Problems with services and attitude to visitors may pose threats to the growing tourist inflow to Georgia.
It is not disputable that growth in tourist inflows is directly related to the environment that the host country offers to visitors, but the experience of the developed tourism countries suggests that financial safety and other safeguarding measures become necessary almost every time, besides physical safeguarding measures. In this respect, Georgia is among the countries that seemingly need to enforce visitors’ protection mechanisms. For example, Israel is one of the countries from where the tourist inflows have considerably increased, but in previous years, Israeli tourists were visiting Georgia for only sightseeing, but now you will often hear from them how they were cheated in terms of currency exchange rate in Tbilisi or how much they had to pay to taxi driver. The mentioned facts and similar image violating activities may be heard from many visitors from other countries.
This problem is not a new one. However, as a rule, the countries that are interested in tourism sector development always make focus on overcoming the mentioned problems. Experience of several countries is very valuable in this respect, including the Israeli experience.
The Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business started large-scale campaign last year to introduce the Israeli experience to Georgia, including, popularization of Georgia’s tourism potential and environment, on the one hand, and care for Israeli tourists at the local level.
In the last year and this year, the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business and the Israeli House published two books in Hebrew language that describes Georgia as a tourism country. Lectures are held on this topic at various pubic centers in Israel. Meetings are held with Israeli tourists, as well as in Tbilisi at Israeli House.
Itsik Moshe, President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, says that the business chamber receives various information from many visitors about cheating and inappropriate attitudes. One of the tourists supplied a photo to the business chamber taken at Kote Apkhazi street (former Leselidze Street) on July 6, 2016. The photo depicts exchange currency booth that buys one USD for 2.03 GEL from tourists, while on that day the price of one USD was 2.30 GEL (15% difference). There are many cases when tourists ask local residents to negotiate taxi tariffs, in other case they have to pay inadequately high prices.
«It is a very bad tendency when the facts of cheating tourists have multiplied. It is the state’s responsibility to eradicate the problems. Otherwise, the country may maintain only that category of visitors, who are interested only in adventure tourism. Therefore, I think it will be expedient if Georgia shares the rich experience of Israel that has made the country into a tourism center. I would suggest the government of Georgia to launch large-scale campaign to further promote benevolent attitude towards tourists», Itsik Moshe said and added that this campaign may be carried out under the slogan “Smile to Tourist” and each citizens may be incentivized for demonstrated delicacy (for example, return of lost thing or delivery it to law enforcement offices).
«Each citizen needs stimulus for establishing new relations and culture; and each tourist needs feeling of safety and protection and the country will make tenfold benefits in this way, in terms of financial revenues and international image. And this function may be performed by only the Government», Itsik Moshe said and referred to the sample of ISRAEL that, to his words, suffers from terrorists’ attacks, but the country has managed to become one of the attractive tourism destinations by creating appropriate conditions for tourists.
“It is desirable to create special office that will listen to complaints of discontent tourists and which will provide correct and adequate reaction”, Itsik Moshe said. These offices should make focus on one problem that foreign tourists meet especially in big cities. This is a group of aggressive beggars that create discomfort to tourists very often and appropriate instances should provide respective reaction to overcome this problem, Itsik Moshe said.