Travelling to one of Georgia’s most beautiful mountainous regions in Western Georgia will no longer be an eight hour car journey – visitors to Mestia can now take a short flight direct from Natakhtari village, near the capital city.
At an announcement ceremony today at Natakhtari Airfield, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said flights from Tbilisi to Mestia would encourage tourists to visit Svaneti and contribute to easier communication between the capital city and the rural population.
"I am happy that from today, after a pause of several years, flights have resumed to Mestia. This is very important first of all for the Svaneti population and, of course, for tourists as well,” Garibashvili said.
Starting from July 18, flights to Mestia will be carried out three times a week – on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The flight will last for 45 minutes and will cost 65 GEL one-way. The flights will operated by Georgian airline Service Air.
"It is delightful that flights will be carried out by the Georgian company Service Air, who won the tender, and with whom a first long-term contract has been signed. The company will carry the passengers with new, 15-seat airplanes of Czech production,” he said.
Garibashvili noted the Government would support the flights with a three-year limited subsidy, so the airline could keep prices low and continue operating all year round, including winter when Mestia is blanketed in snow.
"Besides the fact that the flight to Mestia is absolutely comfortable and reduces the 7-8 hour trip to 45 minutes, we also have reduced its price to 65 GEL, so that it is affordable for the Svaneti population,” the PM added.
He said the consistent flights would allow easier, quicker communication between the capital city and Svaneti, which would significantly benefit the local population and trigger the development of the region in many directions, particularly tourism.
"Promotion of tourism and development of tourism infrastructure is one of the important priorities for us. Natakhtari-Mestia flights will increase the motivation of tourists to visit Svaneti,” Garibashvili said.
The Prime Minister thanked the Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Association of Airports and Natakhtari Airfield for their contribution to the project.
Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili spoke at the ceremony and stressed the importance of developing a small aviation industry for tourism promotion and regional development.
To achieve this goal, he believed it was necessary to strengthen Georgian airlines and modernise the infrastructure of regional smaller airports and airfields.
"This is a process on which we are actively working and Natakhtari-Mestia flights are part of this process,” he said.
"The success of a Georgian company to win a tender is additionally remarkable because the company will be able to prepare and train Georgian pilots and maintenance personnel, which is highly important for further development of Georgian aviation,” Kvirikashvili said.