Russia-Turkey Confrontation Will Enhance Ajara’s Tourism Potential
The political unrest in the region is radically changing investment and business perspectives of Georgia, especially in its region of Ajara. Businessman Temur Chkonia asserts the Russia-Turkey confrontation will add new breath to the tourism sector development in the Ajara Region. In his interview with the Ajara Business Week (ABW), the businessman unveils details of how to make a use of this opportunity.
– Mr. Temur, you own several businesses in the Ajara region. How would you appraise the current condition of your business? What are the relevant problems in Ajara? Do you feel the Ajara Government’s efficient support in your business activities?
– We possess a hotel in Ajara that was the first hotel for the Ajara region in due time. Only Intourist hotel was older and then we opened a five-star magnificent hotel. At the same time, we own a wonderful restaurant of McDonald’s and plan to unveil the second one too. We have applied to the Ajara Government with this initiative and we are waiting for their decision. If they approve our initiative, we will open another McDonald’s restaurant in Batumi. Regretfully, the Ajara government shows certain bureaucratic barriers, as it frequently happens, and it takes a long period to decide this or that specific issue.
Ajara possesses quite big perspectives for development. The coastline should be just cleaned up and resort cities should be in order every time. Cities must be clean every time. Our guests should be bored with cleanness and self-discipline in our cities. We are able to reach this goal in case of due organization.
The current developments in the Region have broadened the potential and perspectives for the Ajara Region development. We witness the deepening confrontation between Russia and Turkey. In this situation, the Ajara Region acquires serious chances to draw Russian tourists. Currently, we should direct all our resources to attract as many Russian tourists to Georgia as possible.
The city must be clean and in order every time, because tour operators arrive here in winter period to appraise the condition of resorts and sign summer contracts. The current season is for cleaning, bringing order and meeting tour operators. Today we should direct all our resources to this direction. We should invite Russian tour operators as soon as possible, take them in tour around the whole country. We should organize a central headquarters. We like creating staffs. We should attract Russian tourists to Georgia. We should prove Georgia is a clean, safe and attractive country. We should be carrying out active job to complete the hotel suites booking process in February and March for the coming summer season. Zealous job will enable us to attain this goal.
– How capable is the Ajara Region to become an advanced resort destination, to attract tourists from various countries of the world and offer competition to even Turkey? What the country should do in this respect?
– To make the Ajara Region an advanced resort zone, to my thought, we should definitely develop two directions. Batumi should become an entertaining center, and Kobuleti and the neighboring territories should become vacation resorts. You will nowhere in the world find as long beach as in Kobuleti. We should develop and make a use of this beach that is stretched in several tens of kilometers.
For example, they ask which business field to develop. The government can build hotels in the Ajara resort zone and then sell them to businessmen. This is not a difficult affair; even more so, many businessmen will express intention to buy ready projects, because this is a profitable issue. Small businessmen will be also able to buy them through taking bank loans. Commercial banks will easier issue loans, because they abstain from financing startups, while they are less expected to reject ready projects.
In this way, 10-15 hotels will be built around Kobuleti in the resort zone and this will be a picturesque project. The government would spend a certain amount of money and then sell the project at favorable value. These projects would bring benefit to the state, the business sector and the Ajara resort zone.
– What would you suggest the local residents to forget Russia and the Soviet Union? How should they treat citrus and tea that used to bring considerable revenues in due time? What is the solution and way-out?
– The first and the most important thing is that a tourism zone should be arranged in the Ajara Region. On the other hand, let’s remember the times when Ajara and Batumi were rich regions. Batumi was the richest city at the time of Porto Franco. Nobel, Rothschild, Mantashev were interested to make investments here, while the Baku-Batumi oil pipeline was the longest in the world in that time. The most liberal taxation regime used to run in Batumi in that period.
Hotel London used to operate then and Greeks, Portuguese, Russians and various ethnicities populated Batumi. In that period, even Turkey was a poor country, while Batumi was quite rich and influential city. Batumi used to surpass Istanbul in terms of investment inflows. This region was very rich. In that period the dynasties of Rothschild and Nobel were reviving the region, but now I am Chkonia. How can I compare myself to them in developing this region?!…
It will be ridiculous to compare the contemporary investors to ones in the old time. Therefore, the idea that was making Batumi a rich city may be implemented even today. There was a history of richness and now we witness the history of poverty. We should compare these aspects to each other and take bold steps.
Then the Soviet Times came, the Communists, and today many our compatriots feel nostalgia to that period. I would like to say Porto Franco was the best and the Soviet Union was a grot. Why? Because we had closed borders and all sorts of mandarin cold be sold within this space. Today we have competitive environment and the quality matters. Therefore, Ajara residents face difficulties with sales of low-quality products. Moreover, in the Soviet times, there was a centralized sales market or Russians used to arrive in Georgia and transport the citrus through their automobiles. That system ruined, automobiles do not cross the border, the country collapsed and the centralized sales market has disappeared. To improve the situation it is necessary that farmers who grow mandarin should not have to sell their crop themselves, but farmers should grow citrus and the second chain should sell the crop.
How can we imagine that an 80 year old farmer who grows mandarin is able to sell his crop in Russia? And in Ajara women constitute the basic workforce and how will they sell mandarin in Russia? Therefore, it is upon the government to organize a sales format, create a sales organization, purchase this mandarin and then sell it.
We had two pasts, the best one in the face of Porto Franco and the ugly Soviet Union. We have ruined one without future and another collapsed itself. Consequently, we should live the current life and respond to the existing challenges.