Tetritskaro municipality is located in the Kvemo Kartli region, in eastern Georgia. The place is distinguished by beautiful nature and a multitude of centuries-old cultural monuments, including the Samshvilde complex (one of the oldest historical castle towns in Georgia), the monastery of Fitareti, the “Forty” Ghoubani, Sioni Cathedral of Manglisi, Birtvisi Fortress, and others. Despite the various sights, the awareness of the municipality among local and foreign visitors is not high. This was one of the main reasons why a team of young travelers, the founders of Georgian Travel Guide, submitted a project within the EU-funded ENPARD Teteritskaro grant competition, aiming to increase the awareness of the Tetritskaro Municipality.
The history of Georgian Travel Guide started in 2017. At first, several hikers united around the idea of bringing full information about the sights and cultural monuments of Georgia, because when planning each new hike, they faced the problem of the lack of ready-made routes. Davit Merabishvili, the co-founder of Georgian Travel Guide, tells about the three-year history of the organization and the achieved goals:
“As tourists, we knew how problematic the lack of information about ready-made routes was and how comfortable it would be for tourists to provide it. Our initial focus was on collecting, processing and delivering high quality multimedia content to local and foreign visitors in Georgia. We have been doing this for free since the start. Initially, the organization was completely non-commercial, only in 2020 we added a commercial direction. We help SMEs working in the field of tourism to sell services and products through our web platform. The hosts pay a commission for the sold product/service.”
Georgian Travel Guide currently has a website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. As David says, information about new routes is actively placed on the website, while the website itself is optimized for Google’s Search Engine (SEO) and almost always occupies the leading positions in the search results on the relevant topics. Statistics are also noteworthy – the number of users is growing from year to year, in June 2020 the number of unique users exceeded 80 000. The project is being developed by a team of professionals represented by photographers, videographers, a web developer, an operational manager, a graphic designer, and a communications manager.
According to David, the main goal of the organization is to develop location-based services so that travelers in a particular region can easily navigate, visit landmarks relevant to their interests, have fun and relax. Georgian Travel Guide operates in three languages - Georgian, Russian and English and covers all regions of Georgia. In the case of Abkhazia and Samachablo (Georgian territories currently occupied by the Russian Federation), the organization faces some difficulties, however, it hopes to be able to fully describe these regions in the future and provide more information for the visitors.
David tells us about the decision to take part in the EU ENPARD program grants competition – he explains that since more than half of Georgian Travel Guide users use the website with mobile devices, it was very important for the organization to create more comfort for travelers, which led the team to decision of creating a mobile app:
“Our site is available with any device, either it is a browser, mobile, or tablet. Unlike a mobile-customized website, the mobile app offers more convenience and more functionality to the user. So creating a mobile app will be the last link in our platform’s unified package. We were at this stage of development when we found out about the ENPARD Tetritskaro project through the Internet and decided to definitely participate in it. ”
Georgian Travel Guide team members were well aware that very little information was available about the Tetritskaro Municipality and its sights online, and that the municipality was practically unpopular. According to David, due to lack of information, Tetritskaro has very few visitors, even though it is only an hour’s drive from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia:
“Due to its unpopularity, only a small number of travelers are interested in Tetritskaro. As we wanted to raise awareness about the municipality and had eager to create an application and enrich our equipment, we decided to participate in the project and successfully received the grant amount. As a result, we have established a mobile application, also with the obtained money procured a digital device, a wide-angle lens and a server. This gave us the opportunity to better film the cultural and historical monuments of Tetritskaro and other municipalities. “
The total cost of the project presented by Georgian Travel Guide is 45 485 GEL, of which within the framework of the EU-supported project “Rural Development for Sustainable Growth of Tetritskaro Municipality”, by the decision of the Tetritskaro Local Group (LAG), Association Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG) allocated 31 276 Gel of grant amount.
Tetritskaro Local Action Group (LAG) was established with the support of the EU-funded ENPARD project “Rural Development for Sustainable Growth in the Tetritskaro Municipality” implemented by Association Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG). It is one of the twelve LAGs established with the EU support in different municipalities across the country. The LAG serves as a multisectoral cooperation platform and brings together civil society, private and public sectors to promote the local development process in the municipality. The Tetritskaro LAG, with a membership of 89 Tetritskaro residents, represents 20 local communities, including national and religious minorities, as well as IDPs and eco-migrants residing in the Tetritskaro municipality.
In 2018, the Tetritskaro LAG developed the local development strategy for 2018-2022 and defined the priority areas for increasing the quality of life in the municipality, which are: 1. environmental protection, natural resource management, and disaster risk reduction. 2. Support the competitiveness and modernization of agricultural and non-agricultural initiatives. 3. Promoting rural tourism development. 4. Development/rehabilitation of rural infrastructure. Within the framework of the grant component of the project, 65 rural development initiatives have been supported so far, with a total cost of more than 5 mln Gel, targeting 48,562 direct and indirect beneficiaries.
Nina Kopaleishvili – RDFG’s Communication Officer