In Conversation With Amiran Ivanidze President At Georgian Business Tourism Association

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MS. Please share with us how GBTA has been instrumental in serving its community, including a description of some of the major contributions made to promote the industry?

Amiran Ivanidze. The Georgian Business Tourism Association was founded in 2019 to create a united voice within the MICE industry of Georgia. From the first days of its foundation, GBTA started hosting high end B2B exhibitions with its partners from target markets. We hosted the biggest regional MICE B2B exhibition, the IMG MICE Geography Show Caucasus Edition and soon after a B2B forum with leading MICE DMCs from Ukraine. Throughout 2019 GBTA hosted various workshops to its members and non members directly and indirectly involved in the business tourism industry. The goal of these workshops were to elevate the standards of exciting and startups companies, to enable them to work with high end clients from western markets.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began and the hospitality industry was harshly hit, GBTA hosted several anti-crisis workshops and lobbied the government on behalf of the industry together with other international associations to aid the industry in the hard times ahead. Today we are in the 3rd year of the pandemic which hit the Georgian hospitality industry severely harsher than other destinations due to long lockdown terms and strict regulations, which at the time were necessary, we only slowly started recovering in the past half year and were on track of resuming active promotion.

MS. Why should one become a member of GBTA?

Amiran Ivanidze. GBTA offers a unique platform for the MICE industry players to come together as one and have a united voice. The advantage of having such an association is crucial in order to help develope the industry further and keep it sustainable.

MS. What can we expect to see from GBTA in the future?

Amiran Ivanidze. GBTA will continue to work on its goals of promoting and developing the MICE industry further with various activities such as B2B events, educational workshops and lobbying on behalf of its members and industry.

MS. How big is the Georgian Tourism Industry? How are you predicting the major trends in the travel industry for the coming year?

Amiran Ivanidze. The Georgian Tourism industry overall is a rapidly developing one, before the pandemic it was always in top 3 developing and upcoming destinations in the world for years. From only 2 million international visitors in 2013, we reached over 9 million international visitors in 2019. In a very short timeline, the industry developed immensely and of course this would not be possible without the government’s will to heavily increase in the country’s infrastructure and the private sectors investment into hotels, transportation and other products.

The goal for years was to work closely side by side between the public and private sector, which was greatly achieved by 2019. Of course like many other destinations, however Georgia more so, was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now the main goal is to slowly recover and get back into the same shape as we were in 2019 and to do so it involved precise surgical targeting on markets that are quick decision makers and to participate in specific international B2B exhibitions.

MS. What are the top three major challenges surrounding the Georgian Travel industry?

Amiran Ivanidze. Today of course the major challenge is to overcome the pandemic and get back on track that the country was on in 2019. We need to get people talking about Georgia again, relight the flames the destination had and make it once again the new and exotic MICE destination that was in demand before the pandemic. Another major challenge would be to retrain the DMCs and other industry players, as many of them had a reshuffling of staff. And finally to educate and train the next generation of younger professionals that wish to work in an up beat and fascinating industry like of the business tourism one.

MS. What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned in the industry? What is one aspect of the industry that you would like to see changed?

Amiran Ivanidze. The MICE industry is a very dynamic and always evolving one, it is absolutely important to stay with the trend and be talked about. It is crucial to keep promoting and having international partners and clients aware of the potential Georgia has, because if you fall out of that train, it is very hard to get back in. Another very important lesson is that the target markets should always be diversified and never to keep all the eggs in one basket. If i had to put both lesson and aspect into one phrase it would be that, diversification is very important, however you should never lose sight of those markets that initially pumped you up and you should always keep the connection there, however always see the other options available without losing sight of the prior.

MS. Would you like to share any message with the industry?

Amiran Ivanidze. Today coming out of a global pandemic, I would like to wish the MICE industry a speedy recovery and reaching newer heights soon!