With its natural beauty, seashore and mountains, Georgia offers tremendous potential for tourism development. In 2011, tourist arrivals exceeded 2.8 million, a 39% increase compared with the previous year and 6 times that of 2000. The Top 5 countries of origin are Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and Iran, 63% of these visitors come from CIS countries and 32% from European countries.
Investment in the sector has grown substantially since 2004. These investments include airport renovations, major hotel and resort projects, mainly in Tbilisi and the seaside city of Batumi.
Besides, the Bakuriani, Gudauri and Svaneti mountain resorts attract a new wave of tourists from Western and Southern Europe. The New York Times referred to Georgia as “A rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery” and ranked it 6th among 41 Places to go in 2011. The Guardian also promoted Georgia as a ski destination for the month of January in its calendar of countries best seen in 2012.
Strategic direction / specific schemes and incentives
Aiming at increasing export earnings, reducing seasonality and creating new jobs, the National Tourism Administration launched several programmes to encourage the development of tourism:
Long-term vision and development: statistics, surveys, improvement of the legislation, etc.;
Promotion and positioning of Georgia in the international markets: fairs, media campaigns, etc.;
Infrastructure improvement and regional development: development of new products;
Education and vocational training: opening of the Tbilisi Vocational Training Centre “Icarus
” in 2007.
Sought for improving the infrastructure and services, private investors are offered the following incentives:
Hospitality: 2-3 star hotels for middle class tourists, guesthouses for backpackers, transformation of State buildings for sale
into luxury hotels;
Mountain and adventure tourism in Bakuriani, Gudauri, Mestia and Adjara: accommodation facilities, mountain sports (ski, heliski, trekking, hiking), supply of ski lifts and equipments, ski rental shops;
Sea tourism: development of hotels, resorts, casinos, shopping centres, water sport activities in Kobuleti
Wine and rural tourism: wine tours in Kakheti for both domestic and international tourists;
Cultural tours: 12,000 historical and cultural monuments, 3 World Heritage Sites, etc.;
Eco-tourism: 30 protected areas, 9 national parks, birds watching in Poti;
MICE: hosting of business events in Tbilisi, Kobuleti, and Batumi;
Catering, restaurants, cafes & clubs, souvenir shops and factories.
Some success stories
Marriott (USA) manages the Marriott Hotel and the Courtyard in Tbilisi. It will also manage the Ritz-Carlton Batumi, scheduled for 2015. The latter project is a USD 250 million investment by B&G Georgia, a Turkish-Georgian JV. It will employ 1,000 people, of which 90% will be Georgians.
Silk Road Group (Kazakhstan) is the owner of Radisson Blu Iveria in Tbilisi and Radisson Blu Batumi.
Entrée is a 75-25 JV between Georgian and French investors. It opened its first bakery and coffee shop in Tbilisi in 2008. Four other locations were rapidly added to the network. All Entrée products are cooked under the direct supervision of a staff of highly trained French Chefs and Cooks.
Shangri La (Hong-Kong), a hotel developer and casino franchiser, invested around GEL 16 million in Shangri La Tbilisi, a casino which includes a gaming and entertainment complex and a restaurant with a view over the River Mtkvari. Russia’s Storm International was assigned as gaming operator.
Useful links and contacts
Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Georgian National Investment Agency
National Tourism Administration