The FINANCIAL — Museums are drivers of tourism in every developed touristic country.
“In Georgia however there is a lack of informed choice for tourists willing to see some of the country’s important cultural sights or museums,” Maia Margvelashvili, Professor at Tbilisi State University, told The FINANCIAL. The Georgian National Museum hosted 275,880 visitors in 2011 out of which 15,589 were free visitors. The total number of visitors increased by 41% compared with the previous year.
The average price of an entrance ticket is 1-2 USD for adults.
The Georgian National Museum unifies the following museums: S. Janashia Museum of Georgia; Sh. Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Art; G. Chitaia Open Air Museum of Ethnography; I. Grishashvili Tbilisi History Museum; O. Lortkipanidze Archeological Museum-Reserve of Vani; Samtskhe-Javakheti History Museum; Svaneti History Museum; Dmanisi Museum-Reserve; Signagi Museum; Soviet Occupation Museum. It also incorporates the National Gallery and E. Akhvlediani House-Museum.
In 2011 the profit received from international tourism reached 723,435,400 USD.
“Making Georgian sightseeing commercially beneficial is becoming more and more important. Clear evidence of this is the souvenir shops that have opened next to cultural monuments. However there is huge potential still to be taken advantage of,” said Rusudan Mamatsashvili, Head of the Planning and Development Department at Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA).
“Georgia is not copying foreign practice of advertising must-see places in the country because there has been no strong, political will to do so, and such places have not yet even been strictly established. We cannot consider this problem separately from the other problems with the development of national tourism,” said Margvelashvili.
“The determination of such places is a matter of national tourism’s overall development ‘master plan’ that, as I know, has not yet even been drawn up to be developed. Preparation of such a plan requires the participation of not only tourism experts, but also a wide variety of scientists: geographers, biologists, archaeologists, ethnographers, historians, psychologists, sociologists etc. And to organize such a group of scientists is the obligation of the Government,” she said.
“Tourism is a multifaceted industry and requires significant attention. Which ethnic regions, cultural and historical monuments should be promoted? What type of tourism, what kind of products should be developed? This is for the scientists to establish, not the authorities. But the latter ought to organize the scientists and then follow-up and implement their decisions. This would be the correct order of actions and would provide the perfect basis for development of the private sector,” Margvelashvili recommended.
Economic studies carried out in a number of countries that are able to earn much through tourism and related activities reveal that the average tourist spends about 50% on accommodation and food. The rest is taken up by shopping, sightseeing and other expenditures.
Irina Dolidze, 33, is a citizen of the UK. She travels to Georgia three times a year. Dolidze spends around 1,000-1,500 GBP during her trips. Dolidze was in Georgia last year. She says that Tbilisi lacks adequate information about tourist attractions such as museums.
According to Mamatsashvili, GNTA, the top destinations for tourists in Georgia are: Tbilisi, Batumi, Kobuleti, Mtskheta, Kutaisi (Gelati Monastery, Bagrati Cathedral, Tskaltubo and Prometeus Cave), Lagodekhi Nature Reserve, Kazbegi, Gori, Ureki and Signagi.
GNTA will offer new activities for tourists in 2012. “The new offers incorporate new tourist products and destinations: wine, adventure, cruise, hunting, culinary, archaeological, medical and MICE tourism. We will be arranging different festivals and events. Improving infrastructure and opening of twelve new informational centers are among the list,” Mamatsashvili said.
“According to advanced prognoses Georgia will host 3.5 million tourists in 2012. The results of the first quarter make us optimistic that we will exceed this number. In the first quarter we hosted 677,278 foreign tourists which is 11% more than forecasted for this period,” she added.
Margvelashvili, TSU, said that entrance prices should be established by pricing rules, which depend on many factors, including: product quality, cost of resources, demand and competition.
“The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta (USA) is the world’s largest with more than eight million gallons of fresh and marine water and more aquatic life than found in any other aquarium. With five unique galleries that take you on an aquatic adventure around the globe, you are sure to see things you’ve never seen before! The price of a ticket is 39.50 USD for adults,” Margvelashvili said.
“This example is providing a simple possibility to compare attraction content and offered services with prices. In general, cost, rather than time or distance, is now the principal limitation to travel,” she added.
Margvelashvili said that tourism growth in Georgia should always be supported.