The potential of mountain tourism to foster economic development, as well as to raise awareness on environmental protection, was the major topic addressed at the 3rd World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Euro-Asian Mountain Resorts Conference. The event was held in Tbilisi, Georgia on 4-7 April, under the patronage of the Ministries of Tourism and of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.
Opening the event, Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili said: “It is significant to note that mountains make up more than 65% of the country’s landscape, and the government has been active in effectively using the aforementioned resource and advancing opportunities in tourism. According to various studies, Georgian ski destinations have the potential to generate more than 300 million US dollars in revenues from visitors. In this light, the Government of Georgia has focused considerable financial resources on sustainable development of the country’s mountain destinations, including implementation of major infrastructural projects.”
“Besides its economic potential for remote areas and isolated regions, mountain tourism is a key catalyst to raise awareness on sustainable tourism and to help us become more committed travelers, institutions and enterprises, a challenge especially pertinent at the present moment as we are celebrating the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development,” said Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General.
The conference was structured around five key sessions conducted by 25 international speakers from 17 countries:
1. Sustainable tourism in mountain destinations: challenges and long-term outlook
2. Mountain resort planning: an integrated planning approach and illustration of good practices in developing mountain destinations
3. Investment and incentive policies: legislative framework and investment-friendly practices
4. Product diversification and attracting new markets: a strategic approach to improve the positioning of mountain destinations
5. New revolutionary tools for mountain destinations: innovation and the digital media
Prior to the conference, eight companies and associations joined the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism: Adjara Group Hospitality; Caucasus Travel; Explore Georgia; Georgian Events, Georgian Incoming Tour Operators Association; Georgian Tourism Association (GTA); Living Roots; and Tourist Agency ‘VisitGeorgia’.
On the occasion, UNWTO Secretary-General Rifai was awarded the Order of Honor by Prime Minister Kvirikashvili for his contribution to the development of tourism in Georgia, for strengthening the relationship between UNWTO and Georgia, and for raising awareness about Georgia as a tourism destination internationally.