Russian aggression hits tourism industry
By M. Alkhazashvili
Friday, August 29The consequences of the Russian aggression will be long and painful to overcome. The tourist industry has been hit particularly strongly because it is very vulnerable. No one wants to risk their life when they go on holiday, so as soon as hostilities broke out tourists and holiday makers left Georgia hastily.
The country expected up to 1.3 million tourists in 2008, including both domestic and foreign visitors. The trend of the past few years indicates that the final total could well have been even higher had the Russians not intervened.
The tourist industry has become one of the country’s top priorities since the Rose Revolution. The government has contributed a lot to the building up of the tourist infrastructure, creating a positive image of the country, advertising it and attracting people. All this has led to visitor numbers increasing every year. But unfortunately for the time being Georgia will be associated with war, instability and Russian aggression. This will certainly not attract tourists.
The Russian aggression was merciless, cruel and wicked: it deliberately damaged things of vital importance for the country. These include the destruction of the town of Gori and its surroundings, Ateni gorge with its unique forests and several hundred hectares of Borjomi-Haragauli national forest park were set on fire, while Bakuriani and Borjomi resorts remain under threat. However Beka Jaqueli, Interim Chairman of the State Tourism Department is optimistic and hopes that as soon as the Russian – Georgian conflict is over the situation can be improved. “The country has to actively advertise in the international market” Jaqueli told the Rezonansi newspaper.
The Adjara seaside resorts are almost empty now. The presence of Russian army units in Poti has created a sense of instability and insecurity in the people, as they think the occupiers are uncontrollable, unpredictable and irresponsible.