Forbes: Pandemic Sidelined, UN Holds World Tourism Meeting in Georgia

"Located on the Black Sea and nestled between the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia was the recent host of the United Nations’ first in-person, COVID-compliant World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference on September 15 through 17. As the United Nations closed its first ever virtual General Assembly two weeks ago, the selection of Georgia for an in-person event is interesting for two reasons," Forbes reports in the article by Kenneth Rapoza

The author of the article specifies these two reasons: 

"First, this was the UN’s first large scale meeting abroad. Georgia has done a good job of managing its public health matters so far, taking swift action and providing clear guidance and testing. Like many countries, however, this small country of 3.7 million is experiencing a small uptick in the number of cases. But Georgia seems to have the situation under control. The overall numbers for Georgia were around 10,000 on October 7. Some 63 people have died so far.

"Conducting its first annual conference outside Spain, the UN is sending a message that they’re not going to let the pandemic stop them from getting on with life.

"The second reason is it showcases Georgia as a Western-oriented country, aspiring to join NATO and the EU, and looking for a free trade agreement with the U.S. Tbilisi and Washington get along.

"Georgia is also part of the historic Silk Road linking East and West. For the tourism industry, Georgia brought in over million 9.4 million international visitors in 2019 alone," reads the publication. 

The article quotes UNTWO President Zurab Pololikashvili, who said at the Georgia event that he believed, “Safe and responsible international travel is now possible in many parts of the world. It is imperative that governments work closely with the private sector to get global tourism moving again.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (Image: AP) 

Based on the latest World Tourism Barometer from the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals dropped by 65% during the first half of 2020.

"For Georgia, tourism accounts for around 8.1% of national GDP. Batumi, a coastal city, has been a foreign investment success story for the global travel and tourism industry. Sheraton and Hilton rooms go for over $300 a night there. These are big bucks for a small country which is another reason UNTWO came to a place like Georgia, to highlight tourism as a driver of global commerce," the author notes. 

"The UNWTO’s 112th Executive Session is now over and so far, no word of sick diplomats and translators. It’s as good example as any of how business and a public health alert can co-exist with sensible care and policies," he concludes.

The publication further mentions that Georgia is becoming a world-class vacation spot with mountains, Black Sea beaches, is well known for its cuisine and has a millennia-long tradition of winemaking.

Georgian PM Giorgi Gakharia (Image: Georgian Prime Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"Georgia ranks seventh in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, an index that matters to small developing countries like this

because it is the fastest way to sell themselves in elevator pitches to corporate investors. Believe it or not, seven is one notch below the United States, at six.

"They rank 12th on the Heritage Foundation’s Freedom Index. That’s surprisingly ahead of mostly all of Europe, ahead of the US (17) and light years ahead of China (103).

"Georgia has preferential trade deals with 32 countries, including the US, though it would like a free trade deal.

"Georgia also has a so-called Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement with the EU and a free trade deal with China. So far, foreign investors have participated in most major privatizations of state-owned enterprises there. The US Development Finance Corporation, which has a long history in Georgia, investing more than a half-billion dollars in various segments of the economy,it reads. 

By Ana Dumbadze


Image: GETTY 

10 October 2020 11:27