Alternatives for Touristic Development of Kakheti Region
By Levan Khutsishvili
Wednesday, March 28
Parliamentary Opposition members has criticized the Prime Minister’s initiative on construction an airport in Kakheti region, and instead offered construction of a tunnel under the Gombori Pass, as a more efficient initiative that will boost the economy in Kakheti.
On March 25, 2018, Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili attended the opening of the hotel “Akhasheni Wine Resort”, in village Akhasheni, Kakheti region.
In his speech, Kvirikashvili highlighted the importance of the tourism and the progress that Georgia is making in the field. According to him, number of tourists in the country is increasing annually. It increased by 28% during last year.
“Foreigners are visiting Georgia for tourism and we can increase the number of tourists to 10 million. This is very important in order to increase quality of living in Georgia and significantly increase the level of employment, as a result it will improve the Countries image in international level,” said Kvirikashvili.
Prime Minister also spoke about the touristic potential of Kakheti and said that there is need for airport and railway in region.
"I think we have a situation when Kakheti needs a separate airport. We are going to think about it and with the partnership of private sector in the beginning there will be possibility to arrange direct charter flights and maybe regular flights will be also scheduled. As for railway, it is a huge treasure for country, in Kakheti we have a railway which is not yet completely destroyed and the state should definitely think to renovate it, because development of tourism without railway is unimaginable ", declared the PM .
In response to Prime Ministrer, Giorgi Kandelaki MP from “European Georgia” said that Kvirikashvilis’ statement is not an adequate plan for touristic development of Kakheti.
"Kvirikashvili said that Kakheti needs a separate airport and that it is about spending certain funds for this purpose. We believe that this statement is false and incompetent. The Kakheti region needs no airport, but a tunnel under the Gombori Pass as it was planned. This tunnel will reduce the duration of travel between Tbilisi and Telavi, making it 40 minutes, and there will be no need for additional airport. This tunnel would be a huge push for Kakheti's economy and touristic development," stated Kandelaki.
Building of the tunnel under the Gombori Pass was announced by the former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili in 2012. According to Saakashvili, there was a plan and building of the tunnel should have started in 2015 and ended in 2017, and it would have considerably shorten the time of travel between Telavi and Tbilisi.
Existence of the plan is questioned. Consistent with FactCheck, former Vice – Governor of Katheti region Giorgi Sibashvili, plan of tunnel excites and implementation of the project was financed by the Municipal Development Fund and World Bank. It is significant, that FactCheck could not find the Plan on the web pages off World Bank and Municipal Development Fund, and also officials form Municipal Development Fund and Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure declined the existence of such a plan. Head of the Public Relations Department of Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Khatuna Paichadze declared that there were discussions about the building the tunnel under the Gombori Pass, during the previous government, but experts evaluated it as inappropriate for implementation.
"There was no pre-project and no working plans for Gombori tunnel. Accordingly, similar project is not available in the Ministry. The idea of designing the tunnel was discussed at while working on the project of Gombori Road in 2009, but the group working on construction idea of tunnel considered as unreasonable and they build the road as it is now,” stated Khatuna Paichadze.
While there are no specific plans and visions for airport or tunnel, it will be difficult to compare those two initiatives,however for touristic development of Kakheti the most efficient alternative should be chosen.