The FINANCIAL — War tourism is a term the media uses to describe the idea of recreational travel to war zones for the purposes of sightseeing. Now that Georgia is in the wake of the Russian-Georgian war, the country’s winter resorts are getting ready to show foreign visitors how ready and welcome they are for the upcoming snowy tourism season.
“The forecasted amount of tourists for Gudauri in 2008 is about 25,000 and for Bakuriani – 50,000, hence around 75,000 visitors will enjoy winter holidays in both resorts this year,” says Tamuna Kakhidze, Chief Specialist of International Tourism and Marketing Department of Tourism and Resorts, Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia.
“It is important to work on the image of the country and show that it is a safe place to visit and enjoy its attractions. For that purpose the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia organized a press trip from 21 to 27 October for journalists from Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia,” said Kakhidze.
15 foreign journalists were taken to different parts of the country including Gudauri and Bakuriani. They were shown the infrastructure and ski sloped in both of the winter resorts. “The journalists left the country very satisfied and full of good impressions, promising to write articles advising people from their countries not to miss the chance to visit this wonderful country.”
In 2008 Georgia’s tourism industry anticipates 15% increase compared to the previous year. According to Kakhidze, in 2006 the tourism shares in the GDP were about 3.74% and made up around GEL 516 million while in 2007 the indicator was 3.51%, which is around GEL 596 million.
In her words, in 2006 about 7.5% of the Gudauri visitors were foreign tourists. In 2007 the share of foreign visitors comprised again about 7.5%.
For Bakuriani the share of foreign visitors in 2006 was about 3%. For 2007 the share of foreign tourists was again about 3%.
In 2006 about 17,000 tourists visited Gudauri and Bakuriani hosted about 28,000 tourists. In 2007 the number of tourists visiting Gudauri increased up to about 20,000. The number of Bakuriani visitors in 2007 was about 40,000.
This year Georgia’s winter resort hotels reported the following prices: Gudauri: hotel – about GEL 180 per person, Guest house – about GEL 80 per person. Bakuriani: hotel – GEL 150 per person and guest house – GEL 70 per person. Prices will be increased for the winter season 2008/2009.
“The above-given forecast is made on the basis of the data of the previous year. August events will surely cause some changes in the expected amount of tourists visiting Georgia, but the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia is actively working to promote the country as a tourist destination on the market of Baltic States as well as Poland and Ukraine,” claimed Kakhidze. “So there might be a decline in the number of visitors from Europe and Russia, but we are awaiting more tourists from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine.”
Prices for Gudauri last year were: hotel – about GEL 150 per person, guest house – about GEL 70 per person.
Prices for Bakuriani last year were: hotel – about GEL 120 per person, guest house – about GEL 60 per person.
“The number of tourists who visited Gudauri and Bakuriani through tour-operators’ bookings in 2007 was 1,350 persons,” said Ia Tabagari, Chairman of the Georgian Incoming Tour Operators Association (GITOA).
As Tabagari noted, the prices for one room at hotels and guest houses vary from GEL 20 to 200 in Bakuriani according to the class of the particular accommodation and GEL 40 to 300 in Gudauri. Prices have already increased for the winter season 2008/2009. The supposed number of tourists who are to use the services of tour-operators for the winter season 2008/2009 is 500-600.
“I am sure the Russo-Georgia war will have a direct influence on this winter’s tourism in Georgia. The number of tourists will be decreased from the middle of January until April,” stated Tabagari.
The Georgian Incoming Tour Operators Association was founded in June 2007. The founders of the association are Georgian leading tour operators: Caucasus Travel, Exotour, Explore Georgia, GeorgiCa Travel, Georgian Discovery Tours, Intertour, Visit Georgia.
During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon crisis, for example, Beirut was full of tourists who were forced to leave when fighting with Israel broke out. Tourists have also been targeted in Kenya, the Philippines and other regions due to their media value and damage to the countries tourist industry. It could be argued that continued tourism to these regions is war tourism, even though active combat is free from tourist access.
The initial myth of war tourism was actually started by a collection of stories by P.J. O’Rourke. His mocking and cynical view of journalism in conflict areas entitled ‘Holidays in Hell: In Which Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World’s Worst Places and Asks, “What's Funny About This”’ planted the idea that maybe journalists are after all tourists on an expense account.
“In 2006 We received 1,240 tourists, in 2007 – 1,568 tourists, in 2008 – 549 tourists and no tourists in the summer season,” Nana Gvelebiani, General Manager of Hotel Truso (Gudauri), told The FINANCIAL.
The number of foreign tourists in Hotel Truso in 2006 were 620, in 2007 – 783 and in 2008 – 361.
Truso’s income in 2006 was GEL 161,600, in 2007 – GEL 252,200 and in 2008 – GEL 149,500. Forecasted income this year is GEL 150,000.
“We cannot make a forecast for this year. It depends on the general situation in the country. If the situation is stable we will have the usual number of tourists; approximately 1,000,” Gvelebiani noted.
According to Gvelebiani 50 rooms are booked in advance for the winter season in hotel Truso already, but might be cancelled if the situation is not stable.
Last year the prices of hotel Truso were: Double Room – GEL 230, Single Room – GEL 180. This year the prices remain the same.
Recently renovated, Hotel Truso is located in the very heart of Gudauri off the main road, only five minutes walking distance from the resort’s central ski complex and lifts. Guests benefit from such proximity to the centre of the ski season’s activities and at the same time enjoy the unique character of this small, quality service oriented and comfortable retreat which welcomes tourist groups and families with older children throughout the year.
Hotel Truso offers 14 double rooms with views of snowy mountain peaks, comfortable king size beds, private fully fitted shower rooms and toilet, telephone and satellite TV – all decorated and designed to please and relax.
The hotel includes: Restaurant, bar, sauna, laundry.
According to Mariam Tskifurishvili, Manager of Hotel Panorama in Gudauri, this year the prices for the rooms of hotel Panorama will be: Single Room – GEL 166, Double Room – GEL 250 and Triple Room – GEL 335.
“We cannot make a forecast for this year. The price will be slightly increased, but it depends on the overall situation in the country,” Tskifurishvili said.
Last year prices of rooms of hotel Panorama were: Single Room – GEL 126, Double Room – GEL 221 and Triple – Room GEL 316.
The price of a Panorama hotel room includes three meals a day and guest transfer to the rope-way and back. Additional services we offer to the tourists are bar, sauna, snow-storm and Para Plain. “For the time being we do not have any rooms already booked for the winter season.”
Gudauri is situated at 2,000 m altitude, 120 km away from Georgia’s capital Tbilisi in the breathtaking surroundings of the Great Caucasus Mountain Range. Gudauri is a resort village that offers great attractions to visitors throughout the year. Due to its stunning location along the historic Georgian Military Highway, visitors can explore hidden treasures such as century old Christian churches and places of traditional worship or visit various archaeological or ethnographic sites.
From November onwards Gudauri turns into a sun drenched white rhapsody and skiers paradise. Only 1.5 hours away from the capital Tbilisi by car, the location of the resort and its mild climate guarantee 1.5 m deep snow cover from November to May. Comfortable DOPPELMAYER high-speed chairlifts takes skiers up to 3,000 m for an unforgettable descent from the steep slopes with breathtaking views over the Southern slopes of the Caucasus. The area caters for skiers of any level of experience from beginners to professionals and also offers many off-piste skiing opportunities
Hotel Vila Vita in Bakuriani has 17 rooms. Central heating, telephones in rooms, free local calls, Satellite TV and other things are available there. The hotel provides free parking, conference hall (50 seats), business centre, free internet, fax, bar, restaurant (breakfast, lunch and dinner included in room bill), billiards, tennis and fireplace.
The prices of rooms at Hotel Viva Vita: Double – USD 110-120, Twin – USD 110-120, Lux (two persons) – USD 140, Triple – USD 150-165, Four persons – USD 180-200, Cottage for five persons – USD 200.
Vere Palace, another hotel in Bakuriani, is a newly constructed hotel with European standards. The hotel has 36 spacious and comfortable guest rooms and 10 suites. Room Services include: an individual heating system, colour TV sets with satellite channels, video channels, IDD telephones, mini-bars, hair-driers, smoke detectors. The cost of a room begins from USD 150.
Bakuriani is the most prestigious mountain resort in Georgia, where European and World championships are held. The international Airport of Tbilisi is within 3 hours’ drive by car.
Bakuriani is connected to Borjomi by a narrow-gorge railway across the Gudzaretis-Tskali Gorge. Bakuriani is a resort town, lying at an altitude of 1,700 metres, with a worldwide reputation and being a culmination of the tourist route in the Kartli Region. Bakuriani greets newcomers with sparkling snow, amazing ski-track, ringing young voices and crisp invigorating air.
Natural conditions here are ideal for active recreation. Many sunny days in the winter, a thick carpeting of snow (lasting almost from November to March) giving people who like sport the possibility for skiing. The main peak, which is always busy with skiers is called Kochta Gora (in traslation from the Georgian language – beautiful mountain). Many children and adults spend their holidays there.
For people who don’t like sport there is the possibility to simply enjoy the salubrious mountain air rich with the odour of pine forests.
Written By Sopho Kheladze