Speeches & Statements

Speech of the President of Georgia delivered at the international conference of the World Tourism Organization

First of all, I would like to welcome everyone to the regional meeting of the International Tourism Organization. Certainly, the holding of meetings like this in Georgia is very important.

It is of great importance that many significant forums are implemented and continue to be initiated in our country and that an increasing number of foreigners are arriving. 

I cannot think of any other country in the world where tourism is developing at such a high rate as it has been in Georgia in the past years.

The year I became president 120,000 foreigners would visit Georgia and the overwhelming majority of them were Georgians with foreign passports.

We had two million tourists two years ago, last year – about three million. We expect four million visitors this year, while next year we hope to have up to five million.

Certainly, the development of tourism in Georgia is significant in several aspects. 

First of all, is the economic aspect, which is directly linked with employment.

The biggest prospect in terms of employment across the world is in the sphere of tourism. Besides, as you all know, tourism is relatively less affected by the world economic crisis.

Thus, lots of people are being employed in the tourism industry in Georgia.

For instance, there are many big hotels in Batumi, but there has been not a single room available at any hotel for the last few weeks. This allows the residents of Batumi, and others of Adjara near Batumi, to open small hotels or family type facilities and share the visiting tourists.

Likewise, tourism has a fairly significant political and security aspect for us.

Yet another annual remembrance of victory over fascism is celebrated today. A great number of residents of Georgia sacrificed their lives in defeating fascism during World War II. In terms of per capita losses, Georgia was the highest among the Soviet countries.

The cynicism of today’s situation is portrayed by the fact that occupants and those occupied have re-emerged again in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

I would like to remind you that according to the European Parliament and many other international resolutions, Russia is in occupation of the significant part of Georgian territories.  

What Russia has achieved today, and it is an affront of the Russian people by the Russian government, is that a country which together with other countries has prevailed in the fight against a fascist occupant, is itself mentioned as the occupant of other country’s territory, based on the international terminology.

In spite of this, I would like to particularly emphasize the fact that Georgia has declared a unilateral, constructive approach towards Russia. None of the countries in the world have done such a thing in the past years.

Against the background when the receipt of visas is practically impossible for Georgians, we have unilaterally lifted the visa regime for Russian citizens to arrive in Georgia.

Notwithstanding the numerous frightening warnings of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as if they would be threatened in Georgia, the number of Russian tourists has basically doubled.  

We expect a million tourists from Russia this year.

The approach of Georgia is that citizens of all countries should be able to come to Georgia visa free.

We are often criticized about this, but my answer is: why is such a position surprising, when we allow Russian citizens to enter Georgia visa free.

Hence, it is important for us in terms of security and political aspects.

One million Russians in Georgia, is not simply an economic issue for us, one million Russian citizens will learn truth about Georgia and spread the word about it in their country. 

They will be reassured and say that it is a safe country.

According to the EU studies in the last three years, Georgia is the safest country in Europe – safer than Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, let alone France and Germany, in comparison to which the crime rate in Georgia is lower by 40-60 percent; almost 5 times less than in the Russian Federation and if I am not mistaken, four times less to that of other post soviet countries.

Each visitor will say that Georgian is the safest country in Europe and its neighborhood; will say that the infrastructure in Georgia is developing very fast. 

 We are constructing a modern international airport in Kutaisi and in Poti in addition to the already existing airports; we are building an autobahn, which will connect the Georgia-Azerbaijan border with the Turkish border. It means that there will be a Baku-Istanbul autobahn with the best quality roads.

Georgia has a claim to have the best quality roads in the whole territory.

We have built a road in Mestia, which was shut-off from the rest of Georgia, precisely because of the bad roads. A tourist will take back to their home country that there is a very developed infrastructure here.

They will also say that there is no corruption here, as many Russian are entering by car and know well that in comparison from their country no single road policeman will stop them unfairly. 

They will also say that we have the most modern infrastructure in the world.

I repeat once again, that Georgia has claimed to have the most modern border infrastructure in the world.

If a passport is equipped with an electronic chip, you neither have to take out your passport when entering the Georgian border, nor do you have to meet the border guard, although meeting with our border guards is a true pleasure.

There was coverage on “Euronews” the other day saying that this is how people will be moving around in Europe as well.

Georgia is Europe and this is how people get around in Europe.

This means that our tourists will say: Georgia has one of the most modern bureaucracies in the world.

According to the World Bank figures, we have a fast custom’s procedure and if anyone decides to buy a property here, its registration process will be the fastest.

We have the fastest procedure for registration of businesses as well in Georgia – I say this based on the figures of International Financial Corporation and the World Bank.

If a person decides to open a business, we have many procedures which will allow them to do it in Georgia, the simplest way in the world.

This too is a direct result of our reforms, which is why a tourist has a sense of security.

The Russian president, who signed the occupation of the Georgian territories, stated yesterday in the Russian Duma that he does not like Saakashvili, but they have to emulate and implement the successful Georgian reforms in Russia too. 

I do not know of any other examples in current world history when a representative of a hundred times larger country, who is occupying the territories of a small country, states after a few years of occupation that he is ready to learn from that small country how to rule his own country.

It is a paradox, but at the same time it is what we are accomplishing here in Georgia – all of this is the result of our openness.

We are a country that does not shout about being disadvantaged, miserable, etc. Conversely, we are saying that despite everything we are developing, have a future and great prospects of further growth and development of our country.

There is an incredible reconstruction ongoing in Georgia.

One of the prominent architectural journals dedicated one of its publications to Georgia a while ago. It was mentioned there that in terms of reconstruction, a new brand has emerged and it is Georgia.

There is also a restoration process of old historical monuments ongoing in Georgia.

For instance, I am going to Akhaltsikhe from here – this, practically abandoned city, is coming back to life.

It has been our great historical heritage – Akhaltsikhe was the largest Georgian city in the 17th century and the largest city in the Caucasus. Yet, as it had been at the very outskirts of different empires, it had always been forgotten.

We will restore Akhaltsikhe and it will be a new Georgian miracle. Besides, this work will proceed at the fastest pace in the world.

People in charge of this architectural journal are themselves leading architects of the world and they write that nowhere in the world have they seen such a fast pace of reconstruction, which they observed in Georgia.

This is happening not only in Akhaltsikhe – there was Sighnaghi before that, then Mtskheta and Mestia, the same concerns Kakheti and the old districts of Batumi.

The French district of Batumi has been built by the same architect who built the city of Nice in France.

This district was the most ruined place across all of Georgia, the worst place for living, with collapsed houses and the most abandoned by the Soviet Union. They did not take it down, but did everything so that it collapsed.

But this district and city not only has been restored with all the beauty today, but has become a sister city of New Orleans too.  They have always said that Batumi very much looks like New Orleans – a legendary American city, and when the residents of New Orleans arrived, they personally saw the resemblance, and they have brought this up themselves.

Donald Trump is implementing the first project in continental Europe – he will build a huge center in Batumi.

He is the greatest developer in the world, and one of the most interesting figures across the world.

Yet, his building might not be the highest in Batumi – there are 60-70 story buildings being built here and we are preserving the authenticity of old districts at the same time.  

Kutaisi used to be a city with the most ruined infrastructure. It is being built today as a very modern city.

The Parliament’s hall will open on May 26th and the outer part of the Parliament’s building will be finished.

Apart from this, the center of Kutaisi has been rebuilt anew.

They often say that we are restoring the historical image of cities.

There are many places in Georgia where nothing was repaired and basically, new cities are being built.

We are proud of the fact that we are restoring the old, as well as building new.

Regarding the ancient Christian monuments; several hundred churches have been restored in Georgia.

We will soon finish the restoration of the Bagrati Cathedral in accordance with the UNESCO project. The architect is Italian.

Apart from this, we are restoring many other historical monuments in Georgia.

One of these is the Rabat of Akhaltsikhe, the unique 19th century synagogue of Batumi. 

We are further planning to continue our work in this direction.

We have lodged a constitutional amendment to the Georgian Parliament, according to which we are building a new port city, Lazika in the territory of Samegrelo. It should have a special status, as it will have a special form of governance. There will be a special jurisdiction on civil arbitration existing there, so that this place becomes particularly attractive for investments. 

The fact that Lazika is located a few kilometers away from the occupied Abkhazia is a very strategic issue for us; it is in the very canyon of the Black Sea. This city will sit on a vast territory which is distinguished by a special climate. It is very close to the railway and a new airport consequently, there are many other means for its development.

This city should be given a new status of development.

We have studied examples of different countries in Asia and Central America and decided to give it a special constitutional status.

Of course, Lazika is an economic project. This is a project which aims to develop the adjacent areas; Poti, all of Samegrelo and even further and will become a locomotive of the entire region.

This is a region, where the people mostly live in villages, especially since the occupation of Abkhazia.

We want the people there to have jobs and new prospects.

The design of this project is not my fantasy. The shortest trade route from North China and Central Asia to Europe crosses precisely at the Georgian ports, while afterwards at the ports of Romania and Bulgaria.

We need a new additional unit, a new logistical base, through which we will connect with Europe.

While speaking about infrastructure, I have to mention the Tbilisi-Kars-Akhalkalaki great railway project, which is to become operational this year.

With this project we will connect with the European Railway through Turkey, as our railway has been shut down from the North by our occupants. 

There is a huge railway hub; an enormous and beautiful station is being built in Akhalkalaki.

The region that was one of the prettiest but underdeveloped regions is very rapidly becoming an economic center. This also is very important for us.

There is a whole network of healing resorts developing in Georgia, besides Akhaltsikhe, I plan to visit Abastumani, Borjomi, where the world’s third most popular mineral water comes from, after Avian and Perrier and probably, no one in this hall knows about it.

The city of Borjomi was the most ruined city. There are several 5 star and several small hotels being built in Borjomi now.

The next resort will be Abastumani, the development of which we are starting today.

Off the road you go to Sairme, which is a very important regional center in terms of mineral water and culture.

We are then beginning the revival of Tskaltubo.

Remember my words – Tskaltubo will be the biggest resort name across the former Soviet Union territory, this region and Eastern Europe in five years.

It is a healing-water center of mega-importance not only for Georgia, but for the whole of Europe and the Middle East. There are 4 or 5 great hotels in Tskaltubo, which are built by  famous Italian architects of the past century.

I have only seen a hotel like it in Marrakesh.

We are spending hundreds of millions already this year to arrange the entire city infrastructure, including the water system and the old basins of mineral water.

Investors have already commenced its reconstruction and we will have the first 5 star, one of the most interesting hotels operational next year already.

What is more important is that for people that are in need, it will be an incredible stimulus for growth and economic development.

There will be lots of work carried out.

As for wine.

Georgia is a country of wine, but it had been a well kept “secret” for a very long time.

Georgia is a homeland of wine, for instance if you go into a bar in Spain or Turkey it will surely say in the menu that historically wine comes from Georgia, but there were never Georgian wines.

Thanks to Russia for the wine embargo, as precisely this embargo has given us the opportunity to improve the quality of our wine and it compares to the quality of the world’s best Italian, American and French wines now.

As you might have realized, we are planning to expand marketing in this respect.

 In terms of wine realization we basically have an annual growth, despite the fact that the market is very competitive.

Our wine is located in the regions of Racha, Imereti, some – in Adjara and Kartli and of course, in Kakheti.

We want all of the tourists to know that Georgia does have wine.

That is why we made a decision yesterday to make a present of souvenir wine bottles together with a brochure to every tourist who will arrive in the airports or border check points – so that they know why Georgia is country of wine.

We have also made a decision to build a new, vast vineyard around the Tbilisi airport and the first thing our guests will see will be a great new university to the right, while at the same time a huge vineyard - to the left.

Georgia is a country of education, great culture and wine is also a very important part of this culture.

It is not only about marketing – it is a very significant part of our soul, our identity, our special history.

Do you happen to know that wine in Georgia is made by the same method that it was made a few thousand years ago, which is no longer the case anywhere in the world?

This as well is a very special niche for our wine on the world market, which makes it even more attractive for the tourists who arrive to Georgia.

We have many fields which we need to develop.

For instance, in terms of mountain-ski resorts, we had two resorts previously – Bakuriani and Gudairi.

The infrastructural works to improve these resorts are underway there as well – we are building a resort on the Goderdzhi Pass in Adjara now – i.e. Batumi will have a resort about an hour and 15 minutes drive from here.

It is a very nice place there and the snow is still present today.

We are also building a resort in Svaneti.

For instance, I skied with Alberto Tomba there in summer last year and then we dived in the sea on the same day.

We have the potential to develop all of this and the first works are already completed in Tetnuldi and Mestia – we have installed the first rope elevators (საბაგირო) on Tetnuldi, Ushguli and Etseri. The ski trails are of the same length as those in Kurshavel.

These words are based on the conclusions of the Austrian and French experts.

We have a contract, according to which we will start the construction together with the French and within next three years on Tetnuldi and we will have the longest ski resort in Eastern Europe, together with its unique culture and cuisine.

We can get to these resorts on very good roads from the airport, which we built in Mestia in three months last year.

The architect of the airport said that it was the fastest built civil airport in the world.

There is no doubt that there was, and still remains massive poverty, but in the place where the summer and winter resorts will be equally developed, it is impossible for the poverty not to reverse. 

For me it is the most effective means of pulling people out of poverty and that is why we are in such a rush.

That is why the training of people is so important.

We have opened several tourist personal training centers in Georgia, but it is a drop in the sea.

We need a greater number of better qualified specialists, but we need your advice, sharing of experience and acquaintance to many other organizational issues on the training of new HR.

It is absolutely crucial for the employment problem in Georgia.

It is also important for us to expand the tourism geography.

We will have 10 million guaranteed tourists within next years, but we have to continue the commenced work by all means.

We also need to develop a marketing system, so that we bring in new countries.

This is important for the development of tourism.

Not only is the culture of our country being exported outside the borders through tourism and respectively its name, but we are also being exposed to other countries’ cultures.

That is why Georgia has always been at the crossroads of civilizations.

It is very important that apart from traditional tourists, which arrive to Georgia from the countries of the region, to also bring the citizens of remote countries, namely from Asia – Japan, Korea.

China has already begun to travel and this country has already enlisted us in their recommended touristic destination list.

Equally important is bringing tourists from Europe.

The Minister of Tourism of Poland is visiting Georgia and I think that we have the potential to attract 30-50 times more tourists from Poland as well. I am absolutely convinced of this.

The Polish people know everything about Georgia and they have even written one of the most popular songs about Batumi. Similarly, the Georgians know everything about Poland. Yet, only a minimum number of tourists are arriving from this country.

This is the result of the fact that the link had been severed to a certain extent. Just as we restore this link, I am sure it will be possible to receive one million tourists from Poland in few years.

Apart from this, we expect many tourists from Western Europe.

When we talk about the integration of Georgia into the European Union, it is very important for many people in Europe to have seen Georgia with their own eyes.

People should not have an impression about our country only from the Russian propaganda and they should not think that it is an undeveloped, miserable country fraught with conflicts. 

Millions are being spent even today to buy journalists, different lobbying companies to undermine Georgia.

The easiest way and the most effective means to fight against this propaganda is one thing – to come to Georgia and see the reality with your own eyes.

In this case, the black PR will collapse like a fortress of darkness and the light will be shed on everything.

This is what tourism is doing.

That is why, as you can see, tourism for us is much more than just a source of income.

For us, it is a document of our identity, individuality, as Georgians are very hospitable people who have been taught by a very difficult history.

 Reintegration is precisely the continuation of this.

I would like to tell you once again: It is indeed important for us that you arrived here and kept your word.

It is a very good thing that we all have gathered here today; a very large OSCE congress is to be held in two days, within which a few hundred European deputies will arrive here; it will be followed by European week and many European figures will come to Georgia; there are different heads of state and other important people arriving.

I would like to once again thank you for your huge contribution to this job.

Thank you.

Send link to the email
Captcha* Verification Code
2013 (7)
2012 (12)
2011 (12)
2010 (9)
2009 (11)
2008 (12)
2007 (11)
2006 (9)
2005 (11)
2004 (3)