An interview with the Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration George Chogovadze
The budget of your department in 2015 is virtually identical to the budget in 2014. What new projects do you intend to implement in the coming year?
We cannot say that it is identical. In 2015, our department’s budget will be GEL 17.1 million that is 4 million more than in 2014.
In terms of innovation, the most important steps will be aimed at studying the resort potential of various regions of the country. Both state structures of Georgia and foreign experts will be actively involved in it. We are going to interest both local and foreign investors to invest in the construction of hotels.
In general, support for the private sector is very important for the development of tourism and resorts. This will be one of the priorities in the work of our department.
In addition, we are already working on a tourism development which will be ready by spring. At this stage, we already have a preliminary document on which we are now actively working with the support of the World Bank. The strategy will be the main document that defines the main directions for tourism development and will give us the opportunity to carry out deliberate and consistent steps.
It is also important that with the support of the state and the World Bank infrastructure and utility rehabilitation has already begun in the two regions of eastern Georgia which have great prospects in terms of tourism development.
Do you have the priorities – which countries may be the most beneficial in terms of attracting tourists?
Georgia should become a tourist center in the region. It is very important to develop cultural tourism based on the authenticity of culture, preserving the traditions and legends that will help attract tourists. We should not rely solely on mass tourism, we must also strive to attract solvent tourists’ attention.
One of the main tasks is to improve the quality of services, and we are actively working on this issue – in particular, we provide training for those working in the tourism sector.
We also intend to introduce traditions associated with winemaking, which are one of the main priorities in terms of attracting tourists. We should also increase the interest in Georgia in terms of medical tourism and for this a correct positioning of this trend both within the country and abroad is needed.
Due to various factors, Georgia has a great potential in business tourism, in particular, in holding various conferences and certain steps are planned in this direction in 2015.
We are well aware of the current problems – for example such as high prices of tickets, so the major challenge is to continue to attract low-cost airlines that will help to increase the flow of tourists.
Tour operators say that the number of tourists in comparison with previous years has decreased and explain this by the introduction of visa regulations. Whether they will be reviewed?
It should be noted that the new visa regulations did not affect the countries supplying the largest number of tourists – it’s basically the neighboring and the EU countries. According to data for 11 months in 2014, neighboring countries accounted for 88% of revenues derived from tourists, and the EU citizens- 4%. Overall, 92% of tourists are from the countries with which visa-free travel is maintained even after the introduction of regulations.
However, visa regulations undoubtedly affected the flow of tourists from certain countries. On this basis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently working on the introduction of electronic visas, which will give the opportunity to fill the application and get a visa in electronic form.
In addition, it is possible that the visa regulations will be further simplified.
What actions are planned in terms of advertising Georgia’s tourism potential ?
We intend to promote Georgia’s tourism potential on existing and new markets. In 2015 it is planned to carry out a marketing campaign in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia, which are our main tourist partners as well as in Hungary, Israel, the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, and Kazahastane.
Apart from that, in 2015 we will take part in several major tourism fairs – in Hungerexpo 2015 that will be held in Hungary, Top Resa 2015- in France, TT Warsaw 2015- in Poland .
We also intend to intensify the ad campaign in social networks – this is very important considering the role of the Internet in our time.