The FINANCIAL -- Ring in the New Year in Jordan, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
InterContinental, the popular tour operator in Georgia, is now providing this new product for those who would like to spend New Year in a sunny climate and enjoy ancient attractions and rich history alongside elements of modern life. Jordan, one of the friendliest countries in the Middle East, will be hosting Georgian tourists from New Year 2014.
InterContinental will have three charters to Jordan this year: on December 30, for Christmas (7 January) and for Old New Year (14 January). The ticket prices start from EUR 650. “This is a remarkably low price for Jordan, which is offered exclusively by InterContinental in Georgia,” Nino Makhviladze, General Director of InterContinental, told The FINANCIAL. “This year, in partnership with hotels and partner companies in Jordan, InterContinental is offering promo prices which will not be available in the years to come. Hence those who want to spend New Year in Jordan at very affordable prices should be quick about booking with us,” she added.
“In the past, when InterContinental had flights to Taba, our customers had the opportunity to buy a tour package which included Jordan as well. People were so excited about it and showed willingness to travel to Jordan again and again. This fact encouraged me in offering charter flights to Jordan,” she added.
“Europe is always a very popular and well-selling destination for Georgians during the New Year period. But this year we came up with an idea to offer charter flights to Jordan as it is a very attractive product for many and I hope for Georgians as well. With its Red Sea and splendid climate, wonderful Petra and excellent service, Jordan will become one of the favourite holiday destinations of Georgians I believe. Keen shoppers will find many of their favourite brands there at very affordable prices. There is a Free Economic Zone in Jordan which contributes to the low prices. Also people will find Dead Sea products and high quality spa products, as well as two-day excursions to Israel and Akaba in our packages. It is a very safe country and I believe that Jordan will soon become as in demand a travel destination as Egypt,” Makhviladze said.
For those who would prefer to meet the New Year in the very homeland of Santa Claus, InterContinental offers tours to Lapland. “During the Christmas period demand for hot countries is higher than for countries where people can experience real winter with snow and a traditional New Year atmosphere. Dubai is very popular during the Christmas period. But Europe is also a very attractive and well-sold destination. Because chartered flights create comfort for customers and we only have charters to hot countries, it is perhaps this that leads to the increased demand for the hot countries. It is a little bit strange to meet the New Year in a sunny climate but it is something new that many people would like to experience at least once. Lapland is the home of Santa and many people, whose dream it is to meet Santa, prefer to experience the real Christmas atmosphere there. While it used to be preferable for Georgians to stick to traditions and greet the New Year at home, nowadays the trend is changing and more and more Georgians prefer to leave the country and spend their holidays somewhere else at this special time of the year,” Makhviladze said.
“Out of the European countries Prague is the most popular destination for the New Year and Christmas period. Italy does not have a specific season in terms of popularity, it is always very much in demand. Austria is also very popular, meanwhile France - less so,” she added.
Q. Despite the political unrest in Egypt, is this country still popular with Georgian tourists?
A. The disturbances in Egypt do not prevent it from attracting tourists not only from Georgia but from other countries as well. It is already three years now that there has been a tense situation in Egypt but the tourism zones are so well defended that no one is afraid to visit this amazing country. 17,000 tourists visited Egypt this year from Georgia, according to the Ministry of Tourism of Egypt. As they say, it is all InterContinental’s contribution and we are proud of it. We are working on making Georgia a destination for Egyptian tourists as well. We have opened our branch in Egypt and intend to make people there interested in Georgia.
Q. InterContinental has become an international company and is involved in not only outgoing but incoming tourism as well. How successful will InterContinental be as an international company?
A. We are a 22 year old company. This is no short period of time. Our experience is huge. We established ourselves as a strong and growing company so our expectations are very positive for InterContinental as an international company. Thomas Cook and Travco (travel agencies) are our partner companies and they will help us in developing incoming tourism. It was not easy to convince Georgians to travel abroad 22 years ago and to choose the right countries in accordance with their interests. Similarly, it will not be easy today to bring foreign tourists into Georgia, but our experience will help us to handle this.
There were plans to open InterContinental branches in 6 countries of the world. Nowadays 4 of them are already opened, these are in Georgia, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Armenia. From May 2014 the remaining two branches will be opened as well. From summer 2014 we will start bringing tourists to Georgia. That being said however, we have already started to bring tourists from Moldova, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Nowadays Georgia is very popular among Middle Eastern countries and post-Soviet countries. Each of them is very valuable to us as they spend at least USD 1,000 in our country on average. The reason why citizens of Arabian countries are attracted to Georgia is that Georgia is a European country for them with a simplified visa regime. The Muslim world has several restrictions in their countries and by comparison they feel free in Georgia. These components encourage people from these countries to come to Georgia.
Q. What is the development of tourism in Georgia lacking?
A. To develop tourism further in Georgia it is very important to pay attention to infrastructure. Georgia still lacks a big enough quantity of hotels and high enough quality of service. As demand is higher than the supply the cost of hotels in Georgia and the whole tourism package that we sell is very high. With such expensive tourist packages it is very difficult to compete with other countries, for example European countries which can offer the same things yet at lower prices.
We sell wine tours and wedding tours in Kakheti. Gudauri is very popular during the New Year period. Batumi is attractive during summer. Rafting and Health Tours have great potential for development in Georgia and finally - Svaneti, which is amazing with its mountains and sightseeing. So Georgia has unique opportunities for the development of tourism here.
Tours in Georgia start from USD 490 at InterContinental.
Q. How do you present Georgia to the world?
A. We say that Georgia is a very safe country. Safety plays a very important role when choosing a country to travel to. The fact that Georgians are very hospitable really helps in attracting many travellers. And of course beauty - we always underline that Georgia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with an immensely rich history and culture!