dangerous but safe

Gamarjoba from The Black Sea,
     When a country decides to bank on tourism, there’s a certain list of prerequisites they need to have down pat. They need to prepare. 

tourism in Georgia

   Here we are in Georgia, yet another of the swathe of nations which declared themselves independent in the immediate aftermath of World War 1. Their centenary is also this year. Georgia is experiencing lean times at the moment but maintains a refreshing optimism about its own future. It appears to be staking much of that future on international tourism.  Here’s my potted list of the prerequisites (for any nation doing this):

1. Ensure the essentials all function, ie. reticulated water, electricity, sewerage and so on.

2. Loosen up visa requirements.

3. Ensure a reasonable proportion of the population can use transactional English.

4. Make sure it’s fairly easy and safe to travel between destinations.

5. Install comprehensive signage.

6. Consider the growing trend among travellers to actually want to do something as opposed to merely see something.

7. Educate the local populace about the possibilities and necessities. This would include filling the gaps in the market, for example to cater for the spectrum of travellers from budget backpacker to 5-star business class.

8. Educate the local populace to sufficient standards so they can read maps, negotiate technological hitches and understand cross-cultural sensitivities.

9. Prepare the local populace for the gradual ‘invasion’.

10. Institute Credit card and other banking facilities.

    Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city, will one day in the not-too-distant future be a worthy destination for travellers seeking historical significance, distinctive cuisine and things to do. They have quite a bit to do to reach that status but the incipient tourism industry is helping to pay for the piecemeal renovation. “It’s a bit ratty in places,” said Linda yesterday. If they want to hang their hat on the injection from tourism, they will have to attend to a few more on my list. They certainly can’t give themselves a tick for no. 5. We tested this today when we hired a car and aimed for the Black Sea coast. I’m afraid the navigator swore a few times before we finally made it. 

   We drove down the long, steep descent towards Batumi. We discovered that overtaking drivers in Georgia appear to take almost no notice of the fact that there are oncoming vehicles. This is a tad disconcerting when you’re the one being overtaken but a lot more worrying when you are the actual oncoming vehicle. Linda – a nervous passenger at the best of times – had white knuckles and straight back on more than one occasion. It was after the journey that I remembered that Marina in Tbilisi had vouchsafed that Georgia’s roads were “dangerous . . . dangerous but safe”. 

The Black Sea

     (Proof that we made it: a report on the water – The Black Sea is deeper, saltier and warmer than expected. It also has waves of some magnitude which is a bit of a surprise.)

Life is slow in the hills.

      One of the highlights of this journey was the moment a local bloke, noticing that we were too polite – perhaps too timid? – to successfully achieve a U-turn across the line of unbroken traffic, stepped onto the middle of the four-lane road and held up the traffic in both directions, allowing us to get on our way. Now, that’s the sort of gesture a nation needs if it wants to attract tourists.

Naxvamdis from Grigoletti, Georgia


Other photos from hereabouts

in the Caucasus Mountains
clever marketing
cave painting in Prometheus Cave near Kutaisi

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