Saakashvili dooms tourists to starvation03.02.2011 | 18:20
Opening a renovated building of Kachreti vocational college, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili made a public statement that foreign tourists are more and more interested in the country forecasting that in 2011 three million tourists will come to Georgia. GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked Ruslan Kharabua, leading expert of Caucasus Department at the Institute of CIS countries, if the words of the Georgian leader on a drastic increase in the number of travelers from abroad can be trusted.
According to the president of Georgia, last year the country was visited by two million foreign tourists in 2010. If Saakashvili's words can be trusted the results achieved by Georgia's travel industry are astounding if compared with the indexes of previous years. The Georgian leader even has a logical explanation to the increase in the number of travelers: as it turns out, earlier foreign guests were scared of opposition rallies.
"We were busy doing other things; political parties were holding their protests. Who will come to a chaotic, paralyzed country? We had a war in 2008 and new rallies in 2009. Because a few thousand people came to attend protest rallies in their BMWs or Porsches, hundreds of thousands of Georgian families were left without tourists. 2010 was the first year of stability that resulted in twofold increase in the number of tourists", - he said hinting that if opponents to the ruling regime decided to repeat large-scale opposition rallies, they would be accused of undermining Georgia's image.
However, Saakashvili is sure that in reality his country won't become less attractive for foreign tourists. He tries to convince the population of the Georgian state that the next year the number of guests will grow by half and reach the record index of three million persons. Once Mr. Khlestakov too surprised officials of a small town referring to his "forty thousand messengers". There is a suspicion that Mikheil Saakashvili's boasting sounds very much like the words of the Inspector General's protagonist.
By the way, according to the information provided by the Agency for Tourism and Holiday Resorts of Georgia, the dominant majority of guests are citizens of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia. Most probably, they have little interest in Georgian beaches and mountain holiday resorts. They come through neighborhood and connections established in the Soviet times. The share of Russian tourists in the total number of visitors is miserable 8%. And it is absolutely clear that Russian guests missing good-quality wine and local hospitality could bring a lot of money to the local budget. But Georgian leaders put their fantasy political plans above economic benefits for their country.
Ruslan Kharabua, a well-known politologist, expressed his doubts over Georgia's tourism attractiveness in an interview with GeorgiaTimes correspondent. According to the expert Georgia has too many unresolved problems to become a desired holiday destination for foreign tourists. "Georgia's financial state is not solid. Moreover, the country's economy is in pitiful state, putting it mildly", - Kharabua underlined. - We constantly hear that various international organizations allocate grants and loans to Georgia only to sustain its existence".
According to the expert, the president's positive speeches have only one purpose - self-publicity. "Country leaders and personally Mikheil Saakashvili constantly have to invent methods to disguise the country's difficult condition", - Kharabua remarked.
Saakashvili's loud statements on the influx of tourists and mantras sung by Georgian leaders on the unprecedented volume of foreign investments drive us to a very sad conclusion that the country has run out of internal resources for budget replenishment. The authorities openly admit that production and agriculture as well as hi-tech industries in Georgia are in a shocking state. Not creating adequate infrastructure or normalizing the situation inside the country there will be no "travel boom". So Georgia's political elite that dreams of millions of foreign guests looks more like a man that puts the cart before the horse and builds a tall fence between them.
Even Mikheil Saakashvili acknowledges that Georgia is not ready for a possible influx of foreign visitors. In Kachreti he said that tourists that come to Georgia "eat Turkish food". "Tourists eat Turkish food. This is not food from Gurdzhaani, Pankisi, Kvareli". That means that food prices go up and the money that must come to us, to our land, to our holiday resorts go to uncle Hussein in Risa", - the head of the state said in a metaphorical description of the dispiriting situation of Georgia's food industry. However, if current policies don't change their disastrous course, all population of Georgia, not only tourists, will have to eat food offered by Turkish "uncles".