appeared in the chic sunglasses by internationally acclaimed Georgian designer George Keburia.
A ski lift accident in Georgia’s eastern Gudauri resort,in particular at Sadzele 5 lift, has left 8 people with injuries.
The ski lift in Gudauri winter resort in Georgia has broke down in the aftermath of which several people have been injured.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
3.1576
EUR
1
EUR
3.4134
GBP
1
GBP
3.8782
RUB
100
RUB
4.1072
April 2020
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30