Emerging destinations in Eastern Europe and Central
Asia are convinced that tourism is one of the best ways to boost their economies and
are calling on the media to help put them on the world tourism map.Tourism
officials from 37 countries have begun a two-day meeting with international and local
media representatives as part of the Tourcom Conference on Strategic Communications,
organized by UNWTO and the Government of Georgia in the country’s capital, Tbilisi.
In opening the conference, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli highlighted his
Government’s commitment to tourism development: “With its rich history, culture and
geographical diversity Georgia is quickly becoming an attractive travel destination.
We are investing in hotels, restaurants (for our spectacular cuisine), transport
and, most importantly, training. Of vital interest to us is the care of historic
cities and towns and the survival of the Georgian culture of hospitality that every
visitor wishes to experience.”
The two-day conference brings together more than 200 participants, including
journalists from BBC World, eTurbo, international news agencies, newspapers in
Europe and the United States, including the famous Lonely Planet founder Tony
Wheeler on his first visit to Georgia.
“The relationship between tourism and the media is vital and complex,” said UNWTO
Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli in his inaugural address. “Tourism is highly
dependant on media reporting because the vast majority of travel decisions are made
by people who have never seen the destination first hand for themselves.”
When there is bad news or crisis the impact on tourism can be devastating. “Tourists
are scared away from destinations caught in the glare of round-the-clock disaster
coverage, causing communities dependent on tourism to lose their source of
livelihood,” the Secretary-General added.
Preparing for a crisis and improving relations with the media are two of the
objectives of the conference - which is the fifth in a series of regional Tourcom
meetings organized by UNWTO. Delegates will also discuss the potential of Silk Road
tourism and how to better promote this legendary route so that tourists will begin
to travel along the trails once used by camel caravans.
Other sessions will focus on the use of internet and new communications
technologies, as well as the development of public-private partnerships in tourism.
Georgia - with its Black Sea resorts and abundant natural attractions - aims to
become one of Europe’s premier tourism destinations by 2020. Towards this goal,
three new airports have been opened in the last three years, increasing air traffic
tenfold. International hotel chains, including Hyatt, Radisson and Kempinski, are
entering the Georgian market. Together with the President of Georgia Michael
Saakashvili, the UNWTO Secretary-General on Monday inaugurated a new tourism school
that will train workers needed to staff the growing industry.