The first ever Routes Silk Road event, hosted by United Airports of Georgia in Tbilisi saw attendance from 300 senior aviation professionals from across the CIS, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia regions, opened with the Routes Silk Road Strategy Summit on Sunday, 6th July. The event included a special gathering of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Silk Road Task Force.
It was clear from the engaging addresses, presentations and discussion sessions that Georgia and other countries in the region certainly have ambitions to grow their share of international air services and this country is at the forefront of developments as it seeks to maximise its geographical position and historic significance to develop a new Silk Road of air services between Europe in the west to Asia in the east.
“Although the Silk Road has been serving us for centuries there is still much to be discovered and developed in the modern era,” explained former banker Giorgi Kvirikashvili, minister of economy and sustainable development of Georgia and the country’s vice prime minister who opened the Summit. “Governments have strong supportive roles to play in facilitating accessibility and trade.”
These presentations provided an enlightening introduction to the local aviation market and the first panel session on Finding the right balance - How will different airline operating models bring success to the region? brought the views of some of the region’s prominent airlines and airport operators together for a discussion moderated by Yuliya Crane, senior consultant for ASM, the world route development consultants, who highlighted Georgia as “a proactive and progressive aviation authority.”
With the UNWTO Routes Silk Road Task Force Meeting taking place at Routes Silk Road, delegates received a video message from Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO which was recorded especially for the event. He highlighted the growing importance of tourism in the global economy and described Georgia as a “leading example” of how open skies and visa facilitation can work.
These comments flowed nicely into a panel session on the subject of visa and how Governments influence tourism, which was expertly moderated by travel writer, John Bell. The session explored what the barriers to change are and how states could relax regulations and still maintain security.
“One of the impediments to tourism in this region is unduly difficult visa processes,” commented Michael Miller, head of content & industry relations for Routes, who chaired the conference. “It is amazingly important that these kinds of issues are being discussed by such prominent industry leaders at Routes events and we are thrilled with the success of this inaugural Routes Silk Road event.”
In addition to the Strategy Summit attendees participated in more than 800 face-to-face meetings that Routes has become synonymous future air services planning. A programme of social events was also enjoyed by delegates, the highlight of which was fabulous Networking Evening Hosted by United Airports of Georgia at Mtasminda Park above the Tbilisi skyline, where a stunning firework display lit up the skies over Tbilisi.