RECORD NUMBERS OF SKIERS DRIVE GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT
Four government bodies agreed to invest tens of millions of lari in ski infrastructure in a 2015 agreement. Investor.ge spoke with officials about how the money has been spent.
A 2015 deal called for major investment in one existing ski resort, Bakuriani, as well as the development of Mitarbi, a nearby resort.
Under the terms of the agreement, the government promised to invest 48 million lari, financing the construction of ski lifts in Kokhta, a mountain in Bakuriani, and Mitarbi, while the Georgian Development and Reconstruction Company signed on to spend an additional 70 million lari for real estate development within the project.
Sandro Onoprishvili, head of the Ministry of Economy's Mountain Resorts Development Company, told Investor.ge the government has already spent 48 million lari purchasing and installing the ski lifts.
"In total, we installed five ski lifts, three in Mitarbi and two on Kokhta, covering eight kilometers of ski lines. Currently we are focused developing infrastructure in the village of Mitarbi, which is 10 km from Bakuriani. The government took on the responsibility to finalize the roads and other infrastructure leading to apartments and a hotel by the end of 2017," said Onoprishvili.
A private company ,New Mitarbi LTD, one of the signatories to the memorandum, hired French specialists to make a general plan for development of Bakuriani and the surrounding area. "The company has started building a hotel and apartments in Bakuriani and the village of Mitarbi," the company's marketing manager, Salome Lekishvili, told Investor.ge.
She added that more than 600 apartments and a hotel complex will be built in the first stage of the project and "completely new infrastructure will be ready" for guests by the end of 2017.
"We already spent 10 million GEL on this area," Lekishvili said, noting that the company is obligated to spend 100 million lari on the construction of hotels and apartments in Bakuriani and Mitarbi by the end of 2019.
Beyond the Memorandum
Other government-financed projects include a Mountain Resorts Development Company plans to development biathlon infrastructure in Bakuriani for public use, not just for training athletes.
A ski jump is also planned. Both projects are slated to be completed in 2018 and the initial cost will be 10 million lari, Onoprishvili said.
There are also plans to build ice rinks, an ice hockey arena, a modern cinema and a bowling alley in Bakuriani.
Gudauri - the most popular ski resort of Georgia
There are also government plans for Gudauri, Georgia's most popular ski resort.
Kozen, a Canadian company, has finished working on the general development plan for Gudauri, a scheme for the future of the resort that fits its current environment.
Onoprishvili noted the importance of the plan, which is intended to reduce the chaotic urbanization of the resort and make it more attractive for investors.
The government also plans to construct a new 7.5 km-long gondola line that would run between Gudauri and Kobi, a nearby village, in 2017.
The ski lifts could ease transportation problems for locals as well as visiting skiers since the road between Gudauri and Kobi is often closed in the winter. The gondola line will cost over 30 million euros, Onoprishvili said.
In addition, three new ski lifts were installed in Gudauri last year, which has helped improve the ski infrastructure in the resort and provide services to the growing number of visitors there.
Over a million international visitors traveled to Georgian ski resorts in 2015-2016, according to official statistics.
The number of visitors to Bakuriani and Gudauri has increased by 40 percent since 2014, and Bakuriani alone hosted 53 percent more visitors in 2015-2016 than the previous year, according to the Mountains Resorts Development Company.