It was an unpredictable, beautiful emotion. The Welcome to Georgia Award (WtGA) is given to those who work in tourism. Quite apart from the fact that I am not directly involved in tourism, I believe that the link between blue economy growth and more stable and healthy tourism, and youth participation in that, is significant.
The Welcome to Georgia Award’s main goal is to express gratitude to those who get Georgia’s voice heard around the world, and to say “Welcome to Georgia.”
During the past 10 years, I have been able to promote my country worldwide just by participating in various youth programs, and I always feel like I’m doing my bit to help my country flourish and connect globally. I’ve always been ready to apply what I learn, and I’m always fueled by self-inspiration and my global imagination. “Think globally, act locally,” as the saying goes.
The application for the WtGA was long and complex. Tea from WtGA pushed me not to give up, and my motivation was strong. I’ve been interested in the WGA for almost five years now, and long wanted to take part in it. This year, I applied and advanced from a straightforward nomination to a finalist for the Best Event Organizer Award.
Not knowing this, though, I nearly didn’t go to the award ceremony because of the dress code, but in the end I picked out one of my mother’s vintage dresses and off I went. The night was magical, organized to the highest level of décor and music. I was having fun and almost forgot about the award nominations.
Then the Best Event Organizer was revealed and a camera appeared in front of me. I couldn’t even articulate my emotion, and I froze for a second. Becoming a finalist is an enormous accomplishment for me, and I consider myself to be a winner.
I was nominated for my organizing a European Maritime Events (EMD) event here in Georgia, and it all started online, showing just how virtual events can play a significant part in personal growth if used strategically.
During the pandemic, I became an ambassador for the Young Black Sea Community, and was also accepted onto a Malta University Ocean Governance program. I wanted to put into practice what I learned there. I strongly believe knowledge should be shared, and that doing so enhances professionalism. I discovered a call for Youth4Ocean advocates and submitted an application with my proposals. After receiving confirmation that I’d been chosen and that my proposals had been accepted, I joined the Youth4Ocean advocacy group. It was exciting to work with other young professionals, and with the help of my virtual colleagues, I put my energy into organizing the Arctic Ocean Literacy event, and was proud to act as the moderator for the panel on Youth and the Arctic Ocean Networking Event for Let’s Listen to the Arctic Ocean.
Once EMDinMyCountry established the European Maritime Event, I applied as an individual with experience. It was the first time an individual had been given the responsibility of managing an EMD event, and the first time it was done in Georgia. It contributed to putting Georgia on the EMD map in order to promote my country’s environmental research contribution and marine special planning potential. EMDinGeorgia supported the eco-friendly TENE USB cables produced from melted plastic bottle caps. I support the New Plastic Economy, which aims to reduce plastic pollution by developing stable new plastic recycled products with economic, social, and environmental benefits.
The EU4Ocean Forum invited me and other colleagues to the EU4Ocean Summit in Ravenna. I was overjoyed and honored. After returning to Georgia, I focused my efforts on organizing the EMDinGeorgia event, for which I was so highly recognized by the Welcome to Georgia judges. Although I was the only Georgian participant in the Youth4Ocean forum and EMD Ravenna event, I felt like I was promoting Georgia and doing my best for my country.
If you ask me where Georgia is, I will tell you that Georgia is a Black Sea Country, and that we humans divide the world, but nature does not. The ocean, like the Black Sea, is a large marine world with various ecosystems. My passion for marine life has existed since childhood, and, as a young scientist with a Master of Science in Natural Resources, I like to invest my energy in ocean or marine related fields.
The Welcome to Georgia Award is a great motivator not only for me but also for my peers to continue bringing international benefits to Georgia and to promote it on the global stage. I’ve been honored to raise awareness of what a great place Georgia is for scientific tourism, investment in education programs, youth support, and so on.
The WtGA nomination is the first example of young people receiving recognition who otherwise have little visibility in tourism but who make valuable contributions to represent and promote their country.
We, as young contributors through non-formal education and as international event participants or organizers, must not be overlooked. We are not only benefactors of tourism but also active participants in it. I believe that now is the time to bring young voices on board as we make big decisions that will set the course for the tourism sector for years to come and make up a significant proportion of the tourism workforce, providing opportunities for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or academic attainment. Young individuals can make a big contribution to the promotion of Georgia through our activities and initiatives. I hope my nomination will be an inspiration for a new chapter among the award categories next year, perhaps the “Welcome to Georgia Youth Tourism Impact Award”?
BLOG by Mariam Avakova