I have a short story to tell you why. Let’s get back to the language first. It is Georgian – one of the 14 unique alphabets existing worldwide today. It is the language of people who live in a country, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. If you have never had an opportunity to travel to this region, and “if you were not smart enough in geography, then it’s high time to open the Google Maps application!” That’s what the ‘weird’ looking sentence on the top suggests. And if you follow the above challenge, I would also suggest typing “Kakheti” in the ‘directions’ line and start exploring…
Enticing tourists to Georgia’s cultural heritage sites and vineyards around Kakheti are the first things you see upon your arrival in the region. During the last two years the points of sales in renovated culture heritage sites and cities in Kakheti region have increased by 14 percent, number of hotel beds in circuit route increased by 56 percent, about 3,500 new jobs created (according to the World Bank data).
Just a few years ago for many Georgians it was hard to believe, that Kakheti would become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Although it is believed to be the cradle of wine, it has long been the heart of Georgia‘s ancient culture and history. And it’s only 2 hours’ drive from the capital city – Tbilisi.
Going two years back, infrastructure services and institutional capacity of the region were not good enough to attract significant number of visitors. But with the financial support of the World Bank, the Georgian government initiated the Regional Development Project in 2012. To support the local economy by carrying out an integrated approach to tourism development, focusing on infrastructure, urban regeneration, cultural heritage restoration, skills development and enabling the environment to attract private sector investments, numerous activities have been implemented in the region.
I read several lines about the project in the guidebook Georgian 2014 (pg.16), where a World Bank expert explains, that “regeneration of Telavi (i.e. regional center) has created many local jobs and improved infrastructure and transportation facilities, thus bringing direct benefit to the residents, improved experiences for tourists and a climate for continued investment.“
Overall, the population is already seeing improved welfare and boosting income.
During one of my visits to Kakheti, I talked to Lia Aleksishvili – the owner of a small shop and a bakery located in Telavi. She is now refurbishing her two storied house to transform it into a hostel, to benefit more from domestic and foreign guests, visiting her town so frequently these days.
Lia tells me, that “after rehabilitating the buildings on my street, paving the cobblestones and giving Telavi another chance to live, we, the locals have more income and increased motivation to stay in our home town and run small businesses to earn our living.”
Lia is one of those inspired by the project to start new small businesses like bakeries, bed and breakfast places, hair-cutteries, and cafes.
Upgraded Kakheti has become a success story in Georgia, a success that spilled over to other regions of the country waiting to breath in a new life.