Chairwoman of Georgian Incoming Tour Operators Association Ia Tabagari
The summer tourist season of 2017 almost came to an end. How can you evaluate it, and what problems did foreign tourists face in Georgia?
In general, this tourist season, both sea and mountain, can be assessed positively. Representatives of the hotel business agree with this opinion, although some of them suffered losses.
Among the problems in mountain tourism are mostly bad roads, lack of gas and interruptions with energy and water supply as well as garbage collection. For example, in one of the mountain regions the tourist season began late due to lack of roads.
The problem of internal roads in mountain villages remains unresolved. Difficulties with water supply - the owners of family hotels cannot solve this problem as it is too large-scale for them.
There are also no public toilets, both in mountain resorts and at sea and the situation is constantly deteriorating.
Were there any problems with the transportation of tourists?
Tourists complain about Tbilisi bus stations, which are at the level of the 90s. The problem concerns both the poor quality of transport and the dishonest behavior of some drivers. All this causes serious damage to the image of the country.
It turned out that the country really was unprepared for such an increase in the number of tourists.
Which segment of tourists is most sensitive to these problems?
For example, low-budget tourists arriving in Georgia do not make any claims regarding the quality of services, since for them the main thing is low prices.
But Georgia needs to attract better-off tourists, who have a high level of solvency, but at the same time - high demands. Without this category, we will not manage to reach a high level of the tourism industry.
Many tourists are looking for cheaper services, they are ready to receive service from anyone, to pay in cash, then this money is not fixed anywhere, taxes are not paid, as a result, the budget loses considerable sums. There are a lot of such examples - in transport and among guides, and among those who provide specific services - for example, rent paraplanes.
What is the way out of this situation?
We should direct all our resources to the Western market , and to a lesser extent to the eastern market, perhaps even by introducing a visa regime. Tourist flows can and should be managed.
After Georgia becomes attractive to Western tourists, there will be both economic growth and the growth of culture and quality of services. The level of service that exists in Georgia at the moment is completely unacceptable for Europeans and Americans.