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500-600 million to be invested in Mestia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 10
500-600 million GEL will be invested in Mestia which will bring us billions, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili stated on January 8th. As he has mentioned resorts like Mestia can be found almost nowhere and that the government plans to rehabilitate Svaneti roads and develop tourism infrastructure there.

"Only in road construction and rehabilitation are we investing several hundreds of millions. In total, 500-600 million GEL is being invested in Mestia," he said and added that this investment would net "billions" in profit. Starting from mid-2010 the government embarked on an ambitious plan to turn Svaneti into a world-class ski resort, reconstructing an airfield in Svaneti's main town of Mestia and launching regular flights, rehabilitating and illuminating medieval tower-houses there, making ski-ways and installing a new ropeway with new chairlifts.

"This is a unique place in Georgia and in the Caucasus. Without any exaggeration only one or two of such places can be found in Switzerland and nowhere else in Europe," the President stated.

As it seems the international media is also interested in Georgia’s tourism potential and winter resorts. The New York Times reported on the 41 places to go to in 2011, Georgia being one if the places, “Ski buffs don’t usually think of Soviet Georgia when planning their next backcountry outing. But some ambitious plans in the Caucasus are trying to change that fast. Tucked between the Black and Caspian seas and smattered with mountains, Georgia has the kind of terrain adventurous skiers yearn for: peaks reaching 16,000 feet, deep valleys and largely untouched slopes. Known best for spectacular off-piste and heli-skiing, Bakuriani and Gudauri — each a short drive from Tbilisi — saw 30,000 visitors in 2009 and are expanding fast. “The newspaper pays attention to the Svaneti region as well, “And now, in efforts spearheaded by Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, the ski-resort bug is spreading even further. In Mestia, the first groomed slopes of a new resort opened in December; also envisioned as a winter hot spot is Goderdzi pass, which can have snow coverage six months out of the year.”

A definite part of the Georgian opposition blames the authorities for an “irresponsible and wrong economic course

As economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili stated for The Messenger, from the point of view of the local people there “such interest towards Mestia can be regarded as positive, however, in general, investing such great finances in the region is unacceptable.” as the analyst mentioned, “it is a positive fact that the authorities have paid attention to the forgotten region and the place is being integrated into the rest of Georgia. For the local people it is a positive fact and from this viewpoint I welcome this. However, the territory has more potential as an exotic and not as an ordinary mountainous skiing resort of international importance as the Government is announcing it. Thus, investing 500- 600 million GEL in the region is unacceptable since getting this money back swould be impossible.”