Development of Tourism and Environmental Perspectives

Tourist season is over. Data from the Tourism Department of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic show that 400,000 tourists visited Adjara during the 2009 season, the highest number in recent years. The regional government has declared developing tourism one of its prime priorities. The renewal of the seaside boulevard in Batumi, new five-star hotels and a project to restore much of “old Batumi” all demonstrate the government’s desire to develop tourism infrastructure in Batumi. On the other hand, the quality of the waters of the Black Sea, the Batumi oil terminal and Batumi’s seaport raise questions about current and future environmental problems in the region. 

These issues were discussed during public debates held in Batumi on October 21, with the support of Heinrich Boell Foundation’s South Caucasus Regional Office. The Foundation has organized similar debates in Tbilisi since 2004, but the public debates in Batumi were the first in Adjara. The Director of the South Caucasian Regional Office, Dr. Iris Kempe, emphasized the importance of such debates and expressed her hope that Batumi public forums will encourage the further development of civil society in the region.

The main topic of the discussion was “Development of Tourism and Environmental Perspectives”. Nino Chkhobadze – Co-chairman of the association “Earth’s Friends,” Zurab Manvelidze – Chairman of the association “Mta-bari,” and Zviad Eliziani – President of the Adjara Tourism Association presented their views to the participants.

Further issues at the discussion included the overall approach to tourism in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, different types of tourism that can be supported in the region, awareness of environmental issues during infrastructure development, and steps to encourage the development of eco- and agro-tourism in Adjara’s mountains.

The most-supported view was that the regional and local governments should first of all support the development of eco- and agro-tourism in Adjara. Local governments should make finding the right strategy against environmental pollution a priority. Large industrial installations, such as Batumi’s seaport and the Batumi oil terminal will not discourage tourism if environmental and ecological norms are constantly and consistently considered. Participants also emphasized the important role of civil society together with the local governments in these processes.