THE BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
Head of International Tourism Promotion Office of Batumi, Autonomous Republic of Adjara, Georgia
Batumi and the Adjara region, as the most remarkable beach destination of Georgia, plays a significant role in the tourism life of the country and its importance is increasing in the field of international tourism, as well. Besides that the city and the region is awarded by several mainstream media and tourism organizations and companies, its growing relevance shows that Batumi will be the hosting city of the World Travel Awards in 2023. I asked about all these, the challenges of last years and the plans of development Mr. Mikheil Koplatadze, Head of International Tourism Promotion Office of Adjara.
How would you evaluate the years of Covid in the tourism of Batumi and Adjara?
According to the effective measures and low rates of confirmed cases, Georgia became the country successfully managing the crisis of pandemic. The coastal city of Georgia, Batumi was one of the first destinations in the world to open its borders for international tourists and allowed tourists to visit the Black Sea. The Georgian government was actively working to create the safe corridors, as well as successfully implemented the recommendations provided by WHO and WTO including the local authorities, in order to allow visitors enjoy their stay in a safe and trustful environment.
How did you begin to come out of that hard situation, what marketing and PR tools did you use?
In 2020-21 the government of Georgia has launched the anti-crisis plan to help the tourism sector by financial assistance and subsidizing the bank loans. During epidemics many hotels were transformed into quarantine zones and delivered exclusively good services to guests.
In fact, all restrictions and regulations, with the exception of mandatory facemask use in medical facilities, have been lifted. Despite the fact that the pandemic is not over yet we surpassed the 2019 figure in the number of visitors. Accordingly, both mountain and sea destinations are waiting for tourists from all countries.
The Department of Tourism and Resorts of Adjara actively participates in tourism exhibitions of target countries, we organize media and info tours, both for journalists and for representatives of tourism companies. We organize master classes and presentations. We have placed outdoor advertising in up to 16 countries, and the department actively implements online advertising and television advertising. We are actively developing the tourist infrastructure and improving the service level in tourism as much as possible
Which are the biggest sender countries to Batumi, Adjara?
Within the framework of the market diversification policy we are actively working on the european markets in order to increase the awareness of the tourist potential of Adjara accordingly we have an active increase numbers of tourists from European destinations : England, Germany, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, of course Hungary - from where we have direct flights to Kutaisi, from Kutaisi to Batumi, it's just 2 hours by car. We also have tourists from traditional markets such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Israel.
How are the numbers of arrivals going so far this year?
Years of activities in our target countries have yielded results. As soon as the pandemic restrictions were eased not only flights were restored but we have added new directions. For example, flights from Latvia and Uzbekistan were carried out at Batumi Airport for the first time this year. Only in the month of July, 370 flights from 12 countries, operated by 18 airlines, are scheduled at Batumi Airport. In addition to Batumi airport, tourists have the opportunity to arrive at Kutaisi and Tbilisi airports.
I saw that new magically beautiful quartiers are growing out of the ground; a kind of „Little Emirates” styled at a part of Batumi and also a kind of „Little Las Vegas” styled near the port. Do you use these similarities in your marketing strategy and if yes how?
As you know tourism is a priority for Georgia and Adjara Region (Batumi) has great potential for developing the abovementioned field. 32% of total investments belong to the tourism sector. Tourism infrastructure is developing in Adjara, and almost all famous brands have already entered the market such as: Radisson, Hilton, Le Meridien, Sheraton, Best Western… Georgia is ranked 7 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings, our country remains to be the regional leader for doing business, the first amongst the 23 countries of Europe and Central Asia. At the same time, we are among the leaders in Europe in terms of safety. Prices in the market are acceptable to everyone. Based on all of the above - Yes, there is an attractive investment climate in our region and country in general. That is why the city is developing at such a fast pace, which you have noticed, and why it is compared to developed cities. It is worth noting here That Batumi is the winner of “World Travel Awards”. The city was awarded themain prize - Emerging Tourist Destination. Also, one of the most authoritative awarding ceremonies, the World Travel Awards, is to be held in Batumi in 2023. Tornike Rizhvadze, Chairman of the Government of Adjara and Sion Rapson, the Vice-president of the World Travel Awards already have signed an agreement in London.
What are the strongest branches of tourism and which ones do you plan to develop (MICE, Leasure, Wellness, etc.)
What does the coastal region remind you of first? There’s no need to argue that seaside resorts are what comes in your mind first – with good infrastructure and endless opportunities for leisure and entertainment. The seaside of Adjara is distinguished with subtropical climate, coastline of 21km long, warm sea averaging between 21-29 degrees, comfortable atmosphere and distinctive nature. Besides the leisure, Batumi resort has a solar therapy and sea-salt baths to offer. Even in the coldest month of the year – January, the temperature doesn’t go lower than +7-10 degrees, which makes Batumi an all year around destination. The Botanical Garden, protected areas and several national parks make harmony between the pure nature, mind and soul. In addition, there are many things to be discovered while visiting, the rich history of the region, several tourist attractions and delightful Batumi Boulevard stretched on the coastline. Everywhere you go, anywhere you are – you will be welcomed by Georgian hospitality and exquisite Adjarian cuisine, topped with unique, famous, Georgian wine, the background of all this is the unforgettable Georgian folklore. The Autonomous Republic of Adjara is one of the most outstanding tourist destinations in Georgia as well as in the entire Black Sea region. More than two million visitors have Adjara during the year and this number is constantly growing. However, our region became even more attractive for visitors interested in ecotourism, adventure and MICE tourism in recent years.
Photos: Tourism Promotion Office, Adjara