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 Samtskhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo, Pankisi Valley and Tusheti though capacity building of rural guesthouses is a focus across all target regions. In particular, Zrda has partners 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 fostered the development of new experiential and indigenous tourism products across communities in Samegrelo, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Tusheti for leading Georgian Tour Operators, helping them 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. In addition, Zrda facilitated a series of informational tours to introduce new products to leading Georgian tour operators, and sponsored several workshops and trainings sharing international best practices. As a result of this activity, the leading Georgian tour operators have included the newly discovered sites into their touristic packages to generate up to $2.8 million in sales whereas the local actors - accommodation providers, food industry representatives, farmers, museums and other tourist attractions increased their sales up to $2.7 million. The Zrda-supported activity encouraged industry players 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 90 wilderness guides and instructors in canyoning, rafting, hiking, trekking, horse-riding and diving, all catering to the variety of experience levels. To strengthen the initiative, Zrda launched a website for all adventure guides trained, certified and equipped within the program support: https://adventours.ge/en. As a complementary activity, Zrda in partnership with GNTA supported the positioning of 42 e-maps of hiking trails on www.wikiloc.com - search engine popular worldwide among adventure lovers. Further to the technical and financial assistance, Zrda united Equestrian guides around The Endurance Riding and Equine Tourism Association and enhanced the association to build its future towards becoming the leading national equestrian tourism organization in its field and represent Georgia in the World Equestrian Tourism Federation (FITE).
♦ 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, Zrda partnered with local organizations to launch and promote an annual Khachapuri Festival in Rukhi village of Samegrelo, International Festival of Traditional Crafts Workshops in Samtskhe-Javakheti.
♦ 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.
♦ 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, up to 500 accommodation providers and over 50 restaurants 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.
♦ Training and Capacity Building of Tour Guides: To respond to the market need for qualified tour guides, Zrda partnered with the Center for Training and Consultancy (CTC) to work with four different stakeholders - Zugdidi Shota Meskhia State Teaching University, Kachreti VET “Aisi”, Gori VET “Gantiadi”, and Akhaltsikhe VET “Opizari” with an aim to develop and deliver certification training courses for tour guides. Additionally, CTC developed a Job and Competence Framework for Tour Guides and a curriculum for the program based on the numerous interviews and workshops carried out with tour operators, tour guides, sector associations and VETs; and analysis of syllabi offered for similar tour guide training courses across different training organizations. Additionally, the Zrda international expert helped with developing syllabus and training design and conducted a training of trainers (ToT) for potential trainers, assigned by Zrda partner VETs. As a result of the collaborative effort, CTC developed a Training Reader, Case Book and PowerPoint slides for the training course, and organized a ToT for the Zrda partner VET teachers to upgrade their skills and knowledge in delivering the newly developed Tour Guides training course. CTC coordinated the first cycle of the training course for 70 students in all four partner institutions having finally certified 63 guides that will embark on their dream career in the nearest future. As a complementary activity, Zrda provides networking opportunities to create market linkages among course graduates and partner tour operators to explore employment and funding opportunities as well as to promote a viable commercial approach where courses can be sold to interested participants and government stakeholders from the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia.
♦ 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 Destination Management Organizations 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 DMOs work 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. Presently, the DMOs coordinate and consolidate all existing analyses of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo as tourism destinations as well as diverse strategy documents developed by different donors and development organizations. The DMOs also began 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 locally and internationally. 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 To better understand tourism development industry and position Georgia as a unique destination in the region, Zrda arranged a study tour to Czech Republic for Samtskhe Javakheti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Imereti and Kakheti DMO managers, as well as Kvemo Kartli local government members. Georgian delegation visited numerous touristic sites, such as UNESCO heritage villages, museums, family breweries, agro- touristic farms, and family wineries.Promotional Packages for Destination Management Organization (DMO) Marketing: As a complement to the Designation Management Organizations (DMO) establishment activity and in line with Zrda’s objective to promote Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo destinations at national and foreign tourist markets, Zrda supported the development of regional promotional packages for both regions. The activity was designed to develop a common template for regional promotion that included a well-designed and visually appealing website, essential for modern destination management and would be sustained by the DMOs over the long-term. The template included an online regional catalogue, social media profiles, a promotional video and photo galleries for each region, and e-templates for print media (brochures, catalogues, posters, banners, leaflets, business cards). All materials and online properties were transferred to regional DMO ownership in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo. The activity aims to 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. Along with the promotional and marketing support Zrda provided capacity building activities for Samtskhe-Javakheti Destination Management Organization (DMO) staff through certified job-oriented online training courses in tourism management, leadership and project management as well as fundraising and donor relations management led by Management Academy.
♦ Culinary Book Development – “Meskhuri Tabla” and Kolkhuri Tabla are the first product development initiatives of the regional Samtskhe-Javakheti and Samegrelo Destination Management Organizations. The cookbooks comprise old, traditional local recipes, and are 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. The books are being sold locally through Biblus book chain.
Zrda is in final stage of issuing two more editions in a series of books that will help to revive the centuries-old traditions of Georgian cuisine from two particular regions. Culinary books will include up to 50 recipes of unique and historic dishes and drinks of Kist and Tush cuisine. Designed to promote both targeted regions locally and internationally, the Cookbook will become a great souvenir for visitors available in Georgian and English languages for sale through the various channels. USAID Zrda continues to partner with local tourism operators to share more of Georgia with the world and to create economic opportunities in communities around the country.
♦ 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. As a result of Zrda efforts, five Tourism Information Centers were upgraded and equipped according to international standards;
♦ 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 January 2019, Zrda-supported tour operators participated in the New York Times Travel Show that involves more than 500 exhibitors and includes more than 170 travel destinations. In September 2019, Zrda supported Georgian tour operators and GNTA to participate in Adventure Travel World Summit in Sweden thus opening a window of opportunity for promotion of adventure tourism model in Georgia. In the aftermath of the global health crisis, Zrda worked to contribute to capacity building of local communities and tourism businesses to adapt their services and working procedures to cater to the new protocols developed to guarantee safety and security of tourists and promote their services accordingly at fair and festivals worldwide. Zrda intends to contribute to global promotion of Georgia as safe destination at ITB Berlin 2021.
♦ Tourism MSME Training Needs Assessment and Training Program – In collaboration with GNTA, Zrda supports outreach to and training of tourism MSMEs located in the Zrda target regions to encourage local actors upgrade services to meet international standards and generate more income.
♦ Digital Marketing Development for Guesthouses, Small and Medium Hotels: Zrda, through its contracted service provider, helps 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 selected those guesthouses and hotels that demonstrated willingness and commitment to cost-share in the development of digital and printed promotional materials.
♦ Museum Capacity Building Program: Zrda is implementing a grant program supporting museums to build their capacity. The activity aims to support both private and public museums for local and international tourist attraction. Within this framework, Zrda also intends to provide technical support to improve business and technical skills through training aimed at developing museums in Zrda target geographical areas, creating multi-functional educational and technologically advanced spaces, and improving museum services and operations to attract more visitors/tourists in order to generate more revenues.
♦ Catering Businesses Capacity Building Program: Zrda is implementing the grant program for catering industry actors to support growth and empowerment of the existing businesses within the project target geographical areas. The Zrda-selected company Gastronaut is leading the process by using online platform and working with Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to develop their business concept designs.
♦ Interactive Book on Kolkheti National Park: The activity aims to create a resource that will enable reader to travel through time, uniting different historical facts as well as myths and legends. It will have a unique way of telling the story covering a variety of scientific fields, such as botany, zoology, archaeology, etc. The book will be animated with augmented reality technology and have semi-documentary, semi-fictional style. The book will be available in both Georgian and English languages, aimed to attract a wide range of readers, both Georgians and foreigners alike. The development of such book will raise awareness of this region in Georgia, promote the Kolkheti National Park as a new and undiscovered touristic destination. The final printed copy of the book will be available in spring 2021.
♦ Rope Park Attraction in Kolkheti National Park: Zrda developed a new tourist product – Rope Park at the Churia Entrance of Kolkheti National Park. The Agency of Protected Areas completed the construction of the fence around the territory in line with all safety measure requirements. In addition, Zrda handed over various items procured for rangers of Churia Entrance of the Kolkheti National Park, in particular: seven full sets of tactical uniforms; professional binoculars with tripod; seven sets of water-resistant walkie talkies; and fishing rods. As a complementary activity, Zrda procured and installed a solar based power generating system at the Ranger’s Hut, which provides renewable energy and supplies the hut with electricity. Zrda plans to provide camping equipment, fishing boats, and one pontoon boat once the procurement is finalized.
♦ Cultural Routes Program: Under the activity aimed at promoting tourism development and improving services in Tusheti, Zrda supports its partner organization - National Agency of Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia to install information boards and direction indicators in 10 selected villages of Tusheti. The Agency is involved in the development process of cultural routes program. Of note, on August 9, 2016 Georgia became the 27th member country of the Enlarged Partial Agreement (EPA) on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe. Under this agreement, member states shall fulfill the obligations at national level. The Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia and the Council aim to gather and organize the scattered information about the existing cultural routes that will facilitate development of new cultural routes and increase the interest among international routes. Under its activity, Zrda supports the Agency to promote Tusheti Cultural Route by providing and installing direction indicators and information boards with essential information about petroglyphs reported and marked in Tusheti. These services will also meet the visitors’ needs, improve their navigation around the area and increase their satisfaction. The Zrda-contracted company has already completed installation of information boards in 6 villages: Girevi, Dano, Dartlo, Nakudurta, Tchontio, and Parsma.
♦ Assistance to Tusheti Protected Landscape: USAID/Zrda continues active collaboration with the Tusheti Protected Landscape Administration (TPLA) in order to support institutional empowerment of the administration, increase the community’s involvement and the effectiveness of the projects to be implemented in Tusheti. Within the framework of this activity, Zrda provided TPLA staff with certified job-oriented online training courses in tourism management, leadership and project management as well as fundraising and donor relations management led by Management Academy. As a part of sustainable tourism development activity, Zrda through its contractor company provided the design, delivery and installation of the solar panels and the arrangement of the first in Tusheti 18,5 m3 cold room storage that fully operates on solar energy. Continuous power supply and cold storage facility will support the locals to store dairy products during the tourist season. The contractor company assumes the responsibility to train local staff on how to operate the facility.
♦ Response to COVID-19 Pandemic: As a response to COVID-19 pandemic in tourism sector, in June 2020 USAID/Zrda initiated an activity to give the informational support on the Government’s regulations to Hotels, Guesthouses, Restaurants as well as Guides and Tour Operators. To this end, Zrda in partnership with the Georgian National Tourism Administration developed and printed informational brochures to deliver them to the mentioned facilities by the volunteers. As a follow-up, the USAID Zrda and Georgian National Tourism Administration conducted “Travel in Georgia” information campaign designed for the hospitality businesses operating in the Zrda target municipalities. Within the framework of this activity, the Zrda-selected volunteers conducted door-to-door visits to up to 1,200 tourism businesses (local business operators, hotels/guesthouses, catering businesses, etc.) in the Zrda target municipalities and communities, and distributed brochures on the updated regulations/ recommendations with an aim to support domestic tourism development across the country.
♦ Boutique Holidays in Georgia: USAID/Zrda supports the development of boutique family hotel/home services as part of the ongoing campaign “Boutique Holidays in Georgia” initiated by the non-profit legal entity “Partners for Tourism “. To this end, Zrda selected one house located in the Zrda target region on the basis of competition to transform it into a model - demonstration boutique hotel following all the safety and service standards. By setting up a model house, the project is aiming to demonstrate the final look of the boutique hotel as a new tourist product and encourage small entrepreneurs to improve the quality of their product by introducing a proper standard. As a result of the risk of COVID infection, special attention will be paid to family vacation. As a follow-up activity, it is planned to include boutique hotel in the sales platform of the hotels, as a result of which the houses will be placed on the online platform, with appropriate prices and will be available both for domestic tourists and international.
♦ Culinary Book Development – Kisturi Tabla and Tushuri Tabla: Zrda is in final stage of issuing two more editions in a series of books that will help to revive the centuries-old traditions of Georgian cuisine from two particular regions. Culinary books will include up to 50 recipes of unique and historic dishes and drinks of Kist and Tush cuisine. Designed to promote both targeted regions locally and internationally, the Cookbook will become a great souvenir for visitors available in Georgian and English languages for sale through the various channels. USAID Zrda continues to partner with local tourism operators to share more of Georgia with the world and to create economic opportunities in communities around the country.