Zrda Sector Focus: Tourism Development
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. The primary regions for Zrda’s tourism sector activities are Samtkhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo, Pankisi Valley and Tusheti though capacity building of rural guesthouses is a focus across all target regions. In particular, Zrda has partnered with the Georgian National Tourism Agency (GNTA) and regional public and private sector stakeholders to promote a regional development model in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo. The model focuses on agro, adventure, and cultural tourism, and seeks to improve stakeholder coordination and cooperation to better position and market these regions as Georgia’s premier tourism destinations.
♦ New Tourism Product Development: Zrda designed and conducted Informational and Media Tours to Samegrelo, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Tusheti for leading Georgian Tour Operators, helping them to explore new destinations and encourage the development and promotion of new marketable products that meet the wide variety of tourist demand across multiple market segments. . As such, the leading Georgian tour operators have recently included the newly discovered sites into their touristic packages to generate up to $1.2 million in sales in several months following the information tours. The initiative also assisted local actors - accommodation providers, food industry representatives, farmers, museums and other tourist attractions – to increase their sales up to $1.6 million, as well as encouraged many of them to upgrade their services to meet international standards, all aiming to support increased employment in the tourism and hospitality sector of the regions.
♦ Adventure Tourism Product/Routes Development - 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 on www.wikiloc.com - search engine popular worldwide among adventure lovers.
♦ Promoting Regional Festivals and Fairs: Zrda views regional festivals and fairs as a platform for businesses, cultural and entertaining activities to engage and benefit local communities and key business actors aimed at maximizing tourism’s contribution to socio-economic growth, job creation and income generation opportunities for local communities and households. As an example, in July 2017 Zrda launched an annual Anaklia Festival to accommodate up to 40 businesses fitting into resort area concept.
♦ Digital Marketing and Promotional Tools for Rural Accommodation Providers: Zrda initiated hands-on and interactive trainings on digital marketing for guesthouses and restaurants/cafes in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo, Shida Kartli, Kvemo Kartli, and Akhmeta Municipality communities. Training participants were guided through a step-by-step process of joining and marketing their offers on well-known booking engines. As a result of Zrda interventions to-date, 415 guesthouses and restaurant across its target ABL and minority regions are now registered on Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb.
♦ Training and Capacity Building of Rural Accommodation Providers: Zrda, in partnership with Key Management Solutions (KMS), delivered the American Hotel and Lodging Association Education Institute (AHLAEI) Certificate Training Courses on Hotel Administration for the owners and representatives of small and mid-sized hotels and guesthouses operating in Shida Kartli, Samtkhe-Javakheti, and Samegrelo regions. In total, 90 training attendees gained hands-on knowledge on hotel administration and hospitality management, out of which 60 participants were granted the AHLAEI certificate following demonstration of their competency on the course materials.
♦ Destination Management Organization (DMO): In 2017, Zrda partnered with the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) and regional public and private sector stakeholders to establish the Samtskhe-Javakheti (SJ) and Samegrelo tourism development working groups aimed at promoting a regional tourism development model in both regions. The model focuses on agro-, eco, adventure-, and cultural tourism and seeks to improve stakeholder coordination and cooperation. The Working Group will form an initial body of DMO to collaborate towards, and finally elaborate a multi-stakeholder - public and private sector - approach to support the development of the tourism sector, and related sub-sectors (agro, adventure, cultural, etc.) aimed at supporting regional economic growth and employment in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo. The DMO will coordinate and consolidate all existing analyses of SJ as tourism destination as well as diverse strategy documents developed by different donors and development organizations. The DMO will also begin the process of conducting a gap analysis of all regional tourism assets and attractions (historical locations, sights, services, products). Looking for new approaches to tourism development, Zrda in partnership with GNTA organized the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo Regional Tourism Development Symposiums that gathered local tourism stakeholders and international experts to identify challenges facing the regional tourism industry and set priorities to better position and market the regions . To replicate best international practices, Zrda partnered with the Romanian non-profit organization, Sibiu County Tourism Association (SCTA), to gain from the experience Romania has acquired in developing its own tourism industry over the last twenty-five years. In October 2017, Zrda invited public and private sector tourism stakeholders from its targeted regions to take part in a study tour in Romania to get first-hand information on Destination Management Organization and successful destination management approaches in Europe, community-led tourism and agri-tourism work to spur the country's rural economy, impacts and challenges.
♦ Culinary Book Development - Meskhuri Tabla” is the first product development initiative of the regional Samtskhe-Javakheti tourism stakeholder working group to be registered as a Destination Management Organization (DMO) this year. The income generated through the book sales will go to the newly established Samtskhe-Javakheti DMO. The cookbook comprises over 20 old, traditional Meskhetian recipes, and is available in Georgian and English languages. Georgian Culinary Academy of the Agricultural University voluntarily provided support to Zrda in the process of the book preparation. 2,500 copies of the book are being sold locally through Biblus book chain.
♦ Tourist Information Center Capacity Building: As a part of the tourism sector development, Zrda joined efforts with Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) to develop human and operation capacity of Tourist Information Centers (TICs) operating in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo and Shida Kartli regions through consistent and targeted interventions. The initiative aims to improve the overall performance of TICs and support the relevant staff to provide quality services to the incoming tourists/visitors. To explore and replicate international experience and expertise, Zrda and GNTA engaged an international consultant in tourism development who conducted field visits to all TICs, made the basic assessment and developed operations manual for GNTA and recommendations for improvement for TICs. Zrda will follow up with capacity building of TICs through trainings on revenue generation and writing skills.
♦ Participation in International Festivals and Fairs: To better position and market tourist attractions of its target regions, Zrda facilitates their participation in the world's largest tourism Industry trade shows. In March 2017, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region of Georgia debuted at ITB Berlin, a global tourism marketplace of trade visitors and exhibitors from five continents and 187 countries. In January 2019, Zrda-supported tour operators will participate in the New York Times Travel Show that involves more than 500 exhibitors and includes more than 170 travel destinations.
♦ Promotional packages for Destination Management Organization (DMO) marketing: The activity is designed to develop a common template for regional promotion that includes a well-designed and visually appealing website, which is essential for modern destination management and will be sustained by the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo DMOs over the long-term, with an online regional catalogue and visual routes, social media profiles, promotional photo/video galleries for the regions, and e-templates for print media - brochures, catalogues, posters, banners, leaflets, business cards. All materials and online properties will be transferred to regional DMO ownership in both Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo. The activity will support regional promotion activities at the selected international trade fairs in key outbound target markets, and this will be the first time that regions of Georgia will have independent promotional stands at an international fair.
♦ Family Friendly Tourism – aims to introduce and adopt family friendly services in hospitality industry that will distinguish accommodation and food sector representatives across all Zrda target regions by offering age-appropriate amenities, catering services and extra-curricular activities to attract families and boost sales.
♦ Tourism MSME Training Needs Assessment and Training Program – In collaboration with GNTA, Zrda will support outreach to and training of tourism MSMEs located in Zrda’s target regions to encourage local actors upgrade services to meet international standards and generate more income.
♦ Culinary Book Development for Samegrelo - The first initiative of the Samegrelo tourism working group that may serve as a perfect souvenir for those coming to the region. The cookbook, comprising over 40 recipes illustrated with photos and professional graphics will be translated into English and Russian.
♦ Chachkari Village Development Project - The revitalization of Chachkari village is a joint project of the Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, TBC Group and “Kartuli Sakhli” that has a big potential in terms of agro-, and cultural tourism development in the region. Zrda assists in village development planning, marketing and promotion.
♦ Digital Marketing Development for Guesthouses, Small and Medium Hotels: Zrda, through its contracted service provider, shall help guesthouses and small and mid-size hotels to create marketable content to promote their businesses through international booking platforms, websites, social media as well different marketing materials, including brochures and flyers. For provision of subsidized marketing support, Zrda shall select those guesthouses and hotels that will demonstrate willingness and commitment to cost-share in the development of digital and printed promotional materials.
Zrda Sector Focus: Agriculture Development
Zrda’s approach to agriculture seeks to support rural households to increase their productivity and incomes from agricultural activities in three priority sectors: vegetables, fruits (berries and orchard fruits), and bee products. Activities focusing on human capital capacity development, promoting access to new and improved production technologies, on-farm training and technical assistance, facilitating market linkages, and improving access to finance help farmers increase yields, improve efficiency, and raise incomes. Zrda furthermore supports capacity building of public and private sector agriculture extension providers and vocational training for market-demanded trade skills that will help rural households diversify their income opportunities and help them become more marketable for employment. Finally, Zrda is working together with farmer organizations, individual and cooperative producers, and wholesale and retail buyers to help improve standards and promote relevant certifications to improve the competitiveness of regional agricultural products on both domestic and international markets.
Zrda supports the development of several value chains including Fruit - berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) and fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, and cherries); Vegetable (broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and lettuce); and Bee Products by introducing modern production techniques. To-date, Zrda helped to establish 223 open-field and 70 greenhouse demonstration plots, as well as 8 beekeeping cooperatives, that yield fruits and vegetables, fruit saplings, vegetable seedlings, berry plants, and honey across Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo, Kvemo Kartli, and Kakheti (Akhmeta municipality) regions of Georgia.
High Value Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries: Zrda’s primary focus under its agriculture sector work is to promote increased production of high quality fruits, vegetables, and berries, and assist farmers and other actors in the value chain to access higher value markets. Fruits, vegetables, and berries are appropriate crops for small land plots common to our target communities, and small investments in new technologies can pay enormous gains in terms of household and business incomes. Coupled with this approach is e a focus on establishing new standards for the Georgian local market for fruits and vegetables, a so-called “Georgia good agricultural practices (GAP)” certification system that will serve as a clear market signal for quality production while balancing compliance requirements with the resource constraints faced by Georgian farmers.
Bee Products: Zrda’s another focus under its agriculture sector work is to promote increased production and quality of diverse bee products for both domestic and export markets. In addition to honey production, Zrda also focuses on bee queen breeding and propagation for domestic and export markets, and royal jelly production. Our work in this value chain is primarily implemented via support to improve management and marketing capacities, alongside the technical competencies of beekeeping cooperatives.
– Greenhouse Production
To-date. Zrda helped to establish 70 greenhouse demonstration plots to produce seedlings and, vegetables, herbs and flowers in Shida Kartli, Kvemo Kartli, Samegrelo, and Kakheti (Akhmeta municipality).
– Berry Nurseries
Zrda launched six commercial Berry Nursery Production/Plant Management and Demonstration Plots across four of its target regions having supplied them with 17,500 high-quality berry plants from certified U.S. suppliers. As an example, in Rukhi village located near the Administrative Boundary Line with the Russian-occupied territory of Abkhazia, Zrda helped Agro Agora Ltd. launch the first commercial Blueberry Nursery in Samegrelo region. To strengthen the initiative, Zrda is also providing ongoing technical assistance support from Georgian and international experts on agronomy and nursery business models. Overall, the Rukhi Blueberry Nursery will be able to produce up to 100,000 new plants for sale annually once operating at full capacity. By its second year of operation, the nursery can serve a minimum of 50 farmers per year and help to arrange planting stock for a minimum 36 hectares of blueberry plantation, with the numbers increasing thereafter. The activity is a response to local market demand for fresh berries and processed berry products that continue to outpace production.
– Strengthening & Capacity Building of Information and Consultation Centers:
USAID Zrda is improving the capacity of 17 Information and Consultation Centers (ICCs) - Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Bolnisi, Marneuli, Akhmeta, Tsalka, Dusheti, Kareli, Gori, Khashuri, Kaspi, Akhaltsikhe, Ninotsminda, Aspindza, Akhalkalaki, Borjomi and Adigeni - through equipping them with field laboratory toolkits. These mobile lab kits enable ICC specialists to assist farmers with hands-on and practical services aimed at identifying problems related to crop nutrition, pests, soil and water salinity, and PH thus helping farmers improve production quality and generate increased income from the sale of their products and services. Through Zrda-supported trainings and manuals for ICC specialists, the ICC experts delivered 811 soil and foliar tests. To strengthen the initiative, Zrda attracts MASHAV and USAID/Farmer to Farmer (F2F) experts to promote the best international practices and use of modern technologies aimed at boosting yields and improving production quality.
– Private Sector Extension Support to Farm Service Center (FSCs):
Eight private Farm Service Centers (FSCs) equipped with field laboratory testing tools and knowledge on new technologies of crop production developed and provided fee-based consultation packages and field-based laboratory services to 207 farmers across its target regions. Zrda is recruiting students from agricultural vocational centers to work with FSC extensionists, participate in consultation visits at the farmers’ fields and get hands-on experience. Successful interns are expected to be employed by FSCs.
– Mobile Application Agronavti
Zrda and Georgian Farmers’ Association, in partnership with the Georgian Farmers' Distribution Company (GFDC) and the Adjara Hospitality Group, established a mobile match-making platform "Agronavti”. This mobile application charges commission to up to 3,000 of its users on all sales transactions to cover the platform's operations and maintenance costs and ensure its sustainability. GFDC currently collects and distributes a wide variety of Georgian agricultural products to Adjara Hospitality Group hotels and restaurants, including a significant amount of goods produced in the Zrda-target communities. During FY 2018, the value of total sales generated by the company and its farmers living in the Zrda-target areas reached $1.7 million. In addition, the application provides statistics on agriculture; agricultural digest; post-harvest handling; regional profiles; weather forecast; certification; agricultural insurance and offers/opportunities.
With support from USAID Zrda and Credo Bank, Association Rural Development for Future Georgia launched www.kalo.ge - Enhanced Agriculture Platform to provide agro consultations and agro calendar, online shop and service delivery channel for agriculture products, pesticides and equipment, with an opportunity to distantly fulfill acquisition with Credo Bank’s Online Credit Purchase functionality.
– Georgia GAP Certification
Zrda supports the development of crop-specific local GAP standards for Georgia in partnership with Georgian Farmers’ Association and the Ministry of Agriculture.
– Market Linkages
Partnership with “Georgian Agro House” to help Zrda beneficiary farmers participate in Georgian Agro House’s supply chain, and facilitate the development of high quality production markets for fruits and vegetables in 17 Zrda target municipalities. Crops: tomato, cucumber, eggplant, bell pepper, pepper and carrot.
Through partnership with Georgian Farmers' Distribution Company (GFDC) and the Adjara Hospitality Group, Zrda and GFA established a mobile match-making platform "Agronavti” to fulfill local produce orders for the Adjara Hospitality Group’s hotels and restaurants. To-date, the company and its farmers living in Zrda-target areas generated $1.7 million in total sales.
– Improved Post Harvest Management
The Georgian Logistics Association (GLA), with support from Zrda, aims to ensure the sustainability and development impact of its Post-Harvest Handling Management (PHHM) certificate training course, and to this end, assists interested educational institutions, such as Samtskhe-Javakheti State University (Akhaltsikhe), Euro Regional Teaching University (Gori), and Georgian Technical University (Tbilisi), to modify their syllabi for Agronomy Faculties and include the modules from PHHM into their curricula.