In 2013, the Regional Development Council (RDC) of Georgia elaborated a comprehensive regional development strategy for Guria 2014-2021. The document recognized the tourist potential of the region, and identified strategic objectives to enhance the tourism sector. However, the regional government and the municipal level did not have enough capacity to develop the region as a tourist destination; none of the strategies have, since that time, been worked out into implementation plans and only few concrete actions have been implemented in the field of tourism as a result of cooperation between these stakeholders. Many roads have been newly paved, but the public infrastructure is still poor, the development of small and medium enterprises is slow, services fall short on standards, and a culture of tourist information and promotion is almost absent.
The Administration of State Representative – Governor of the Guria region, requested IHS to train its staff in approaches to sustainable tourism. They asked the institute to link to an ongoing EU project that focused on the development of a tourism strategy, being executed by Georgian consultants. The governor indicated that building capacity of the staff to understand and undertake tourism strategy development was paramount. By the end of the training, staff were able to:
• Understand and identify the phases and elements of a tourism ‘strategy.’
• Develop an integrated and implementable strategy for the region
• Incorporate key and relevant learning in sustainable tourism from the Netherlands and Europe in the strategy
• Communicate and market this strategy to a broader audience