Austrian tourism study tours sharing experience with Georgian industry professionals

The study tour is set to continue with visits to Italy and Slovenia, focusing on “further exploring and fostering sustainable mountain tourism practices”, GRETA project said. Photo: GRETA project, 10 Aug 2023 - 16:23, Tbilisi,Georgia

Tourism industry professionals from Georgia are being introduced to the experience of development of sustainable local tourism in a study tour hosted in the Austrian cities of Innsbruck, Kahlenberg and Wachau, GRETA project said on Thursday.

The visiting group is hosted in the tour as a part of the GRETA initiative supported by the European Union, Austria and Sweden, with the prospect of later applying the experience to the development of the sector in Georgia. 

The visit is organised as part of Green Economy: Sustainable Mountain Tourism & Organic Agriculture, a four-year project for supporting the development of Georgian small and medium-sized enterprises, improving the domestic business environment and creating new opportunities for business in mountain tourism and organic agriculture.

Photo: GRETA project

The Kahlenberg leg of the tour involved an introduction of the Georgian professionals to vineyards, wine culture and concept cafés in the location.

Irakli Kutsia, the manager of the GRETA project, said the tour aimed to “see how mountain tourism operates in this rich environment of sustainable practises” in Austria, adding the participants would return to Georgia “full of fresh ideas” to carry out new projects.

Representatives from the Destination Management Organisation of Georgia were advised by Austrian colleagues to have a “long-term, clear strategy” for the development of the sector, which they said should “diligently follow step by step, based on existing needs” and ensure local communities are not sidelined from the process.

Photo: GRETA project

“In my opinion, it is of utmost importance to consider the well-being of local residents throughout the course of one’s work. Following this, you should strive for steady and sustainable development. It is imperative to have a well-defined, long-term vision that outlines your objectives and where you aim to be within a specified timeframe. Once this vision is established, you must take consistent steps towards achieving your goals. It proves more effective than setting short-term objectives, making investments, and subsequently altering the plan”, Adi Aigner, a destination management expert, said in his comments.

Kathryn Erben, the head of Sustainable Tourism Development at the Austrian National Tourism Administration, said understanding that sustainable development necessitates collaborative efforts involving various stakeholders and market players could be “beneficial” for other countries including Georgia, adding it was a “pivotal aspect” that produced “favourable outcomes” for the development of the domestic industry.

Photo: GRETA project

The participants also had the opportunity to visit the Austrian mountain resort of Bad Gastein, with Kutsia noting the resort's example was “particularly intriguing” for Georgia's winter resorts in terms of remaining active during the summer season.

“A lot of fascinating possibilities can be introduced to Georgia, considering that in comparison to Austria and the Alps in general, we are still in the nascent stages of development in this area. Their example will serve as a valuable guide in properly nurturing the tourism industry in Georgia”, Niko Paliani, a mountain guide, said.

Photo: GRETA project

The visits were concluded in Innsbruck, where the participants were received by the Ambassador of Austria to Georgia, Thomas Mühlmann, who emphasised that tourism held a “pivotal position” in the future direction of the Georgian economy while also noting similarities between the two countries in the sector.

He also said showcasing Austria’s “best practices” would help Georgia in its development of tourism.

The study tour is set to continue with visits to Italy and Slovenia, focusing on “further exploring and fostering sustainable mountain tourism practices”, GRETA project said.