Mamuka Bakhtadze: In 2018, Georgia hosted 8,679,544 international visitors, a new all-time high Print Version




I am about to quote a new all-time high in the history of Georgia's tourism. In 2018, Georgia hosted 8,679,544 international visitors. For a small country like ours, it is a unique achievement, indeed, and what it means above all else is that Georgia's visibility and attractiveness are growing in leaps and bounds. Georgia's guests familiarize themselves with our unique culture to be reassured that our unique culture is part of common European civilization.

On January 1, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, in her New Year's message, singled our Georgia's participation as Guest of Honor at the world's largest boom fair in Frankfurt as one of the major events in 2018.
Equally important and positive is that the world's most reputable organizations and publications, in 2018, numbered Georgia among the safest and tourist-friendly countries.
In the same vein, according to the Numbeo global crowd-sourced portal, Georgia ranked 5th among 125 countries in 2018. The UN World Tourism Organization ranked Georgia 4th in the world, and 2nd in Europe, as one of the fastest-growing destination in the world.
And that is exactly why tourism is one of our country's key directions. Georgia has great potential for stepping up this direction, and our Government is doing its best to transform Georgia into one of the exceptional destinations on the world's tourist map.
It is an excellent trend, and we must build on it. In 2018, revenues from tourism exceeded 3 billion USD, another all-time high in the history of Georgia's tourism.
It is a tangible result, something extremely important in terms of economic benefits for our country's population. The continuous growth of this sector will bring further benefits to our population. The tourism sector is remarkable in that it allows for active engagement from every region, city, and village of the country, and it is open to all.

Now, we must channel all our efforts toward the rapid bettering of our tourism infrastructure and services. We need developed tourism infrastructure not only in Tbilisi but also ibn the regions, especially in those Georgian regions previously lacking in prioritizing tourism. We will foster the creation of new tourist attractions and encourage additional investments in less developed regions.
The development of tourism, for its part, prompts the development of neighboring fields, because a quality travel experience requires services from other economic sectors as well. This is why tourism, over several years a now, has transformed itself into the driving force of sorts behind Georgia's economy, promotion new investments and ideas in neighboring fields.
Inclusive growth, meaning one that applies to every citizen of our country, is given special priority in our economic policy. Accordingly, tourism comes across as the sector to contribute most o inclusive growth, especially in terms of SMEs. Without developing SMEs, we will not be able to overcome poverty, our most painful economic challenge. Consequently, tourism is our crucially important priority, along with its development in the regions presently lagging behind large cities.
According to statistics for the first three quarters of 2018, tourism claimed 7.6% of the country's GDP, marking an almost 20% year-over-year growth. In 2017 as a whole, tourism held 6.8% of the GDP. In other words, the year-over-year growth was almost 12%. These statistics reiterate the special place tourism holds in our economy.

We are working on the consistent, stable development of tourism. We have a strategic vision and an action plan defining how this sector should develop in the next few years.
We attach special importance to linking closely the ongoing educational reform to our economic achievements. Therefore, most of the vocational schools to open in the nearest future in Georgia will focus on sectors with the greatest potential for growth, notably tourism.
We believe the development of business tourism to be one of the major directions in the country. The business tourism sector focuses on attracting high-spending tourists. In addition, it promotes the development of other areas and contributes to the adoption of international experience, knowledge-sharing, and introduction of best practices on eth ground, which is vitally important for the country's positioning.

Georgia has a great future in medical tourism. We have already selected priority directions in this sector. We continue working on this package to build on the current results and bring about additional growth in our tourism sector. In this regard, the medical tourism development policy will be revised substantially.
Along with medical tourism, Georgia has excellent prospects in health tourism. Interestingly, Georgia boasts more than 180 destinations, given their future development, poised to enrich our country with additional tourist flows.
In addition, we are planning to develop the events industry as one of the best ways for Georgia to attract professionals in different areas and to showcase its achievements internationally, to share to the world the important practices currently adopted here.
At the same time, our key vision involves Georgia's transformation into the region's tourism, transport, economic, and intellectual hub. That is why it is very exciting that the most authoritative international publications and TV stations frequently cover Georgia as the world's best destination. That is very important to us because tourism is one of the best ways to display Georgia's cultural heritage, mesmerizing nature, and unique traditions.
I am convinced that the Georgian Government's currently implemented tourism policy is effective and will yield far-reaching results for our economy. Please accept my sincere wishes for success, so that we may make ready to host even more tourists in 2019.