There are dozens of different reasons for travelling, and like the industry itself, can be divided into “pushing” and “pulling”, tourism to Georgia can certainly be counted on for both.
Tonight, I find myself in Tbilisi, Georgia, at the beginning of the International Wine Tourism Conference. Now this might sound like a bit of a wheeze, and one has to admit that wandering the planet searching for new and exciting places to operate tours based on eating and drinking might not sound like “real” work, but let me assure you that it is serious business.
It may seem like fun to have to identify new wine-growing regions, techniques and the relationship that they have with the local food industry; to identify those areas in the world that tourists, particularly those with an interest in the culinary arts may enjoy, would enjoy and find suitable accommodation, translation and collateral services that will make their trip memorable. But let me tell you, that is is tiring.
“Gruelling Business Travel”, I say.
It is, however, a very important segment of the travel industry, and tourism that devotes at least 50% of the focus of the trip that includes food and/or wine experiences is a $750 million industry; and that, is a lot of wine, accommodation, flights, transfers, guides, sightseeing and food.
So once in a while, actually, annually, the International association of folks who do this for a living get together and discuss the industry’s trends, developments and issues for a few days, and this year, the meeting happens to be in one of my favourite destinations in the world, Tbilisi, Georgia.
And so, awaiting the conference (including a paper that I have been invited to present), here I am in Georgia, my twelfth visit in eight years, simply fascinated by the development that I can see in front of my eyes.
There are four or five new global-brand hotels being developed, road and rail infrastructure growing, and most importantly, a three-year degree course at the major national university..
It is this, the recognition that tourism is a vital segment of the economy, and the resulting investment in the development of the segment by creating strong post-secondary educational programs that will ensure the success of the industry. Concurrently, of course, tourism will never develop into a vibrant economic sector in jurisdictions that do not offer such academic support.
And so, one has to take one for the team, and head out to taste heaven-knows how many wines for the long-term benefit of our clients.
I shall report!