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Vera Kobalia introduces new Head of Tourism

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, August 19
Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Vera Kobalia introduced Maia Sidamonidze, the new Head of Department of Tourism and Resorts to the public. In a brief statistical summary, the Minister explained the importance of tourism development and its direct affect on the Georgian economy. “Strong tourism in Georgia will offer new jobs not only in tourism but in other sectors such as agriculture and it will also be important for creating new small businesses in our country as each tourist visiting Georgia is a potential investor,” Kobalia stated. Comparing Georgia’s tourism potential with that of Croatia, the Minister regretted that in tourism in Georgia was 4% of GDP in 2009-2010 while in Croatia it was 6%. “Croatia is a country with no particular potential for tourism development, nevertheless there are 10 million tourists visiting the country every year. Can you imagine how much money can be added to Georgian economy if such tourists spend at least USD 100 per day while on a ten-day trip,” Kobalia said highlighting the importance of tourism development for the country.

Saying a few words to the newly elected Head of Department, Kobalia emphasised Sidamonidze’s project, aimed at raising the efficiency of the sector was chosen as the best from the 109 projects submitted by the contest's participants. Introducing her knowledge and experience in tourism, Maia Sidamonidze spoke on the priorities of tourism as one of the most responsible sectors for our country. “It was no accident that I entered the contest aimed at tourism development in Georgia as I have worked on the similar issues previously. But my participation was encouraged by the great engagement of the Government of Georgia in tourism development. My projects reflect all the strategic views and plans I find important for tourism and include both internal and international cooperation,” Sidamonidze said explaining her strategy is oriented on promoting the sector within the country, especially in the mountainous regions for attracting more foreign visitors, as well as supporting small and medium businesses, raising the qualifications of staff working in tourism, improving infrastructure and having active cooperation with the private sector.

“By raising the economic importance of the regions they will have an opportunity to offer visitors all their places as well as creating jobs for the locals. International tourists will largely be from the CIS countries, as well as our neighbours who are aware of Georgian infrastructure. It is really important to stress that the number of tourists has reached 1 million for the previous months and I’m eager to double this figure,” Sidamonidze told the media stressing that all the activities carried out by the Department will be completely transparent for public and private sectors.

The President of Coca-Cola Bottlers, Georgia, Temur Chkonia was among the guests at the event. “I’m very interested in tourism development in Georgia and cooperate with the Department. We have built one hotel in Kobuleti, another in Signagi and now we are thinking of a third idea. We have serious suggestions to help improve the system of hotels by inviting foreign hotel management graduates, as there is no such tendency in our country and hotel owners can’t deal with the issues themselves,” Chkonia told The Messenger.

Nata Partskhalidze, the newly nominated Deputy Head of the Department of Tourism and Resorts was one of the participants of the contest. The Department will appoint other participants to different positions in both tourism and resorts sectors in near future. Regarding tourism development, the Deputy Head highlighted the importance of infrastructural development, improvement of information services for tourists, creation of training courses for the staff working in the sector as well as inviting qualified foreign specialists.

The Department of Tourism and Resorts already has received many suggestions from different tour operators. The Lufthansa Group (which includes Austrian Airlnes and bmi) conducts 19 flights to Georgia per week, plans to actively cooperate with the new Head of Department and contribute to tourism development in Georgia, a country of great touristic potential.