Issue 6, 2017. December-January



Niki Getsadze is bringing Georgian history to tourists one download at a time through his Audio Guide Georgia app. He spoke with about what tourists lack in the country and how new, Georgian-designed apps can fill the gap.

Sally White

Niki Getsadze, 31, is one of the young Georgian tech professionals who are helping Georgia catch up with the IT revolution. In a country that still prefers to live on Facebook, he is designing websites and apps to help companies put their messages out.

His latest project is to help bring international-standard services via a mobile-based tourism app, Audio Guide Georgia (available at, to the millions of tourists streaming into Georgia. Currently, it provides 25 walking tours in the main tourist areas of Tbilisi, Batumi, Mtskheta and Kakheti, but eventually the app will include guides for the entire country and in a wide range of languages, Getsadze told

The guides are generous in their detail. On the Mestia tour, for example, on the three hour, 25-kilometer walk, you'll not only be talked through 17 sights that include Mount Ushba, churches and ancient towers, but you'll be guided to where you can taste local dishes. The much shorter three-kilometer walk through Old Tbilisi gives two hours of history and stories, taking you through the narrow streets, past old trade centers, churches and theaters. All the guides come plentifully supplied with pictures and each has a reference map.

The Audio Guide Georgia Mobile App can detect your location with your smartphone's GPS. You can then download the tours that interest you and use them offline, without having to link in via the internet.

"I realized that the number of tourists was increasing and that most were low-income. Many can't afford to hire a guide, so they lack information on what to see and how to find their way to Georgia's tourist attractions. I decided to search globally for the best models to help me build a customized audio guide for use on a mobile or other device," Getsadze said.

"The main aim is to provide accurate and detailed information of top quality, presented in an enjoyable way. I wanted to provide a good experience for tourists seeking to find out about our culture, art and history-and, of course, our food and wine. An app, loaded with high-tech features, is a practical and innovative way of achieving that. And it can also contribute to tourism development, as it widens the choices for tourists by giving them the full range of what they can see. It also helps that they can even do their research before they come, or in their hotel rooms, by using it online," he explained.

His timing has been excellent. Tourism numbers (visitors spending more than 24 hours in the country) are rising strongly, up over 28 percent in the first nine months of this year, at 2.78 million visitors. While the largest contingents are still by far those from Georgia's neighbors, the numbers from Germany, France and the UK all rose by around 30 per cent.

To find the money to build the app, he applied for an award under the government's "Start-up Georgia" scheme and received funding. He started the business plan in January 2017 and, spurred on by the award, he had designed and built the app by June-just in time to reach the peak summer tourism season. The award has enabled him to offer the download and some of the Audio Guide Georgia information for free.

A Growing Market

When Getsadze decided as a teenager that his career was going to be in Georgia's digital industry, it was a real act of faith. Georgia had barely got used to having 24 hours of electricity a day, again let alone finding its way around the internet! However, he received a Georgian IT degree and then, after moving to London, worked on building his design skills by studying at London's prestigious University of the Arts' College of Communication.

Back in Georgia, it took a few years for his web- and app-design business to gain momentum. Georgia might have had a booming creative scene of one sort or another since time immemorial-the eye catches evidence everywhere, from church carvings to Tbilisi's rich legacy of art nouveau buildings, and now its multiple award-winning films. Yet, Georgia has been slow to adopt digital media.

The International Telecommunication Union states that only around 10 percent of Georgians have a fixed broadband subscription, and 23 percent have an internet package via their mobile telephone, compared to over 80 percent in Europe and over 90 percent in North America.

However, times are changing in Georgia-more and more companies, consultants and freelancers are marketing via websites and apps. "Before, big companies used to go out of the country and find some European or American companies for their tech-communications problems," Getsadze said.

"Nowadays, it's more the case that Georgian people and companies are involved in developing, designing and building Georgian corporate websites, mobile apps, etc.," he added.

This, as he says, is excellent for the country. "Keeping all this in Georgia is helping build an IT industry here and creating jobs," he noted.

Research, Research, Research

While his company works mostly in Georgian, English and Russian, Getsadze has made sure that he can access experts in other languages to help his clients expand internationally.

For those who are just beginning to market their products online, he said, research is vital to establishing an effective presence. "Always try to research your whole marketplace. You have to research what is going on in your industry, not only in terms of what competitors are doing visually or technically, but also to find out as much detail as possible about their products. That enables you to decide how and what you need to communicate to your customers. It will help you paint an appealing picture of your business and ensure the targeting of your message to your customers is spot on," he explained.

Over Six Million International Travelers Visited Georgia in 2017

Over 6.4 million international travelers arrived in Georgia in the first 10 months of 2017, according to the Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, reported on November 3. The report quotes administration Head Giorgi Chogovadze as saying that a total of 6,430,824 international visitors entered Georgia in January-October of this year, which is 1,016,180 (or 18.8 percent) more than in the same time period of last year. He noted that nearly half- 3,042,907-stayed in Georgia for longer than 24 hours, a 28 percent increase compared to the same period last year. "According to data from the second quarter of 2017, the income from international tourism amounted to $658.7 million for Georgia, which was $143 million more (or a 27.8 percent increase) than the same period last year," Chogovadze said. Revenues from international tourism in the first and second quarters of 2017 amounted to $1.1 billion-a 26 percent increase from the last year.

Increase in tourism by country:

- United Kingdom - 33 percent increase
- Russia - 32 percent increase
- Germany - 32 percent increase
- France - 29 percent increase
- Poland - 21 percent increase
- Lithuania - 18 percent increase
- Azerbaijan - 15.6 percent increase
- Armenia - 11.8 percent increase
- Turkey - 10.5 percent increase
- Ukraine - 0.2 percent increase