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Tamar Kaikatsishvili: Educated and Qualified Staff is Required for Improving Tourism Sector Service Quality

Adjara Government continues working on developing services in the Region. Adjara Tourism Department has clearly outlined existing problems and challenges in services. The department plans to remove the current problems through advancing the education level.

Tamar Kaikatsishvili, head of Tourism Department office for service development, talks about current situation in the region in terms of services and the future plans.

-What is current situation in Adjara in terms of development of services and which segment records the major problems?

-in 2017 Adjara Tourism Department has performed huge job for improving services. First of all, I would name educational projects. We have organized a tourism development school and intense training process is underway as part of this project. Moreover, new tourism products will be created to offer seaside recreational places to our guests, visitors, tourists, as well as ski resorts with unique opportunists. Consequently, they will be able to see Adjara highlands. For improvement of services, we are developing tourism products in the form of marked routes with signs, information desks, printed maps. We have tried to involve accommodation and food facilities located along this routes into this mentioned project and to draw the routes nearer to these facilities so as tourists be able to get due services and to alleviate their passage on the routes.

To increase perception, we have hosted important events in 2017. First of all, we held Gandagana Festival for popularizing tourism activities in rural areas. We also held Birds Festival, which is conducted on annual basis. This year, for the first time, we hosted International Festival for Village Tourism. The conference was attended by representatives from several countries and we have outlined cooperation perspectives. Moreover, in active tourism season Batumi International Airport was receiving about 300 flights a week on average and this is an unprecedented figure in the history of Batumi international airport. A great number of direct flights were performed to Batumi and this activity has brought very good results. According to the January to November indicators, number of foreign visitors to Batumi International Airport has risen by 62%.

As to services, we have certain problems in this segment. Key problem is that service staff is not proficient in service standards. We are trying to work in this direction jointly with educational facilities. This year we had novelty as part of tourism development school – we held intense activities jointly with guides. We have trained more than 70 guides for both rural and urban routes.

We pay special attention to guides. To this end Tourism Department has published a special book for guides. The book includes the issues and information that beginner or professional guides must have. The book enables guides to receive general information about Batumi and Adjara to communicate with tourists.

-Do you think that  guides should be certified? Is it right to call everybody a guide, who have read the mentioned book or any other books and decided to work as a guide? Is it right that various guides give various information about the same attraction to tourists? This may damage the image of the region and the country, in general, because this problem does not exist only in this region.

-We have quite open and transparent policy in tourism sector. There are no regulations. This was very good initially to stimulate the sector, but  certain type of regulations became necessary later. For example, the institute of guides is strictly controlled in Turkey and the guides certification process is a quite complicated and long process. However, if we do the same in our country, we will not have a sufficient number of guides to serve the growing inflows of tourists.

We have problems and we have taken measures to resolve these problems. As noted, we have already published the book for guides with the existing routes. In the second part, in 2018, this book will embrace a full network of routes and guides will have full information on what to talk about with tourists when following the mentioned routes.

Maybe you will ask  how we control all these components and I will answer: this field is not regulated, but these regulation are necessary anyway. Therefore, we should prepare the market, develop the database of operating guides. At least 100 guides are required to satisfy the current demand in the Region. We have started creating the database. As noted, 71 guides have already passed training courses in six directions. We plan to carry out the same projects in 2018 too and we will have a good starting base of guides in Adjara.

You remember our project — Recommended by Tourism Department. The project was to confer the status of Recommended to hotels and food outlets to establish minimum standards. We have made the same in relation to guides. This signifies that we have carried out testing in three directions for those, who wanted to join this project. Those, who passed tests and received high scores, they have arranged test tours on the existing routes. Specialists were supervising all these activities. When these two components were held valuably, we  decided to confer the status of Recommended to these guides. Today in the region we have 7 guides with the Status of Recommended and this is a good result for the initial period. We plan to continue the mentioned component in the future too.

– What directions do you plan to improve in terms of services in 2018 and, in general, for the coming years?

-Education is the only and key mechanism for problems resolution, as well as maximum involvement of the employees in educational issues  and reception of information from practitioner managers, who successfully work in this or that branded hotels or famous restaurants. Educated and qualified staff is required for improving service quality in tourism field.

Moreover, we will pay attention to training hotel representatives in safety issues. The recent fact in Batumi has re-actualized the issue of intensification of similar trainings. The Tourism Department had conducted many trainings, but these efforts turned out insufficient and the private sector has to provide huge job in this direction. Moreover, the Service Monitoring project will be also active and about 200 hotels and restaurants will be examined. The results will be discussed to outline specific directions for trainings.