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Tourism boom in Georgia: blessing or risk?
According to offical statistics, the population of Georgia amounts to some 3.7 million people.

Between January 2017 and September 2017, 860,000 people had officially been registered as visitors. According to this number, the country known to be particularly hospitable, welcomed tourists that roughly made up one fourth of its own population. This is especially interesting, as this statistic does not yet consider the winter tourism, which, until recently, was considered to be the main tourist season for Georgia.

How the “insider tip” became a “must-see”

Around the globe, there is hardly another country that has seen a similar increase in tourist number or this sharp increase in augmented international interest for the country. In Georgia, everyone can get their share of entertainment: the mountain, nature and wildness freaks, as well as the sunbathers, who prefer their deckchair and the sea only a few meters away from their luxury hotel. The culturally and culinary interested educational travelers, who have visited all the museums and concert halls in Europe, but have never been to a Qvevri cellar in Kakheti; but also, all the families in search for a bit of tranquility, while at the same time providing their kids with plenty activities.

Blessing. Chance. Risk.

The “insider tip Georgia” became a “must-visit Georgia”.

What a blessing this is, for a country, which besides its staggering beauty and its richness in agricultural goods, has little more to offer for the global market.

What a chance for the only independent former Soviet Republic, which has managed to set up a stable, democratic structure and to fulfil its peoples wish for freedom.

What a risk, to fall victim to the temptation, to build hotels wherever needed, where the view is the best; to construct roads, wherever the drive is too tiring and the nature is yet untouched; to shut down dreamy old-town alleys with neon advertisement and roaring speaker systems.

Tbilisi, unfortunately, sets a bad example in this aspect and made every mistake that had been made in Florence, Barcelona, Dublin and Basel thirty years ago – before one realized what was really important and sustainable.

Critics: repetition of mistakes made by others before

Many observers fear that the Georgian government is going to sacrifice goods in the name of speedy upswing, which will be irretrievably lost, if plans are realized that are currently under consideration: hotels in the midst of mountainous regions. Humongous ski resorts, where the last high mountain regions for sheeps lie. Road networks through the high mountain ranges of the Caucasus, where untouched nature can only be reached by foot or horse.

A country at the parting of the ways

Without doubt, Georgia is at a crossroad. It faces one of the greatest challenges ever since it regained independence. If the term “sustainability” wasn’t as banal, as misused and as abused, then Georgia would have to start to intensively think about what exactly it could mean, to take this term seriously.

The fear is that Georgia might be misled by the temptation of making easy money. Staying within one’s own lane while driving along the river in Tbilisi is tough these days. The irritation caused by flashy lights of all the casinos, night clubs, bars and other establishments is enormous. The license plates of the cars parked in front of the places are witnesses to where the profits are coming from – Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkey. Nature, culture and the history of Qvevri wine are not of interest to the drivers of these cars and the visitors of the shiny world.

Georgia will have to make a choice. To combine both worlds could be a dream. Yet, it is one that is far off of any kind of reality.

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