Georgia Hosts Third Euro-Asian Mountain Resorts Conference
On April 4-7, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Government of Georgia and the Georgian Mountain Resorts Development Company organized the 3rd Euro-Asian Mountain Resorts Conference, in Tbilisi, Georgia. Under the title “Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Mountain Tourism Development,” international experts discussed current and future challenges, illustrated success stories and created once again a platform for exchange of innovative initiatives.
Pursuant to the previous two editions of the Euro - Asian Mountain Resorts Conference held in Almaty (Kazakhstan) in 2013 and Ulsan (Republic of Korea) in 2015 respectively, and taking into consideration the context of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the 3rd Conference aimed at:
• Identifying once again the current environmental, structural and market oriented challenges in mountain destinations and exploring opportunities to maximize the economic potential and social change for the local communities through sustainable mountain tourism development and management;
• Understanding the need to develop a “mountain tourism culture” for stimulating activities in these areas as well as encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in mountain tourism;
• Creating a platform among all the relevant partners for dialogue and to exchange experience and expertise as regards the mature mountain destinations of Western Europe and the new developments in East Europe and Asia;
• Exploring the current and future trends regarding the behavior patterns of mountain visitors and the possibilities for attracting the niche markets through innovative products and experiences.
The conference was opened by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili on April 5, who emphasized the honor Georgia feels to be able to host such an important event.
“In 2016, Georgia observed a record number of tourists at 6.3 million, while income from tourism exceeded $2 billion. The newly-established visa-free travel represents the most important achievement for Georgian citizens and will further deepen and encourage contacts, business relations and tourism,” Kvirikashvili said.
He also underlined that the government has started to design the general development plan for different resorts in Georgia in order to turn them into four-season destinations.
“The four-season mountain resort concept will offer tourists different attractions at all times of the year,” said Kvirikashvili. “65 percent of our territory is occupied by mountains. Our government will do its best to create many more opportunities on such territories”.
The conference participants were made up of National Tourism administrations/organizations; UNWTO Affiliate Members; local authorities, municipalities and regional administrations in mountain areas; international and/ or regional associations/networks/NGOs with a focus on mountain development; cable car companies, ski resort developers and infrastructure providers; the hospitality industry; and others.
“Georgia is not very well-known in the world for its mountain resorts,” said Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO. “And it deals with very serious issues of seasonality. Snow and Mountain tourism is something that we have been focusing on for a long time as it is an important niche on the tourism market. At this conference, the international participants have witnessed two important things: one is the phenomenal growth in the number of tourists visiting Georgia within the past two years. The second important occasion is that the UN General Assembly has declared this year as the International Year of the Sustainable Development of Tourism. So, to have this event in Georgia, connected with sustainable development, protection of society as well as the environment, is very important. For these reasons, I’m delighted to be here in Georgia to show the whole world what we can offer”.
“At the beginning of 2015, during our visit to the UNTWO, Georgia acquired the right to hold two important conferences,” said Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration. “In 2016, we hosted the International Conference of Wine Tourism. Both occasions boost the popularization of Georgia and its position on the world map as the cradle of wine on the one hand, and as a state where tourism is flourishing, including mountain resorts, on the other”.
“The conference discussed those problems and challenges in the field of mountain resorts that the modern world faces today. We are very happy that we are one of the most important figures in this large family,” said Alexander Onoprishvili, Head of the Mountain Resorts Development Agency.
Around 250 people participated in the conference among them 35 delegates from different countries.
Maka Lomadze & Thea Morrison