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Kobalia: dreams and reality

01.09.2011  |  14:28

Kobalia: dreams and reality. 21494.jpegExpert society of Sakartvelo doubts the optimistic forecasts made by head of the Ministry of Economic Development Vera Kobalia who has recently stated that this year, the country expects three million tourists to bring billions of dollars to the state treasury. This will allegedly help enhance the economic growth in the republic. Some experts reasonably note that Georgia is unable to host the amount of guests equal to the amount of its own population and everyone crossing the border cannot be regarded as a tourist. This viewpoint


is shared by Russian expert Sergey Demidenko who gave an interview to GeorgiaTimes correspondent.

The magic figure of three million tourists was voiced by Vera Kobalia at the end of last year. The minister gladly told the businessmen and potential investors about what is done in Georgia to develop the infrastructure, create new workplaces, expand the network of airports and hotels and encourage small and medium business.

The verbiage went on in early summer. Delivering a speech at a business conference, Kobalia stated proudly that Sakartvelo has been visited by an "unprecedented number of tourists". "Within the first six months, Georgia was visited by nearly 1 million and 200 people, the amount of visitors accordingly growing by 45 percent, - she said. - August and September are the most loaded months of the season and we expect the largest flow of tourists in this period". She made it clear for the second time that she expects three million guests. "Hotels in Adzharia are 80-percent full already", - Vera added.

Now Kobalia has gone further. In her recent interview, the minister stated that these virtual tourists, whose number is to grow up to five millions by 2015, will bring considerable revenue to the budget, giving boost to the republic's economy. She even estimated it in figures - 6,5 percent. "One of the top priorities is developing winter tourism in Georgia, - she repeated once again. - We are planning to buy ATR planes to deliver tourists to the mountain regions of Georgia and we also cooperate with Poma company, the main supplier of ropeways".

Indeed, Ms. Kobalia's optimism has no limits. According to the Georgian media, summer season is close to its end but Adzharia's hopes for tourists have not come true. Not only hotels lacked guests: night clubs and restaurants also complain about the scanty number of visitors. Some of them underline that his year, this number is three times smaller, though Deputy Director of Batumi Tourist Agency Eka Chanishvili asserts that it has grown by 40 percent in Adzharia.

Some of the Georgian experts tried to clear out this discrepancy, having drawn rather curious conclusions. For instance, President of the Association of Young Financiers and Businessmen of Georgia Merab Dzhaniashvili believes that three million tourists mentioned by Kobalia is too high a figure and even if we don't take hotels into account, it is impossible to provide all tourists with meals. "We are four millions; how can we possibly receive three million tourists? - Medianews is citing him. - It is nonsense to talk about it. I wonder where Vera Kobalia has taken this information". Then, Dzhaniashvili dwells upon the statistics on the so-called tourists who have allegedly visited the country. "Relevant structures do not specify the purpose of the visit, whether it is business or the people simply come home from abroad, when calculating the number of tourists, - he says. - Everyone crossing the border is regarded as a tourist, which is wrong". Indeed, in its official reports, National Tourism Agency reports "international visitors" and it is not quite clear why Kobalia ranked them among tourists, telling tales about the growing economy and the Georgian people's wealth.

Commenting on Kobalia's dreamlike statements and the criticism of the Georgian specialists, expert of the Institute of Strategic Assessments and Analysis Sergey Demidenko underlined that the real situation of the Georgian economy is universally known. "There is not the slightest progress there since there are no conditions for a profound economical shift, - our interlocutor assumes. - Neither are there any breakthrough areas. That is why we hear such statements that have been made for a long time already. We get some cheerful reports about the enormous revenue from tourism and economic growth on a weekly basis but that's an advertising trick aimed to calm the people down. The economic issue has always been most painful for Saakashvili's government and all social problems in Georgia spring from the economic ones".

Ruslan Chigoev

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