On October 2, 2018, USAID Zrda Chief of Party Brian King and Governor of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Alexandre Motserelia joined USAID/Georgia representative David Tsiklauri and Acting Deputy Head of Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) Tornike Zirakishvili to launch the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional Tourism Development Symposium. The symposium aims to identify challenges facing the regional tourism industry and set priorities to better position and market this region as one of Georgia’s premier tourism destinations.
The Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Tourism Development Symposium is the first initiative of the regional tourism stakeholders working group to be registered as a Destination Management Organization (DMO) this year. Earlier last year, USAID Zrda partnered with GNTA, and regional public and private sector stakeholders to establish the regional tourism working group aimed at promoting a well-tested regional tourism development model in Samegrelo and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions. The model focuses on agro-, eco-, adventure-, and cultural tourism, and seeks to improve stakeholder coordination and cooperation in the region.
Zrda’s holistic approach to tourism seeks to support regional tourism development through new tourism product development, promoting new tourism destinations and attractions, and raising international quality standards within players in the tourism sector. As a result of Zrda interventions to-date, 415 guesthouses and restaurants across its target ABL and minority regions, including 207 from Samegrelo, have benefited from both digital marketing training and American Hotel and Lodging Association Education Institute (AHLAEI) certificate training courses on hotel administration, and are now registered on well-known booking engines like Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb. Thanks to the Zrda-supported Information and Media Tours to Samegrelo, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Tusheti, the leading Georgian tour operators have recently included the newly discovered sites into their touristic packages and generated up to $700,000 in sales in just several months following the activity. The initiative also assisted local actors to generate more income, and upgrade their services to meet international standards, all aiming to support increased employment in the hospitality sector of the regions.
In line with its adventure tourism development initiatives, Zrda facilitated preparation of 60 wilderness guides and instructors in canyoning, rafting, hiking, trekking and diving, all catering to the variety of experience levels. As a complementary activity, Zrda in partnership with GNTA supported the positioning of 38 e-maps of hiking trails in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region on www.wikiloc.com- search engine popular worldwide among adventure lovers.