Is ‘Welcome to Georgia’ enough for the development of Tourism?

Nino ArvelaDZe

On September 8-17, 2007 Former Governor of Nevada and an international expert visited Georgia. The experts were invited by the U.S.

Embassy newly appointed Attaché Cinthia Whittlesey. They greatly contributed to the development of tourism in Nevada. The seminar for specialists and journalists was delivered on September 15 at the Georgian American University, with the initiative of the U.S. embassy Robert Miller, former Governor of Nevada, one of the authors of tourism development project in Nevada, spoke about the role of central authority in the development of tourism. Thomas Tait, executive director of Tourism Development Council of the state, international expert of tourism, spoke about the importance of private business in the development of this sphere.
From the beginning of 2007 global tourism started development- number of international tourists will be increased with 4%, although the mentioned data is based on the first four month. Accordingly experts expect higher indicators.
On January –April 2007 potential indicator of international tourists exceeded 6 % and fixed 252 million tourists. That exceeds the data of the same season in 2006 with 15 million tourists. Europe is the leader according to the number of tourists.
France is the number one country. The second and the third places are occupied by Spain and the U.S. It’s worth noting, that according to income, the U.S. is the leading country. Then comes Spain and of course France on its third position.
East European and Middle East tourism is developing quickly. Main directions today are summer, extreme and historical types of tourism, although entertainment tourism is also actively developing.
The team of American experts remarked that well developed tourism may guarantee economic development, high rate of employment and the image of the country. A noteworthy fact about tourism development is that it does not necessarily imply infrastructure development of only sea resorts.
The team actively cooperates with the government representatives and arranges meetings with private sector as well.
According to data, from the year of 2003 the number of tourists visiting Georgia increases annually. Despite this, income gained from tourism has an unimportant share in the Georgian GDP.
Former Governor of Nevada discussed the means of attracting tourists, providing the example of Las Vegas.
Special web site is dedicated to the study of the world tourism development trends: (The World Travel & Tourism Council –WTTC). Tourism and travel are the biggest industries of the world, employing about 231 million people, 10, 4 % of the world GDP is gained from these spheres.
On September 25-26, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) together with the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia held and international conference on ‘Strategic Communication in the Sphere of Tourism,’ at Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel.
Touristic Media experience in the sphere of advertising new spots was delivered at the conference.
UNTWO aims to introduce the global code of ethics for tourism. Special attention is
drawn to developing countries.
The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. Zurab Noghaideli spoke about Government liabilities in the development of tourism and remarked that Georgia due to its historical, cultural and geographical diversity quickly becomes an attractive place for the travelers. ‘We invest in hotels, restaurants, transport and, what is most important, in preparing qualified staff.
Jeffry Lipmann, Assistant to Secretary General noted that infrastructure and
service improving is one of the most effective means of attracting tourists. ‘Stop hosting the Chinese’ he said and smiled. There is an old saying, “Behind every joke there is a little truth’.
New markets in East Europe and Middle East demonstrate once again that tourism development is the best way for strengthening economy of the country. Georgia seeks to have its place on the World Tourist Map. Accordingly, tourism development is one of the important priorities of the government.
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and UN World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli plan to open a School of Tourism in Georgia.
Tourism development in a country is the merit of government, which should estimate economic and social values correctly and provide necessary conditions in the sphere.
State Governor in the U.S. is elected. Head of Tourism Department is equal to Minister in Nevada.
Former Governor of Nevada, Mr. Bob Miller remarked that tourism is an important industry for him. His father moved to Las –Vegas on purpose, to be involved in casino and hotel business.
Future Governor used to have summer jobs as a bus guide or a rescuer. He was well acquainted with the other side of business. The side that had never been noticed by a customer – hard work.
Management is the sphere of utmost importance. Las- Vegas greatly differed from what it is today. Due to small area, hotels were densely located and were of low rank.
Father of Nevada’s governor was one of the first who decided to start working on its changing conception. By the end of 60’s one of designers attended the family dinner. Hotels designed by him were different and unordinary.
He had new ideas on new casinos –casino having form of circus ` s camp, where elephants and other animals would walk behind the tables and building various entertaining places. Future governor said that time, that project seemed foolish to him, though in a year the first ‘circus –casino’ was opened in Las- Vegas and several were added later.
Affect being appointed as a Governor, Bob Miller already had big experience, so he could actively participate in Nevada Tourism development. Tourism is an industry, it develops easily and quickly. The sphere frequently stays beyond on authority ` s attention. There is no doubt, it is a big mistake. Tourism gives countries and regions good opportunity to present their possibilities. That is why the government of any country should be interested in tourism development, it should maintain all means and conditions for attracting travelers and tourists from different countries.
Bob Miller remarked that he sees big enthusiasm in the government of Georgia in this regard. This is definitely good, though enthusiasm is only a good beginning that requires further development.
The first action to be taken is the institutionalization. Representatives of government today will not keep their positions for ever. The issue should develop further without them too. Well developed relationships and contacts makes a strong basis.
Tourism industry is direct partnership system based. In Nevada it was developed by using different means and methods. The first step was the right management of state taxes.
The First impression is the best impression
Tourism is a huge business, the best opportunity for the state to make money and rise its image. It will be quickly developed in many countries in the future. Those who intend to be involved in this process, need to show its favors.
Georgia’s sea and skiing resorts have quite a big potential. It offers variety of products, although the development of Historical Tourism should not be shifted back. Number of
historical discoveries have been conduced in Georgia. It is necessary to spread information on it. Historical monuments of Georgia and culture should become visit card of Georgia. The first impressions are of an utmost importance. Greeting of a nice, smiling young lady at the airport of Georgia: ‘Welcome to Georgia, We are glad to see you’ is definitely impressive. Although its quite possible to change your idea as soon as you leave the airport and face a simple gesture of unqualified staff.
The problem of lack of qualified staff will soon rise in Georgia (not only chemists, physicists, biologists etc;) skilled professionals will be required at newly built five stars hotels. (The Georgians are said have different nature. They can’t serve well. They say the Chinese have qualified staff). Highest level of service in Las –Vegas is confirmed by 50 % of new tourists (Las –Vegas hosts about 50 million tourists per year). Thomas Tait experienced the warmness of Tbilisi –Batumi railway travel. Namely, fine service and clear compartment, but had to be back by car. Herd on the road caused a bit danger.
Former Minister clearly reported about main issues the government controls in tourism industry –visas, emigration, transport infrastructure, environment protection issues and region development, including the most important–maintenance of information service.
Brochure prepared by the Department of Tourism and Resorts, that should provide detailed information on Georgia’s resorts to potential tourists, includes just a quarter of page on sea resorts –just with small picture of a sea side. It doesn’t seem to provide the detailed information but let’s hope for the best.
On September 25- 26, an international conference on ‘Strategic Communications in the Sphere of Tourism” was held at Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel.
UNWTO Secretary-General Franchesco Frangialli remarked that, it is his third visit to Georgia. He said he is glad to know that Georgia hosts important conference, which is attended by the representatives of 32 countries, 15 National Tourism Organizations and international media representatives. Mr. Franjialli added, that Georgia`s government is well aware of construction and tourism development importance for national image creation.
Media plays an important role in Tourism development. It makes the world a smaller place, but the relationship between media and tourism is not always balanced. Tourism is hugely depended on media. Some places are publicized by the people, who themselves have never been there. Therefore, officials working in this regard should pay more attention to the issue and should develop professional attitudes towards media. It is considered that internet will replace traditional media. That is illogical, as internet does not limit media, it widens the sphere of communications. Media is able to disseminate positive information, to insure risk, to spread information on possible risk. Media changes together with the change of a time. Journalists feel more responsible.
UNTWO is actively involved in this activity.
Number of tourists in the world increases every year in spite of high prices.
The black sea region remains important. UNWTO expresses its readyness to cooperate with the region and to prepare necessary information.
UNWTO Assistant to Secretary-General discussed the issues related to tourism. New markets need to be involved in this business structure. The process is depended on laws, security system and right publicity. Young and clever generation, meeting the worlds needs, should participate in tourism development. They easily adapt and understand modern technologies.
Anita Mendirata, CNN International Strategy Advisor for tourism and economy development issues talked about importance of media and communications in tourism development providing the example of Croatia.
Development of Communications increases the influence and the effectiveness of the advertisement.
Georgia should make a decision about the form of its tourism and about its goal. Although an adverticement of a golden send is quite attractive, Dubai Palm islands are really interesting, but Georgia has its rich culture and ancient history.
Rahim Huseinov, Chairman of Azerbaijan Marketing Society Council told us that they visited Georgia to attend the conference. Ajara Tourism Information Center has been operating in Azerbaijan for six month already. This time they analyze outcomes.
According to data, number of tourists increased four times in Azerbaijan as a result of advertisement, GDP increases with more than 25 %. Development of tourism and agricultural sector has the prior importance for the government. Private companies greatly contribute to the development of tourism.
Conditions improve daily, new places are created where people can rest and enjoy themselves. Mr. Huseinov considers that countries should exchange their experience and knowledge. Opening School of Tourism is a good news. There is the Tousims University in Azerbaijan. Mr. Huseinov believes that both neighboring countries require recommendations provided by the UN and the World Tourism Organization.
‘I think Georgia and Azerbaijan need promotion from Western media but the countries should be ready for advertisements. Ads should correspond the real situation and cause no problems to the visitors.’
–Adjara is not the only resort of Georgia; there are skiing and medical resorts in our country, besides we have a lot of historical places. Was your company suggested to cooperate with some other resorts?
–We have visited Georgia several times and have studied the region. We basically cooperate with Adjara. I think ads about Azerbaijan is necessary in Georgia and as well as adds about Georgia in Azerbaijan. There are no Visa or transportation troubles between the two countries. We should study each other’s countries properly and should cooperate with each other. Strategic projects bring our countries together. It will be nice If people know each other well.
–Is there enough information about Georgia in Azerbaijan?
–I think there is not. Several years ago a Georgian –American company provided marketing research in Azerbaijan on how to attract foreigners living in Azerbaijan to spend their free time in Georgia. I think this is a positive event. Providing this type of researches should be continued.
By the year of 2020 Georgia intends to become one of the main tourist places of Europe with its Black Sea resorts and rich nature. Can an increased number of tourists form Armenia be considered as a step forward in tourism development? Will their visit effect economy of the Black Sea region and fill high class hotels?