The FINANCIAL -- On 26 October a presentation of the new tourism information web-site of Adjara held in Batumi was presented to both public and private sectors, NGOs and university and Media representatives. The web-site is in three languages - Georgian, English and Russian and has all the necessary information for tourists and people interested in tourism sites, tourism information about Adjara. A brief interview with Zviad Eliziani - a chairman of IBDIPC.
Q. Under the USAID/IESC support, as was mentioned during the presentation, analyses were done on Ecotourism and Agri-tourism development perspectives. What is the current situation and what are the recommendations of IBDIPC for further development?
A. As our study showed there is real potential in Ecotourism and Agri-tourism. Adjara has all the necessary factors for this: beautiful nature and landscapes, culture and traditions, folklore, unique cuisine, a national park and protected areas. It should be noted that people in communities are quite interested in and welcoming to tourism development, accepting tourists etc. (which is an important factor for tourism development in rural areas).
The problems that can be highlighted are: poor conditions of access roads to rural communities, lack of infrastructure and signage, lack of information - tourism sites in the Adjara mountains are less well known to tourists, a lack of online sources of tourism information about Adjara, a lack of qualified human resources, non-existence of a long-term oriented plan for tourism development as well as a lack of coordination and cooperation between the government and the private sector, NGOs and especially the local communities that are specifically impacted by tourism.
Q. IBDIPC has been actively involved in tourism development projects over the last year, what other projects are you doing in the tourism sphere?
A. Our organization right now is implementing several projects in the tourism sphere. One is supported by Eurasia Foundation which is focusing on tourism business trainings in highland Adjara (Nigazeuli community - Shuakhevili region) which will be helpful for young people to develop small tourism businesses there. In particular, several guesthouses are in the process of renovation and can use gained knowledge in tourism services, marketing and business planning for improvement of their activities.
We are also actively involved in the development of tourism vocational education in Adjara. Last year we launched a tourism education centre in Batumi which was quite successful, many graduates of which are now working for local hotels, restaurants and tour companies. This year we received a grant from the Netherlands Embassy through which we purchased modern literature from the USA and video-courses in the hospitality sphere. Study materials will be prepared in Georgian, the web-site of the tourism education centre will be launched and our organization will become a member of international organizations (IHRA - International Hotel and Restaurants Association, EURO-ATLAS - European association of tourism education) which will be helpful for networking and benchmarking international experience.
IBDIPC is cooperating with WWF to prepare tourism development and a marketing concept for Mtirala National Park in Adjara. We are developing this project with the assistance of our German CIM (Centre of International Migration) expert (Mr. Kurt Reitz) in Tourism who is coordinating the concept development. Mr. Reitz will be working with our organization for two years by support of GTZ/ the German government and will be also involved in these issues.
Q. What other plans do you have for the future? Are you cooperating with the tourism department in Adjara?
A. IBDIPC has many interesting plans for the upcoming years. We will be focusing our activities mainly on tourism development.
We have contacts of course with the tourism department, always share information and sometimes do meetings together with various stakeholders. Recently, together with our German expert, we prepared some proposals for them - offered joint projects for tourism popularization, human capacity development and tourism information centres. We are waiting for a decision from their side and hope that it will be possible to cooperate in this direction.
One of the nearest projects which will be starting in November is tourism business incubators. We will be doing it with our partners from Tbilisi - BII (Business Incubator Initiative - Georgia). The project is financed by USAID/IESC. The local government of Adjara also supported this idea and gave us a building for the business incubators. We are sure that it will be a very successful project (specifically, there are possibilities to involve other supports based on preliminary talks - World Bank, GTZ, Eurasia Foundation etc.). It will be a good example of public and private partnership. Business incubators are in many countries in the world and are one of the most important and successful mechanisms for SME business development.
Through GTZ support we did preparation work for the establishment of the Adjara Tourism Association and we plan to start operations soon. Tourism associations have great importance for the development of this industry in terms of service level improvement, standards and the classification system, promoting private sector interests, networking and benchmarking of international experience etc. In future IBDIPC will continue support of the tourism association. In particular we have a German expert in tourism as I mentioned above who will also be involved in these issues.
We are also working on development of the Tourism Competence Centre (TCC) in Batumi. It will be functioning as a coordinating organization in tourism-related matters (e.g. for service providers, the hotel- and tour operator business, tourism associations etc.) and can facilitate the creation and implementation of various projects and services focusing on promotion of the tourism sector development. The main scope of TCC activities will be: Information Consulting, Project management and coaching, Education and long term coaching for the hospitality sector, Promotion / Advancement regional and international cooperation and projects through all clusters, Supporting the ATA - Adjara Tourism Association, Organizing trainings, seminars/workshops and tourism education support, Event management and Catering services etc. GTZ will provide the initial support for this project and other supporters may also get involved.