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The Role of Protected Areas towards the Economic Development of Tourism in Georgia

Authors:

Abstract

As a very important part of sustainable tourism, the protected areas have a tremendous role in developing of ecotourism and ecologically friendly society. The work is devoted to the relationship between protected areas and the local communities around, positive and negative impacts of tourism and their analysis and concludes in the author's opinions for future developing of sustainable tourism in Georgia. As sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability. Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them. The work aims to underline the importance of environmental protection and sustainable development of tourism (ecotourism) in Georgia, especially on protected areas in connection with local communities. Correspondingly, the authors present and analyse different surveys done on protected areas which clearly show the weaknesses and strengths on the way of sustainable tourism development in Georgia. The Paper provides the research methods as follows: systemic approach to estimation of current state of natural resources, ecotourism and sustainable development of tourism; statistical methods and analyses.
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Conference topic: Ecotourism Destinations - Protected Areas as for economic development
The Role of Protected Areas towards the Economic
Development of Tourism in Georgia
Marina Metreveli
Georgian Technical University, Faculty of Business Technology, Professor
77 Kostava str.
0175 Tbilisi, Georgia
tel.: +995 591 939455
e-mail: metrevelimarina7@gmail.com,
Maka Apkhazava-Gerber
Georgian Technical University, Faculty of Business Technology, PhD Candidate
77 Kostava str.
0175 Tbilisi, Georgia
tel: +995 577 411050
e-mail: makrina777@gmail.com,
Abstract
As a very important part of sustainable tourism, the protected areas have a tremendous role in
developing of ecotourism and ecologically friendly society. The work is devoted to the relationship
between protected areas and the local communities around, positive and negative impacts of
tourism and their analysis and concludes in the author’s opinions for future developing of
sustainable tourism in Georgia.
As sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of
tourism development a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to
guarantee its long-term sustainability. Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of
tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness
about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.
The work aims to underline the importance of environmental protection and sustainable
development of tourism (ecotourism) in Georgia, especially on protected areas in connection with
local communities. Correspondingly, the authors present and analyse different surveys done on
protected areas which clearly show the weaknesses and strengths on the way of sustainable
tourism development in Georgia.
The Paper provides the research methods as follows: systemic approach to estimation of current
state of natural resources, ecotourism and sustainable development of tourism; statistical methods
and analyses.
Keywords: Protected Areas, Eco-tourism, Sustainable Development of Tourism, Local
Communities, Georgia
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Introduction
As sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of
tourism development a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to
guarantee its long-term sustainability. Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of
tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness
about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.
As a very important part of sustainable tourism, the protected areas have a tremendous role in
developing of ecotourism and ecologically friendly society. The work is devoted to the relationship
between protected areas and the local communities around, positive and negative impacts of
tourism and their analysis and concludes in the author’s opinions for future developing of
sustainable tourism in Georgia.
Current State of Inter-relation of Environment and Tourism in Georgia
At present, there are 14 Strict Nature Reserves, 10 National Parks, about 20 Managed Reserves,
40 Natural Monuments and 2 Protected Landscapes (Tusheti and Kintrishi) protected countrywide,
most of which are capable to be subject to sustainable development through environmental and
entertainment events. These Parks and Reserves nowadays cover 520,811 hectares, which
constitutes 8,6% of the whole territory of Georgia (Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia). Within
these categories the national parks are most popular and well formulated in Georgia (Kajaia G.,
2003).
Fortunately, there is an extended and well developed network of protected areas in Georgia,
established and operating in line with the international standards. More than 17 years National
Parks are managed through close cooperation with the famous international institutions, such are
the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF has the fully operational regional program Office in Tbilisi
for South Caucasus Area), International Union for Conservation of Nature, List of National Parks of
the United States, with financial support by the international donors, such are: KfW (Credit Bank of
Germany), US Department of Interior (US/DOI), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale
Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), US Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank Global
Economic Fund (WB/GEF), Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF) etc.
2015 the World Bank rendered aid to develop the “Strategy of Tourism Development in Georgia
2025”. As shown in the Strategy Document, based on the analysis of close links between tourism
and environment, the primary problem has been outlined envisaging the state of conservation of
nature in the country. In this regard, the main cause is inconsistent and improper waste disposal,
as well as low awareness on sustainable tourism. Air pollution is also the acutest challenge for two
large cities of Georgia Tbilisi and Kutaisi. It is mostly entailed with outdated vehicles and
overloaded traffic. Waters are also gravely polluted with sewage wastewaters.
In order to give deeper impression about the actual situation on protected areas in Georgia, we will
present and later on analyze different surveys recently performed on these territories.
According to the WEF Travel and Tourism competitiveness report 2017, in comparison to 2015
Georgia has better ranking only by 1 point in 2017 (71th place in 2015 and 70th place in 2017).
Besides, Georgia has mostly improved ranking in components of environmental sustainability and
natural resources in comparison to 2015: 52th place in Environment Sustainability in 2015 42th
place in 2017, 113th place for Stringency of Environmental Regulations in 2015 - 105th in 2015;
109th place for environmental legislation enforcement in 2015 - 69th place in 2017; 76th place in
Sustainability of T&T Industry Development in 2015 64th place in 2017; 125th place for Natural
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Resources in 2015 - 106th place in 2017; 124th place for Total Protected Areas in 2015 103th
place in 2017; 104th place in for Total Known Species in 2015 101th lace in 2017 (Table 1.).
Table 1: Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017 edition, WEF
Characteristics
2015 (141
countries)
2017 (136
countries)
Environmental Sustainability
52
42
Stringency of environmental regulations
113
105
Enforcement of environmental regulations
109
88
Sustainability of T&T Industry Development
76
64
Threatened species (% total species)
81
82
Forest Cover change
-
3
Natural Resources
125
106
No. Of World Heritage natural sites
83
86
Total Protected areas
124
103
Total known species
104
101
Source: the Table has been developed by the author based on the WEF, The Travel&Tourism
Competitiveness Report 2017 (edition Paving the Way for a More Sustainable and Inclusive Future).
Another interesting data to be demonstrated will be the Survey held in 2016 by “Monitoring and
Estimation Questionnaire of Public Perception and Impact” developed by the APA. The public
opinion poll has been held for the population residing near the protected areas in Georgia (covering
1800 persons). The poll aimed at: estimation of public awareness level on environment; fears and
expectations of the population in terms of protected areas; analysis and study of current state of
their participation in management part during the development of protected area.
The survey revealed the positive attitude of the population towards the protected areas and eco-
tourism development thereon, but they still have economic and social problems. Therefore, the
local authorities are trying to activate their involvement in management process on the protected
areas. One of the positive examples of local involvement in sustainable development is Martvili
Canyon, where after infrastructural works, the boating sector was delegated to local Ltd.
“Uputskhoi” for management, holding 70% of income and employing 80 local families.
Partially, the local community underlined the problems related to pasture usage, wood-cut, hunting,
fishing, human consumption plant collecting and other restrictions on the protected areas. Despite
of this, 31% of the respondents expressed commitment for involvement in eco-tourism development
and protected area management considering that development of protected areas will facilitate to
better environmental protection, increased visitor number triggering creation of job opportunities
and increase of incomes for the locals. All these aspects are playing a tremendous role in forming
of sustainable development of tourism in protected areas.
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The surveys confirm that compared to 2015 (9-month data), the number of family hotels near the
protected areas in 2016 increased with 28%, catering objects 40%, employment 24% (see,
Charts 1, 2, 3).
Chart 1. Increase of the number of Hotels near the protected areas in 2014-2016
Source: LEPL Agency of Protected Areas (2016)
Chart 2. Increase of the number of catering objects near the protected areas in 2014-2016
Source: LEPL Agency of Protected Areas (2016)
Chart 3. Increase of employment in tourism sector near the protected areas in 2014-2016
Source: LEPL Agency of Protected Areas (2016)
Deriving from the survey analysis, eco-tourism development on Georgian protected areas
contributes in development of tourism in general, strongly supports the economic development of
the regions and local community, production of eco-tourism products, facilitates to one of the
components of sustainable development of tourism.
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On the other side, the rising number of tourists on the protected areas also increases the risk of
negative impacts of tourism on these areas as well as in whole country in whole.
The following new statistic data developed from Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia shows the
dynamic of increasing of visitor numbers on protected areas of Georgia by months in 2018.
Chart 4: Number of Visitors on Protected Areas of Georgia
Source: LEPL Agency of Protected Areas, August 2018
If we compare these data with the statistics of visitor numbers by years in the following chart, we
can clearly see that the tourist number (101.998 visitors) visiting the protected areas only in month
of July 2018 is more than the number in year 2017 in whole (954.692 visitors).
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Chart 5: Number of Visitors on Protected Areas of Georgia by
years
Source: LEPL Agency of Protected Areas, August 2018
As we can see from the last two presented charts, the number of tourists visiting the protected
areas is increasing drastically. Of course, the increased number of visitors brings economic benefits
for the local community, but also the risk of environmental footprint on the visited areas seems to
be too high. Some professional groups already talk about the negative impacts of accelerated
growth of visitors and call it over-tourism. So these two contradicting factors should be considered
and balanced rationally not only on regional but also on national level. This is mostly important
factor taking into consideration, that one of the six principles of the “Georgian Tourism Strategy
2025” is “sustainability”.
Conclusion
Concluding from above presented work, it is clear that Georgia is still on initial stage concerning
the environmental policy implementation and a sustainable tourism development. Despite of this
fact, during last years the georgian goverment intensively facilitates the opportunities of business
developement of the local population around the protected areas. In major part, the local
community started to understand the economic impact from ecotourism in their region, what
strengthens their motivation to be involved and commit themselves in common management of the
protected area. Through the rising of sustainable tourism awareness, the locals become the
number one environment and nature protectors in the areas.
One more very important rising problem for Georgia seems to be very fast growing number of
visitors in a small country. This fact causes the necessity of further researches what will show the
clear positive and negative impacts of visitors on protected areas in order to reach the sustainable
development and avoid an ecological breakdown in future. Further studies should be conducted by
scientists, donors or private organizations with strong support of government as well as the whole
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process should be strictly monitored. In this connection, it is worth to mention that recently the new
Prime Minister of Georgia has publicly declared strict green and sustainable policy in the country.
Taking into consideration the trend of increasing visitor figures, offered tourist products should
adapt to the capacity of existing environmental resources throughout the country.
Thus, the governments, together with local communities and all other tourism stakeholders,
should intensify their activities to provide environmentally friendly destination, sustainable minded
and educated communities and competitive tourism environment for the better future.
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References:
EE for Sustainable Development: National Strategy and Action Plan of Georgia 2012-2014 (2012),
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Georgia Tourism Strategy 2025, Volume 1: Situation Analysis, Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2015, p. 108
Georgian Tourism Statistics 2015. Tbilisi, Georgia, (In Georgian).
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
  • G Kajaia
Kajaia, G., (2003). Basics of Applied Ecology, Tbilisi, Georgia, (In Georgian).
Kolkheti National Park -field guide
  • A Kikodze
  • R Gokhelashvili
Kikodze, A., Gokhelashvili R., (2006). Kolkheti National Park -field guide, Tbilisi, Georgia, (In Georgian).
Environment and Ecotourism Management
  • M Metreveli
Metreveli, M. (2012), Environment and Ecotourism Management, "Favoriti Printi" Publishing house, Tbilisi, Georgia (In Georgian).
Tourism and Environmental Protection, Principles of Ecotourism, Publishing house "Forma
  • M Metreveli
Metreveli, M., (2004). Tourism and Environmental Protection, Principles of Ecotourism, Publishing house "Forma", Tbilisi, Georgia, (In Georgian).
Customs of local inhabitants and rules of relations with them (Vashlovani and Lagodekhi Protected Areas) Guide-book for tourists, Publishing house "GAT
  • M Metreveli
Metreveli, M., (2007). Customs of local inhabitants and rules of relations with them (Vashlovani and Lagodekhi Protected Areas) Guide-book for tourists, Publishing house "GAT", Tbilisi, Georgia, (In Georgian).