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GeoTourism In Danger?

Published: October 2, 2012 | 1:33 pm
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Arriving tourists departing back right from the airport because of the current situation in Georgia.

The COMMERCIAL TIMES

Should we expect ‘domino principle’ in the country? How tough elections period can influence on economic development, in particular on tourism sector?

For the last two weeks the situation in Georgia has become quite strained because of the heating upcoming elections period. According to tour operators (who asked us not to disclose their names), the number of tourists has decreased. In their words, people pass on travelling because of the current threat some environment in the country. During unofficial interviews, tour operators confirm that the latest political developments have affected much their businesses.

Tour operators claim that not only internal tours have been postponed, but they face issues in attracting tourists from abroad as well. “From the very first day when foreigners got aware of the local developments, arriving tourists started departing from the airport right away, refusing to stay in Georgia,” representative of one of the tour operators, told CT.

In order to provide more competent details around the subject, CT contacted National Tourism Agency (GNIA) to ask what impact the ongoing developments might have on tourists’ inflow. GNIA did not respond.

Marina Metreveli, PhD, Professor, Leading specialist at Parliament of Georgia/ Economic Policy committee, Expert on Tourism, says that the current situation in the country will reflect heavily on the tourists’ inflow in Georgia. “We cannot speak about the results of the ongoing developments as we’re in the middle of the process at the moment. We cannot predict what to expect from either side tomorrow. As an expert, I can comment that the current situation will influence on foreign tourism in Georgia,” declared Metreveli. “At this phase should not promote a tourism product abroad, we must work on changing the image of the country. Advertisement and promotion has to be focused on the presenting Georgia as a stable destination for tourism. Nobody will get interested in a concrete product of any country and no one will start judging about offered quality and prices unless they’re confident in the safety issues.”

Metreveli states it’s better to wait and see how things develop and avoid predictions. “Imagine how much negative information we hear already and this is not all of it, the climax is ahead. When worst is over, we’ll have to assure people that it is a safe country to visit. Anyone in the 21st century, who is intended to arrive in Georgia, even if they’re already negotiated with tour operators, will inquire information on latest developments in the country. During the times like today, all the information will be negative, no matter true or false.”

According to Elguja Mekvabishvili, Expert on Economy, tourism in Georgia is not developed enough to be affected by the current situation. “I don’t expect the ongoing developments to have an impact on the local tourism. This threat would be real in the countries like Greece and Spain where tourism is well developed,” he said. “Yes, we have foreigners arriving in Georgia, but they’re mostly visitors and not tourists. However, it doesn’t mean that all that will not influence negatively on the country’s image”

Mekvabishvili also spoke of the pre-election campaign characteristics. “Pre-election campaign period and instable environment hurts economy. Final outcome depend on election holding processes and its results. In case elections are followed by chaos, indeed, it will affect economic development of the country.”

As the expert explains, elections always carry certain threat in the countries like ours. “Investors are always cautious about the ongoing developments in such countries while in developed-economy countries elections are ordinary processes. In Georgia, ongoing situation depends not only on the election results but on the election process as a whole, including the post-election period.”

Due to the experts’ comments, we can say that it’s early to speak of the domino principle yet.  One thing is clear, for a tourist who got back on board and left the country on the moment of the arrival, it will take time to pick themselves up and get packed for a second visit.

 

 

 

 

 

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