Issue 5, 2015. October-November



Georgia, especially the capital Tbilisi, is hosting an increasing number of international events, from the annual photo festivals and fashion show to the European Bank of Development and Reconstruction's conference. The Georgian National Tourism Agency (GNTA), with the help of AmCham, is working on creating a Convention Bureau to help maximize on Georgia's great potential as a meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) destination.

From bankers to fashion mavens, Georgia is increasingly earning a reputation for a destination for international events.

This month, Tbilisi is hosting, among other things, an international modern art festival, the annual Tbilisi Fashion Show, the Miss China Chinese Cosmos Pageant and a theater festival.

The semi-final of Miss Chinese Cosmos Pageant 2015 was held in Tbilisi

"Coming of Age" for Meetings Tourism

This type of tourism - known as meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) - has "come of age," according to Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Writing in the report for MICE tourism in 2014, Rifai noted that "the Meetings Industry provides immense benefits to the broader economy as it generates on average a higher spending level, reduces seasonality, contributes to the regeneration of destinations, spreads knowledge and enhances innovation and creativity."

The report notes several "positive" aspects of MICE tourism for local economies, including:

- Meetings are big business in their own right, and play an important role in supporting other businesses.
- Meetings promote investment, trade, communications, and technology.
- Meetings bring education and professional development to the local community, creating jobs and retaining work forces.
- It is a "clean" industry and promotes environmental quality.
- Meetings promote and support other business sectors.
- Meetings represent the "high end" of visitor spending.
- Meetings attract global expertise.
- Meetings create and spread knowledge worldwide.
- Meetings build community profile.
- Meetings promote global understanding and cooperation.

The Georgian government is eager to tap into that trend, TornikeZirakashvili, the Head of the International Relations Department at the Georgian National Tourism Agency (GNTA), told

"Considering Georgia's unique geographic location, rich culture and traditions, delicious cuisine and modern infrastructure, we strongly believe that the country has tremendous potential for development of MICE tourism, and this has become one of the major undertakings of the Georgian National Tourism Administration this year," he said in an e-mail.

The footage taken in Georgia will be shown to Chinese Phoenix TV's 250 million-audience, according to Georgian media reports

"Business and professional travelers account for roughly 4 percent of total arrivals to Georgia (according to the latest survey to date); this includes individuals and group visitors (attending forums, conferences and other events). But what we have to take into account is that business visitors are part of a higher spending segment, and thus, their average expenditure per visit is considerably more than that of other travelers," Zirakashvili added.

Tbilisi alone has attracted major events over the past several months, including the annual EBRD Conference in May, the European Youth Olympics Festival, Miss China Chinese Cosmos Pageant, the South Caucasus Contemporary Dance Festival, the annual Tbilisi Fashion Show, the annual Tbilisi Photo Festival, and many more.

He said that, to promote MICE tourism to Georgia, the GNTA is planning to establish a convention bureau in Georgia, "which will promote the country's MICE tourism potential throughout the world and attract major events to the country."

The Tbilisi Fashion Show draws foreign and local designers to the capital twice a year

6 Percent of GDP

One of the GNTA's partners in the process is AmCham Georgia, in particular the Chamber's Tourism Committee.

"AmCham has been a major supporter of the initiative and assisted the GNTA as a facilitator within various processes, especially in relations with their member organizations," Zirakashvili said, noting that a "focal point" has been cooperation with the general managers of seven prominent hotels: Marriott, Sheraton, Radisson, Holiday Inn, Hilton, Rooms and Betsy's.

Andreas Heidingsfelder, the general manager at the Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel in Tbilisi, said that establishing a Georgian Convention Bureau will have a "positive effect" on tourism numbers and the Georgian economy.

"AmCham's Tourism Committee is supporting the GNTA to accomplish the development of a Georgian Convention Bureau (GCB). The GCB will make sure that the country is flagged on the worldwide MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences, Events) map," Heidingsfelder said in an e-mail interview.

"Tourism is actually contributing above 6 percent to the Georgian GDP and with the establishment of thethe GCB, it can be increased even further."