Issue no: 1062/136
• JULY 3 - 5, 2018
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
ON TOURISM POTENTIAL Two projects, two regions PAGE
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... NGO: Number of Road Accidents Increased by 10% in Georgia NEWS PAGE 2
Will Georgia Ever Get to the World Cup? ISET PAGE 4
Architect Lord Hankey to Redesign 19th Century Tbilisi Property for the National Trust of Georgia
BUSINESS PAGE 6 Image source: Journal of Nomads
Bakuriani Summer Season Opens
Georgia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement Signed BUSINESS PAGE 7
Elton Mesmerizes Georgia
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he summer season has officially opened in Bakuriani. The Bakuriani resort, located south of Borjomi in the center of the country and less than a three-hour drive from Tbilisi, is best known for its winter ski offerings, but is also developing itself as a summer resort. During the summer, the ski lifts will run daily from 11 am to 6 pm, giving visitors access to mountain views and hiking trails. There is a tourist information center located in Bakuriani’s move theater where visitors can get personalized, detailed information on activities in the area, weather, and transportation schedules. "To develop and promote mountain resorts it is necessary to make them attractive during all four seasons. For this reason, there is a bike park and a 29-kilometer-long bike trail, suitable for both professionals and amateurs,” said a representative of the Mountain Resorts Development Company. The company is a part of Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and manages the country’s mountain resorts. The first mountain sled (toboggan) track in the South Caucasus opened in 2016 on the Didveli slope and is a major draw for Bakuriani
SOCIETY PAGE 15 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
Mountain Resorts Development Company
visitors. Other summer activities include hiking, mountain biking, riding ATVs, horseback riding, and a kids’ park at Didveli. From Bakuriani there are many potential day trips which provide opportunities for the small town’s off-season growth, and the development of tourism linkages in the region. The mountains
Kokhta and Sakvelo can be climbed, and there are hikes to Tabatskura Lake, the monastery complex of Timotesubani (XI century), mineral springs in Mitabari, and the Jvari hot springs. The Borjomi Gorge is also well suited for paragliding, rafting, off-roading, hunting, and trout fishing. Continued on page 2
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
NGO: Number of Road Accidents Increased by Gallup Report Ranks 10% in Georgia Photo source: Georgiaabout.ge
Georgia among Secure Countries BY THEA MORRISON
he recent report of an American research-based, global performance-management consulting company Gallup reads that Georgia is in 17th place among 142 countries for security. The 2018 Global Law and Order report presents the results from Gallup’s latest measurements of people’s answers to questions based on more than 148,000 interviews with adults in 142 countries and areas in 2017. In the list, Georgia leads all its regional neighbor states and is even ahead of Ireland, UK, US, Germany and France. More than two in every three people
worldwide say they have confidence in their local police (69%) and feel safe walking alone at night where they live (68%). One in eight (13%) say they had property stolen from them or another household member in the past year, and 5% say they were assaulted or mugged. Gallup compiles the “positive” responses to four questions into a Law and Order Index score for each country. The higher the score, the higher the proportion of the population that reports feeling safe. The index score for the world in 2017 was 81 out of a possible 100. Eighty-six countries posted scores lower than this average. The countries scoring the best and the worst on the index remained unchanged from 2016. Scores worldwide ranged from a high of 97 in Singapore to a low of 44 in Venezuela.
Forbes Names Tbilisi's "Plekhanov" among Coolest Neighborhoods
BY THEA MORRISON
orbes has included “Plekhanov”, one of the best places of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, into the list of the world’s coolest neighborhoods. “The former Soviet republic has become among the trendiest places to visit, and the capital of Tbilisi is always the first and last stop,” the article reads. 'Plekhanov' is the former name of the New Tiflis area, renovated in 2016. “It recently became more fashionable when the main avenue, Aghmashenebeli, was renovated and especially when the Fabrika space opened. Once a Soviet sew-
ing factory, this multifunctional space now houses cafes, bars, studios, shops and a hostel. This area is a mixture of young creatives and tourists, and there’s live music most evenings,” the article reads. The list of the world’s best neighborhoods was named as follows: 1.Barcelona: Sants 2.Washington, D.C.: Navy Yard 3.Amsterdam: Amsterdam Noord 4.Cartagena: Getsemani 5.Johannesburg: Maboneng 6.Tbilisi: Plekhanov 7.Panama City: Casco Viejo 8.Saigon: District 5 9.Athens: Keramikos 10.Seoul: Seongsu-dong 11.Chicago: Pilsen 12.Cape Town: Kalk Bay
Image source: ait.ac.at
BY THEA MORRISON
on-Governmental Organization (NGO) Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads says that the number of road accidents in JanuaryJune 2018 increased by 10% compared to the same period of last year. The Chairperson of the NGO, Eka Laliashvili says that the state must take more steps to solve the problem. “During the first six months of the year, road accidents increased by 10% and the number of injured increased by 12% compared to 2017,” she told Imedi TV. However, she underlined that the number of deceased has not increased this year. "We had an expectation that 2018 would be better in terms of road accident statistics, because many reforms were implemented in 2017, including the 100-point driving license reform, contactless patrolling and installation of smart street cameras,” the NGO Chair said. Laliashvili explained that one of the main problems is the execution of the adopted Road Safety Law. She said the 100-point driving license system is more or less effective but added the surveillance cameras fail to detect the majority of violations. “Because of this, Georgian drivers don't expect to be punished for violations, which promotes road accidents,” she added. The representative of the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads says that the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia did not install enough smart cameras.
“The MIA claims a reform is underway but when we have such alarming statistics in terms of road accidents, it becomes clear the process must be accelerated,” she added. Laliashvili believes that road safety must be a top priority in the country, adding the mortality rate is highest in this regard. She also added that safe roads will be an additional stimulus for tourism development in the country. “If road and transportation safety is not ensured in the country, it will negatively affect tourism development,” she underlined. Several days ago, Georgia’s State Audit Office (SAO) stated there are risks that the majority of street rule violations remain unpunished, adding the executive mechanism of fines is also weak. A survey conducted in the audit process revealed that drivers frequently or often violate traffic rules but are rarely fined. The document submitted to the Parliament by the State Audit Office reads that a total of 13,018 traffic accidents occurred in 2016-2017, which resulted in the deaths of 1,098 people and left 18,412 injured. In 13,018 traffic accidents, in which 1,232 people were injured and 22 died, the guilt of particular persons could not be established. SAO added that the proper state agencies fail to effectively reveal the facts of speeding, because the number of radars is insufficient and often cannot be used due to technical malfunctions. In mid-June, SAO also said that along with the absence of sufficient radar speed guns, a large number of street surveillance cameras do not work. It underlined that 1,100 of the cameras installed are technically faulty or do
not work at all. As for the remaining cameras that work, operators control and monitor only a small number of them. In order to fully control the streets, the MIA needs 3,000 smart cameras in total. However, the SAO says only 100 cameras have been bought and installed. MIA Analysis and Strategy Department Head Beka Liluashvili does not agree with the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads, saying the statistics of road accidents are better in 2018 compared to the previous years. “The number of deaths, injuries or road accidents has declined. We need to realize that the acute problem we have had for years cannot be solved in just a 6-month period,” he added. Liluashvili explains that from June 2017-June 2018, the number of road accidents decreased by 6% and the number of deaths and injuries by 8% and 8.5% respectively. He added that as of June 21, 2018, GEL 14.5 million worth of fines was imposed by street cameras while 9 million GEL was transferred to the state budget this way. "If we compare it to last year, the same amount of fines was imposed throughout the whole of 2017, so the improvement is obvious,” he claimed. The Georgian MIA and the Ministry of Economy launched the mandatory inspection of vehicles in Georgia on January 1, 2018 and large engine vehicles (+ 3.5 tons) and passenger vehicles (+8 seats) were inspected at the first stage. The second round of inspection started July 1 for vehicles belonging to state agencies and legal entities. Vehicle testing will be carried out step-by-step and inspection of all vehicles will be finished in about two years.
Bakuriani Summer Season Opens Continued from page 1 Other Georgian ski resorts also have big plans for summer tourism. Gudauri, another of the country’s top winter resorts, opened its 2017 summer season on July 16. In Svaneti, the new Hatsvali and Tetnuldi resorts operate during the summer. The Goderdzi resort in Adjara, which opened in 2015, was envisioned as a step in helping make Adjara an attractive destination in the winter in addition to its well known Black Sea
coast summer charm – the resort will also operate this summer. At all of the Georgian resorts, ski lift tickets are offered at a discounted price for the summer season. The Mountain Resorts Development Agency reported that in the 2017-2018 mountain ski season, there were 25% more visitors to the mountain resorts in Gudauri, Bakuriani, Svaneti and Goderdzi than in the 2016-2017 season. In mountain resorts, the number of local and international tourists has increased 491%
since the 2011-2012 season. Goderdzi is the most popular resort, with 34,5997 visitors in 2017-2018 – a 25% increase on the previous year. In comparison, Bakuriani had a 15% increase in visitor traffic from the 2016-2017 season, reaching 13,2704 in the 2017/2018 season. Looking further at tourism development, Adjara Group Hospitality plans to open a 100room Rooms Hotel this summer in Kokhta-Mitarbi, the mountain resort near Bakuriani that opened during the 2015-2016 season.
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
THE ISET ECONOMIST A BLOG ABOUT ECONOMICS AND THE SOUTH CAUCAUS
The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI, www.iset-pi.ge) is an independent think-tank associated with the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET). Our blog carries economic analysis of current events and policies in Georgia and the South Caucasus region ranging from agriculture, to economic growth, energy, labor markets and the nexus of economics, culture and religion. Thought-provoking and fun to read, our blog posts are written by international faculty teaching at ISET and recent graduates representing the new generation of Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian economists.
Will Georgia Ever Get to the World Cup? BY DAVIT KESHELAVA
his summer, Russia is again at the epicenter of the world, but this time for hosting the 21st FIFA World Cup football tournament1 and not for the occupation of its neighboring countries’ territories. The majority of the world’s population is gripped by football fever, and Georgians are no exception. You can see random people on the streets wearing the jersey of their favorite nation. Students attend classes wearing jerseys or football T-shirts. Local bars (or pubs) are transformed into fan clubs - flying flags of different nations playing the FIFA World Cup 2018. On social and regular media in Georgia, people are also very active - posting the status of their favorite teams, trolling large football nations (e.g. Germany was one of the most trolled football teams after they lost at the group stage), providing some very funny memes2 and predicting scores. Whenever the discussions are about football, people stop complaining about government or poverty, and start living the beautiful game. Economists, like all other football fans, are also consumed with the game. But, unlike regular people, they also want to analyze the successes and failures of football nations through the prism of economic science. The question I would like to answer is what makes a country good at football by discovering the underlying factors that determine a country’s football potential. Moreover, I would like to predict whether Georgia has enough economic potential to qualify for the World Cup with its existing resources. To identify the determinants of a country’s football potential, we should start by analyzing statistical information about the teams that have already managed to qualify for the recent FIFA World Cup. It turns out that the richest country in the competition is Switzerland, with a GDP per capita3 of $63,889 (six times more than Georgian GDP per capita), while the poorest nation is Senegal, with GDP per capita of only $2,566. Moreover, African countries are the poorest nations in the competition and it is notable that none of them managed to progress beyond the group stage of the tournament. How-
ever, the majority of Latin American countries with relatively low GDP per capita (less than $20,000) are among the best 16 teams of the competition. Brazil is the country with the largest population - 208 million4 people - in the World Cup of 2018, while the nation with the smallest population is Iceland, with only 334,252 people (three times less than the population of Tbilisi – the capital of Georgia). Nigeria has the youngest squad in the World Cup, 5 while Panama and Costa Rica have the oldest.6 Switzerland, Iceland, Nigeria and Belgium all have just one player who plays club football in his own country, while Senegal and Sweden both have none. England and Russia have the most players from domestic leagues – 23 and 21, respectively. As one can see, there is no clear recipe of socio-economic characteristics that a country can follow to achieve success on the international level. One can, however, make use of statistical models to answer a more fundamental question: what makes a country good at football in the first place? One such economic model has been built by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski in their book – “Soccernomics.” The authors claim that the size of a nation’s population, its national income, and the country’s experience in international soccer, hugely affects nations’ performance in any international matches. Indeed, the model assesses how well a country should perform, given experi-
ence, income, and population. The performance of a country is measured by the average goal difference between teams (e.g. if country plays only two games and wins both of them against its rival by 1:0 and 3:1, the performance indicator will be the average of the two goal differences; e.g., for 1 and 2 goals, 1.5). Therefore, a higher indicator value corresponds to a more successful performance. The database of the model covered all of the official matches from 1872 through 2001 and included 22,130 games. Later, the Economist used a similar model (with slightly modified determinants) for 126 countries, covering every international game from 1990 through 2018. According to this model, the main determinants of a country’s performance are as follows: First, the authors of the model included GDP per capita at purchasing power parity to capture the effect of wealth on a country’s success in football. Despite the fact that football has plenty of ragsto-riches stories, people who grow up in extreme poverty face greater obstacles. In Senegal, for instance, coaches have to deworm and feed their players before trainings. Furthermore, poor countries have underdeveloped football infrastructure and only few grass pitches, which prevents youngsters from revealing their talent and become professional football players. According to the authors, holding all other factors constant, having twice the wealth of your opponent
is associated with 0.2 goals more than your rival in a head-to-head game. (In support of this claim, it is worth noting that Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal are the only countries participating in the World Cup 2018 that have lower GDP per capita than Georgia). Second, the authors included the size of the population and the number of football teams and players to capture the effect of a population on a country’s success in football. The number of football teams and players have a positive contribution to a country’s performance in international matches. Moreover, having twice as many players and twice as many teams as your opponent is worth about 0.2 and 0.1 goals more than your rivals. According to the official information provided by the Georgian Football Federation (GFF), Georgia has 522 teams and 222,186 players,7 Iceland and Panama are the only countries participating in the World Cup that have fewer professional players than Georgia. Moreover, Iran is the only World Cup contender with fewer registered football teams than Georgia. While adding population as an explanatory variable, the authors expected that bigger means better and size contributes to the football performance of the country. Surprisingly, they found that the opposite was true – if countries are similar in every other way, including the number of football players, a country with a larger overall population (less football players per person) generally performs worse, as football is a lower priority sport in such places. Therefore, after controlling for the number of football teams and football players, every 100 million extra people penalizes a country by 0.1 goals per game. It is notable that Uruguay and Iceland are the only participants in the recent World Cup that have a smaller population to Georgia. Third, the authors included the average rate at which people searched football on Google between 2004 and 2018, relative to other team sports (such as rugby, sumo, basketball etc.), to capture the effect of relative interest in football (popularity of this sport). Football got 90% of Africa’s attention, 20% in America, and only 10% in South Asia. Iran, Nigeria, Tunisia and Senegal have the highest percentages (above 90%), while Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and South
“…….. Georgia clearly has potential. The country is small (5 million people), and horribly poor (even today, average income is below $4,000 per year). If Georgians could just become as rich as Croatia, they too could start beating England at Wembley.” – Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, Soccernomics, (2006, p.287) Korea the lowest (below 40%) among the participants of the current World Cup.8 The study showed that ten percentage points more Google interest in football than your opponent was worth 0.1 goals. In Georgia, 67% of Google searches were for football, relative to other types of sports, which further indicates that football dominates other sport activities in the country. Continued on page 5
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GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Will Georgia Ever Get to the World Cup? Continued from page 4 Georgians are keen on watching international football games, despite the fact that the Georgian national team has never succeeded in qualifying for any of the core international tournaments. According to the official statistics of FIFA, more than 24% of the Georgian population watched at least 30 minutes of a football game during the World Cup of 2014 in Brazil, and the total number of hours spent watching football exceeded 210. These numbers are a little bit lower than for Armenia (57% of population), Azerbaijan (36% of population) and one of the World Cup contenders, Iceland (49% of population), but higher than for China, Egypt, Cameroon and India.9 Georgian people very rarely attend Umaglesi Liga10 matches. According to the Thomas Efs database,11 the average attendance for Umaglesi Liga games amounted to only 1,016 people in the 2017 season.12 It is notable that Georgia’s Umaglesi Liga games have an average attendance rate similar to the seventh tier league in England, and this number is 19-20 times less than the average attendance at the Dinamo Tbilisi football matches before the collapse of the Soviet Union.13 Finally, to capture the national enthusiasm of a country, the authors included in the model the number of Olympic medals won per million people. One additional medal gained per million people was worth 0.2 goals, after controlling for other variables. Georgia managed to win 1.066 medals per million in the summer games during the period 1992-2016. It is notable that Australia (2.019) and Denmark (1.507) are the only participants of the recent World Cup that have a higher number of medals gained per million people than Georgia. Moreover,
and underachieving countries, given their resources. When the predicted goal difference of a team of medium strength exceeds the actual difference, then that country has underachieved its potential, as based on the given level of GDP per capita, population size, and interest in football, and that country should have a better average goal difference than it actually has. When the predicted goal difference is below the actual one, the country has overachieved its potential. Uruguay, for instance, was among the biggest overachievers, managing to have nearly a goal per game better than expected. Brazil, Argentina, Portugal and Spain were close behind. West African and Balkan countries are overachievers too, while China, India, Luxemburg, Canada, Hungary and particularly Germany, performed much worse than predicted. So, what about Georgia? Georgia scores 0.31 goals less than a team of medium strength; however, according to the actual
This is the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe, the eleventh time that it has been held in Europe, and the first time the tournament takes place on two continents – Europe and Asia. 2 “Meme is an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations” – Oxford Dictionary. 3 GDP per capita at PPP, 2016. 4 2016 Data. 5 26 years on average. 6 29.6 year on average. 7 Teams and players of any standard, estimated, 2016. 8 Saudi Arabia, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, South Korea, Panama, England and Japan were the countries among World Cup participants that have lower percentage of Google interest than Georgia. 9 Source: Television Audience Report of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, FIFA - https:// img.fifa.com/image/upload/n3z25ncdjj9qdwja1tet.pdf 10 Umaglesi Liga is the first trier championship for Georgia. 11 Source: http://www.european-football-statistics.co.uk/attn.htm. 12 FC Torpedo Kutaisi was the most popular team in the first trier league with average attendance of 2 794 people. 13 Wars, political instability and extreme poverty in the early 90s were among the main reasons why people lost interest in football. 1
Source: The Economist, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/06/12/ what-google-searches-and-gdp-can-tell-you-about-footballing-success Figure 1. Average Goal Differece against Median Team
the authors accounted for home advantage, which is worth 0.6 goals per game, and excluded all of the countries that have played in less than 150 international matches since 1990 (e.g. Bhutan and the Cayman Islands). It is notable that the identified socio-
economic determinants explained about 40% of the total variation in average goal differences. If we compare the average goal difference against a team of medium strength, computed by actual data and predicted by the Economist’s model, we will be able to identify overachieving
data, while taking into consideration the wealth, size and interest of the country, Georgia should score 0.62 goals less than the team of medium size. Sadly, the data suggests that Georgia already performs above its very low potential (Georgia overachieves its potential). Therefore, based on the outcome of the economic model, the failure of Georgia’s football team is not about the underemployment of the country’s socio-economic resources for football, but lack of resources themselves (poverty, small population, less experience, and lack of sport interest do not let youngsters reveal their talents). I want to conclude this blog with an optimistic quote from the book of Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski: “… Georgia clearly has potential. The country is small (5 million people), and horribly poor (even today, average income is below $4,000 per year). If Georgians could just become as rich as Croatia, they too could start beating England at Wembley.”
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Turkmenistan Needs to Cooperate with Azerbaijan & Turkey to Enter European Market BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
urkmenistan needs to cooperate with Azerbaijan and Turkey to enter the gas market in Europe, expert on Central Asia, Bruce Pannier, stated last week. On June 22, the Russian legal information portal published the full text of the draft convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. According to Article 14 of the Convention, two states can lay submarine pipelines with the approval of countries owning the maritime sectors that the pipelines pass through. “It seems that the implementation of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline (TCP) has become possible,” Pannier said. The expert noted that TANAP is connected by plans for laying the TCP, so Turkmenistan would have to cooperate with Azerbaijan and Turkey to ensure the supply of its gas to Europe. Turkmenistan has about 17 trillion cubic meters of gas, which is why, according to Pannier, the country can supply it also to China via the TCP and other pipelines. It was reported that the Central Asia-
China gas pipeline, which supplies gas from Turkmenistan to China, is operating at almost full capacity in the current state, and Beijing will probably have to look for additional sources of gas. By connecting Turkmenistan to China’s domestic grid, this pipeline makes it possible to transport gas some 7000 km from Turkmenistan to Shanghai. “Branches A, B and C of the network of Central Asian pipelines are approaching full capacity, and there are plans for the construction of a D branch, which is lagging behind schedule by at least four or five years. Branch D will increase the capacity by another 25-30 billion cubic meters,” the expert noted. Pannier recalled the Russian pipeline “The Power of Siberia,” which is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 and will eventually deliver to China another 38 billion cubic meters of gas. In addition, there is also a gas pipeline from Myanmar. Pannier noted also that China is likely to pay more attention to the increasing importance of liquified natural gas (LNG). “LNG import to China in 2018 grew by about 50% compared to 2017. Currently, China is building facilities for processing LNG from Qatar, Australia, Malaysia and
also from the United States,” Pannier said. Negotiations on the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline between the EU, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan began in September 2011. Official Ashgabat believes that laying the pipe along the bottom of the Caspian
Sea, whose legal status has not yet been determined, will be enough for Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan expressed its readiness to offer its territory, transit opportunities and infrastructure for the implementation of this project.
Earlier, Vice President of the European Commission Maros Šefcovic said in an interview with Reuters that the EU, aiming to reduce its dependence on energy supplies from Russia, expects to receive gas from Turkmenistan in 2019.
Architect Lord Hankey to Redesign 19th Century Tbilisi Property for the National Trust of Georgia BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
ord Donald Hankey, former head of ICOMOS UK and architect, veteran of numerous prestigious heritage projects around the world, was in Georgia with structural engineer Kevin Hallaway last week, both volunteering their time to help the new National Trust of Georgia (NTG) restore its first building. Located at 33 Solomon Brjenis Street in the Avlabari district of Georgia’s capital, the unique mid-19th century house will undergo extensive investigation and restoration should the works be funded. Lord Hankey sees great potential and has said as much in the report he is preparing for potential sponsors with Mr Hallaway. GEORGIA TODAY went to meet the two English gentlemen at the property to find out more. The “Tbilisi brick” house, dating back to the 1830s, is clearly in a very serious state of disrepair. The façade is cracked, with evidence of subsidence at both front corners and, inside the building, the fact that the rear extension of the property is sinking and breaking away from the main structure is apparent on entrance. Further, the décor shows an eclectic mix of flowered wallpaper in several layers and paint and shoddy masonry fix ups. No-one has lived here for decades. Yet Lord Hankey is optimistic and has a design in mind. “The wooden floor is in excellent condition- nothing a polish can’t sort once the foundations are fixed,” he tells us. “The whole of the front wall has subsided due to water drainage. The rear is also subsiding and is what we term as ‘unfit for service.’ We have a plan from 1953 and can extrapolate a lot from that as to the original layout. It shows a lot of outbuildings in the garden [no longer present]. The Russian occupation and Shevardnadze period then saw the property packed with different families with no money available to maintain it, leading to natural damage from careless occupation in a building that is actually very important and has clear Russian influence from St Petersburg, as seen by the star and arches on the front.”
Kevin Hallaway and Lord Donald Hankey
We asked what use he thought the building had had. “I’ve suggested it might have been a military barracks. Other opinions are that it was housing for the head of the local Armenian church [now destroyed] or a residence.” Lord Hankey insists the roof space and staircase layout lends more to it having been an observation platform. “It has a more formal Russian background, I believe, and this is something we need to puzzle out with the historians. We must also evaluate the building’s fabric- much of which is very good. There’s a lot of style hidden here- the Persian fireplaces, wooden floor…” We ask him about his plans for the future of the building. “We aim to make a building of use- but what that use is, is up to the NTG to decide. I merely look at theory and practise. Our objective is to leave a functional building- deciding which walls to keep and take out, for example, or which parts to alter, in order to leave it as a valuable series of useable spaces.” One idea Lord Hankey has is to reconstruct and build up the cellar in the garden which runs along one of the adjacent streets, which could perhaps be opened as a specialty book shop, adding charac-
ter to the street and bringing financial benefit to the property owners. Also important is to bring the property up to current safety standards. “In order to ensure fire resistance to the vertical circulation, our proposal is to remove the two existing staircases and build a new staircase on the central axis,” Lord Hankey says. One obstacle, or challenge, to any changes planned for the rear of the property is a Mulberry tree which is suspected to be older than the building itself. “We can go up,” Lord Hankey states. “But a bit of a haircut is needed and we must be careful not to damage the root structure.” “If you don’t reuse such historically important buildings, they fall to bits because nobody has any interest in keeping them alive,” Lord Hankey points out. “Reuse is very important. Our job here is not to define a specific use but to leave it available for multiple uses- domestic, office, or institutional. In this particular building, the quality of the original joinery and finishes demonstrates the need to upgrade and repair rather than leave it to destruction.” The NTG website says of the building: “In October 2017, the Trust took over a
unique, unusually unmolested 18th -19th century property in the Metekhi cliffs area of the city, adjoining Avlabari. The property is large enough to act as the Trust’s headquarters on a permanent basis, as well as contain space for exhibitions and events. Like so many properties in Georgia this three-story building is in a poor stage of repair, but it will slowly be restored and used as an example for locals as to how building repair can be done cheaply, effectively and with historic sensitivity, on their own homes. There will be an exhibition inside the building illustrating how this is achieved.” We had heard before meeting Lord Hankey that this was his first trip to Tbilisi but that his wife had been here before and taken home her enthusiasm for the beauty of the place. We asked the Lord what he thought now he was here. “Tbilisi always inspired me with its fabulous history and wonderful geographical setting. It can demonstrate how much the modern generation is prepared to destroy the past and how much great enthusiasts like Peter Nasmyth [author, founder-member of the NTG] and ICOMOS, are willing to work to maintain the historical buildings of the city. It was from
the 1960s that we in the UK, coordinated by Lord Kenneth of the Labor Party, began to work to preserve English heritage, realizing how important it is to maintain our major buildings.” We asked him if Tbilisi had met or disappointed his expectations and he told us he was “not at all saddened” to see the architecture in Tbilisi. “I’ve seen historic buildings all over the world in dreadful states and I’ve got so used to seeing it, it doesn’t faze me at all. But like here, either you get enough enthusiasm from the locals and investors to save a building, or history is lost.” Within our conversation, the idea came up to try and enthuse youth to get involved in the historical investigation of Tbilisi’s old buildings and for them to begin to think in terms of reuse. Fabrika, a sewing factory converted into a multi-use space for bars, cafes, art studios and work spaces, is the latest prime example of such a project. “I would be very happy to come and speak if such a program were set up,” Lord Hankey said.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL TRUST OF GEORGIA In October 2016 a group of Georgian citizens and one Englishman, established a new National Trust style of organization in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Under the title of the National Trust of Georgia it was set up in association with the National Trust of Great Britain’s international branch INTO and follows the successful British model. Georgia possesses a large number of historic sites worthy of saving and promoting, either as tourist venues, or workable businesses that will pay for the structure’s (or land’s) upkeep. However, the country currently has no independent national organization that enables individuals to express their concern and affection for the nation’s heritage. A National Trust of Georgia will provide this alongside a practical means of helping to preserve buildings and land. Its knowledge base and experience will help show private owners many methods to save their own properties, not as yet demonstrated by the state, plus offer a means of expressing their pride for their nation – by joining as Trust members.
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
The perfect pairing of Business and Lunch! Amb assadori Club cordially invites you
Photo: GOVERNMENT INFORMATION SERVICES, HKSAR
Georgia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement Signed BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
free trade agreement (FTA) between Georgia and Hong Kong was signed last week, according to the Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development. The Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Genadi Arveladze, and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-Wah signed the document together as part of the Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong. The FTA was negotiated in 2016 and has several standard components, namely the elimination or reduction of tariffs, the liberalization of non-tariff barriers, flexibility regarding rules of origin to facilitate bilateral trade, customs facilitation procedures, liberalization and promotion and protection of investment; liberalization of trade in services, and a dispute settlement mechanism for the FTA. A spokesperson from the government of Hong Kong said, “Georgia [is an] emerging market with potential for further growth,” and that the FTA “has strategic value for Hong Kong” and “will help
expand Hong Kong's FTA network into the respective regions including Eurasia.” The agreement is Hong Kong’s first with a country in the Caucasus region. Total trade between the two countries reached $ 50.7 million (GEL 124.5 mil) last year. Georgia is the city's 121st trading partner in terms of goods. The signing is a part of Hong Kong's long-term strategy to expand its global reach as it moves towards being an international trading center. In the past 12 months, the city has secured three sets of FTAs, including Georgia. The agreement was drafted based on an FTA between Georgia and China, which was enacted from the first of January, 2018. Hong Kong is, officially, a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, with the express right to make bilateral trade agreements with foreign countries. The agreement aims to facilitate and promote trade between Georgia and Hong Kong. There are hopes that increased trade with Hong Kong will encourage Georgian entrepreneurs to participate in the high-end Hong Kong market. Arveladze remarked that the FTA is advantageous for Georgia, as Hong Kong is a key international transit and financial center. The agreement is scheduled to enter into force by the end of the current year.
Trade Union: 24 Georgian Workers Have Lost their Lives So Far in 2018 BY THEA MORRISON
wo workers died last week at workplaces in Chiatura and Gudauri while performing their duties. The Georgian Trade Union says according to statistical data, 24 workers died in the country and 18 more were severely injured and taken to hospitals in 2018. Deputy Chair of the Trade Union Tamaz Dolaberidze says the statistics are not complete, adding some cases are not even known to the public. “The problem regarding labor safety needs to be solved as the situation is worsening by the day,” he stated. 32-year-old Khvicha Gvelesiani died in Darkvetli village, Chiatura municipality, while working in a sand quarry. He was trying to cut the cliff with a tractor when the sand mass fell on him. By the time the vehicle was dug out, he was already dead. He had been working at the site for just two weeks. The works at the sand quarry are being carried out on the order of Darkevti 2008 LTD, which has assured that safety norms were observed at the site. The second worker to lose his life last week was Khvicha Tabatadze, 36, who died in Gudauri while dismantling a metal crane. The pieces of the construction fell on the worker and he died immediately. He was working on a project initiated by company ‘Peri,’ hired by the municipality within the frames of a development project. The project was financed with GEL 29 million from the state budget. Tabatadze’s family claims that safety norms were not observed at the site. David Tabatadze, father of the deceased man, says his son was not a professional but was asked to take apart the crane. “They knew my son did not know how to do this.
They should have brought a specialist instead,” the man stressed. Georgian Parliament adopted a law on Labor Safety, with the third and final reading on March 7, but it has yet to take effect. In the new version of the labor safety law, sanctions for the breach of safety norms have been tightened, and fines were increased from 100 to 50,000 GEL. However, the requirements of the law will only cover 11 areas of severe, harmful and dangerous jobs. Human rights defenders say the law is discriminatory as it does not cover all jobs. According to the new law, the sanctions on breach of labor safety can be one of three types: Nonexistent, substantial and critical. The sanctions on all three types of violations will be based on how much annual turnover the enterprise has. The law also reads that the monitoring service representatives will not be able to enter the enterprise without the permission of a judge, unless there was an accident or a planned inspection. However, in case of repeated inspection, the supervision service will no longer need the Court’s permission. The non-governmental sector imposes responsibility for all dead workers on the state and demands immediate activation of the new Labor Safety Code. Deputy Chair of the NGO Georgian Young lawyers’ Association, Nana Kurdovanidze says the recent incidents show the state does not have an effective mechanism for controlling labor conditions. “The employees also do not provide minimum standards of safety at workplaces,” she added. NGO Human Rights and Monitoring Center – EMC Social Programs Director, Lia Ghvinianidze says that the “weak labor policy promotes such cases in the country.” The Interior Ministry has launched investigations into both recent cases with regards to breach of safety norms.
Lunch times: 12:00 $ 14:00 Dinner times: 18:00 $ 20:00 Delicious dishes, soft drinks and desert Cozy atmosphere, high-class service. Prices 20 - 25 USD per person
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GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Tourism Development International, EBRD Close Successful MSME Development Program in Mukhrani Village An agritourism MSME financing program should be designed and developed, under which small grants would be provided to MSMEs in target rural areas BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
n the framework of the EU4Business initiative of the European Union, in late 2017, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) initiated a pilot program aiming at promoting micro, small and medium enterprise development in agritourism in the historical and central Georgian settlement of Mukhrani. Tourism Development International (TDI), based in Ireland and running numerous international projects, conducted a comprehensive Agritourism Capacity Building Program for local businesses, residents and stakeholders in order to improve backward linkages between tourism and primary agriculture in Mukhrani. 20 local residents participated in the program, working on a range of microenterprises that will greatly strengthen the tourism fabric of Mukhrani. These include guesthouses, restaurants, winery tours, traditional crafts and rural activities. Last week a round-up workshop was held at Chateau Mukhrani with the aim of highlighting Mukhrani’s potential as a tourism destination, giving an insight into Mukhrani agritourism MSME development plans and presenting recommendations to provide ‘incubator’ support to agritourism MSMEs. At the event, the EBRD and Foundation for the Economic Development of Mukhrani (FREM) also presented Certification Awards to all participants who had successfully completed the Agritourism Program. The event was opened by Governor
Even though the numbers are up, tourism revenue is low ... due to skills deficiencies, a lack of understanding of dynamics and low investment in facilities
Levan Zautashvili, who spoke about the significance of the project for the community and country and thanked the organizers and sponsors. “We are very grateful for the inclusive program that enabled Mukhrani to contribute to the ongoing works in the region to boost our tourism potential,” he said. “The MskhetaMtianeti region has numerous attractions and Mukhrani has a big role to play. We have infrastructural plans for Mukhrani town center, the roll out of which takes time, but we are determined and are actively working to produce a quality product and services.” “I’m truly excited to see this cross of tourism and agriculture, something the EBRD itself is enthusiastic about,” said Bruno Balvanera, EBRD Director for the Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus. “Today we see the results of the first concrete agritourism project, not only in Georgia but throughout the 38 countries the EBRD works with. Georgia has a lot to offer tourists. We know that Georgia is a country where the opportunities for minorities have been limited and we want such people- particularly the young and women - to have the chance to take a grant and develop their businesses. Tourism in Georgia is an area ripe for development. The EBRD aims to bring all of its 38 partner countries self-sustainable services, and to bring the villagers of Mukhrani economic independence. I thank those of you who made this first successful project possible and look forward to seeing the spread of such MSME practice throughout the rest of the country.” Mukhrani was singled out as a cultural heritage asset of Georgia, not least for its tradition of winemaking. Alongside the Chateau Mukhrani vineyard, restaurant and resort, the village boasts ruins of a palace, several churches and a fortress. In Mukhrani, there is a desperate need for capacity building in order to facilitate small and micro sector development. This was carried out in a prgram headed by TDI, via training workshops, excursions and visits from guest professionals in various fields. “A huge growth in tourism has been contributing significantly to GDP and employment growth, said Peter Mac Nulty, TDI Managing Director. “But even though the numbers are up, tourism revenue is lower than it is in many other countries due to skills deficiencies, a lack of understanding of dynamics and low investment in facilities. Visitors need things to do and places to see. In Mukhrani, we have been working to unlock the tourism potential of the village. TDI was appointed to develop a tourism plan; to set out a road map resulting in financial benefits and social transformation. This plan identified heritage and food
as the most outstanding assets of Mukhrani, so we set out with the locals to create a combination of history, culture, good food and hospitality.” The project began by identifying needs. While the Chateau complex itself was a key facility providing employment for the local community, outside its walls, the village was at “Level 0” in terms of facility development, conservation awareness and agritourism capacity. “The overarching aim of project was to assist the development of MSMEs in agritourism, to build the capacity of local residents to create their own businesses, with an emphasis on women and youth, and to improve linkages between tourism and agriculture,” Mac Nulty told us. “The needs of local business owners were assessed, and capacity-building courses designed for MSMEs with a focus on agritourism, food safety and production, and the overall development of Mukhrani village. The training program consisted of 12 modules. Business advisory services gave support to each beneficiary, enabling them to come up with business plans. Six demonstration projects were then prepared, and these were on display at the end of the closing event in the garden of the Chateau. A study tour was also organized to Kakheti region to demonstrate to beneficiaries best-practices in agritourism from other areas of Georgia and abroad. “So, what were the results? Increased awareness of Mukhrani tourism potential throughout the local community and beyond and 18 new agritourism enterprises in the pipeline, including eight guest houses, four wineries/wine tours, two farm visits and related activities, two craftshops and two cafes,” Mac Nulty said. “Community cooperation is an essential prerequisite for sustainable
agritourism,” he noted. “We had 20 beneficiaries working on their own business plans, then being split into three separate groups to work on demo projects which laid the foundation for future community cooperation.” Sopio Kubiashvili, Director of the local school, chicken-farm owner and future guesthouse manager, thanked the organizers and spoke enthusiastically of the success of the program. “You gave us pride and hope and the ability to believe in ourselves- a fundamental change for us. Mukhrani is wellknown for its wine, but I pledge that agritourism will soon become equally as well known, with all of the community taking part,” she said. “What this program has done is provide an essential private sector dynamic to complement the public sector support,” he said, going on to discuss TDI’s recommendations for how the Georgian government and EBRI might elaborate on the project to ensure its continued success. “An incubator program is top of our list of recommendations,” Mac Nulty told attendees at the project closing event. “A two-year program is needed to support the community in generic business activities; assisting beneficiaries to liaise with funding agencies; to provide support for them in marketing and branding in terms of creating a quality label for Mukhrani and to give conserva-care training and training in IT. Specialist business support is needed for architecture, design and operation of guesthouses, food health and safety, craft product design, and wine tasting and tours.” He noted the vast amount of work still needed in the implementation of the tourism development plan for Mukhrani village and suggested an agritourism MSME
financing program, tourism and visitor facility development, and establishment of an agritourism network, building on the cooperation already begun. “A capacity-building program would be good for senior officials at local government and municipality level. Awareness-building is essential, and a youth program would be highly beneficial to the community. Capacity-building and technical support should also be given to FREM, which, in our view, is ideally positioned to oversee implementation of the agritourism development plan but which will need assistance and support to help it in that task.” He also highlighted the need for assessment of existing channels for financing in Georgia. “An agritourism MSME financing program should be designed and developed, under which small matching grants would be provided to MSMEs in target rural areas.” Both TDI and EBRD expect the agritourism capacity-building program, as demonstrated in Mukhrani, to be extended to other regions of Georgia and, indeed, to the 37 other EBRD portfolio countries. TDI recommended EBRD establish a research program into untapped agritourism potential in Georgia and find partners within the regions, prioritizing regions ready to cooperate with them. It is then advised to implement an agritourism capacity-building program over a 10-year timeframe. “TDI’s 30 years’ experience has shown that tradition can be combined with new to the benefit of communities who can together use their history, culture and tourism to benefit the entire community,” Mac Nulty concluded. “This is a fully tested program ready for wider implementation. We have faith in it and so do our beneficiaries.”
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Nord Stream-2 Can Be Built without European Investment
Georgia's External Debt Amounts $17.5 Billion BY THEA MORRISON
BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
ompany Nord Stream 2, which is building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, has assessed the consequences of possible US sanctions, said its Financial Director, Paul Corcoran. He noted that it will possible to build the gas main without Western investments. “The project will undoubtedly be
financed. This is important for Gazprom, and Russia today has a high liquidity reserve in Euros,” the Deutsche Welle German newspaper quotes him as saying. It had been reported that Germany allegedly received preliminary guarantees from the US that the sanctions would not be extended to gas pipelines with a Russian presence. The US, opposing the Russian-European project Nord Stream-2, earlier made quite a number of statements, however, the essence of which was that Europeans should abandon the project because the
dependence of Europe on Russian gas would thereafter only increase. Previously, the US quietly suggested that Denmark should not give permission to lay the gas pipe in its territorial waters, but now they are openly pressurizing Danish politicians. Recently, open US pressure on those Europeans who support the project has intensified. Many experts argue with good reason that Washington, behind the political slogans, conceals its economic interest, with the US planning to “clear space” on the European energy market for its liquified natural gas (LNG).
he gross external debt of Georgia amounted to $17.5 billion (42.2 billion GEL) as of March 31, 2018 and 111.5% of the last four quarters' Gross Domestic Product (GDP), notes the National Bank of Georgia (NBG). In the first quarter of 2018, the gross external debt of Georgia increased by $192.6 million. Of that, a $238.3 million increase took place due to exchange rate changes, and transactions also lead to its increase by $21.0 million. Pricing and other changes lead to its decrease by $57.0 and $9.7 million, respectively. The NBG says that public sector exter-
nal debt amounted to $7.4 billion (17.9 billion GEL) or 47.3% of GDP. Of which, debt of the general government amounted to $5.4 billion (13.0 billion GEL) or 34.5% of GDP. External liabilities of the National Bank of Georgia amounted to $297.7 million (718.8 million GEL) or 1.9% of GDP. Banking sector external debt amounted to $3.8 billion (9.2 billion GEL) or 24.3% of GDP; Other sectors' external debt stood at $5.4 billion (13.0 billion GEL) or 34.3% of GDP; While $2.6 billion (6.3 billion GEL) or 16.6% of GDP was the intercompany lending. The 90.9% of the gross external debt of Georgia was denominated in foreign currency. The net external debt of Georgia amounted to $10.6 billion (25.5 billion GEL or 67.4% of GDP) as of 31st March 2018. Net public sector external debt was $4.4 billion (10.5 billion GEL or 27.8% of GDP).
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Georgia is Italy 2.0 (Beta Version)
Photo: Journal of Nomads
BLOG BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
icture Italy. Maybe you’ve been there, maybe you’ve just seen enough romantic movies set in Tuscany or Venice to feel like you’ve been there, either way I think you can picture it. It’s rolling green hills covered in grape vines, crazy Vespa drivers zipping through cobblestone streets, fashionable young men smoking on street corners, plates piled high with homecooked food, cups overflowing with wine from the vineyard down the country lane. Now, if you’ve actually spent time in Italy, you probably also know the other side of things – throngs of tourists pushing past each other to take a selfie in front of a monument or painting without actually really looking at it, piazzas full of overpriced, generic, frozen ‘Italian’ food, simplified and sweetened to meet the expectations of foreign taste buds, cities and landscapes that have been photographed and replicated and emulated so many times that their beauty, while still undeniably there, feels tired, varnished, expected. So, what to do? Italy has so much to delight the senses! How can we experience that while avoiding the disappointment and discomfort of a country reoriented towards tourists? We need an Italy 2.0, and I’ve found it – the tiny Caucasian country of Georgia. Italy is seen sometimes as the apex of tourist counties, and its many people’s fantasy travel destination. You should know, however, that Georgia has much in common with Italy, and, in my opinion, it has much improved upon Italy’s faults and its strengths. Georgia has faults of its own, it’s like the beta version – there are still a few kinks to work out, the occasional glitch, but overall a step up from Italy 1.0. Full disclosure: I’m not an Italy expert. I’ve only been once, on a nine-day trip that, while I now remember rather fondly, I hated at the time. I called Italy an “open sewer of tourist filth,” closing a blog post written a week after the trip with “my recommendation is to put off traveling to Italy. Italy is spoiled. Its glory days as a travel destination are long gone and waiting can't make it any worse than it is.” I’m sure I will get responses to this piece arguing that I just don’t know Italy well enough, I didn’t do it right, that I’m unfairly besmirching Italy’s name with my inexperience – and that is completely correct, but thankfully, this isn’t really an article about Italy, it’s about Georgia. Most people have never even heard of Georgia, fewer still can get a clear enough picture of it in their mind’s eye to build a fantasy around. So, I will use not Italy per say, but the public imagination of Italy, as a start point to help you understand the country of Georgia a little better, and maybe even get inspired to plan your next trip there! Georgia has variably been called the alternative to the Alps, the cradle of wine, and the Eden of the Caucasus. It is a stunningly diverse country gushing hospitality and warmth, with family and friendship at the center of the culture. It is a diamond in the rough flecked with
moments of unspoiled paradise. My favorite Georgian story goes like this: After God created the universe, he began to distribute parcels of land to the different peoples of the world. Each would come forward and claim their land, but when God called out for the Georgians, no one stepped forward. So, he gave away all the land. Suddenly, the Georgians arrived – drunk, laughing, stumbling, “My Lord,” their representative said, “forgive us for being late. We were feasting and became so engaged in toasting to Your glory that we lost track of time.” God was moved by the Georgians’ honoring Him, so, he gave them the only piece of land left- the land he had kept for himself. Today, this slice of Heaven is called Georgia. Will Georgia go the way of Italy and descend into a fake, over-processed, tourist-catering facsimile of itself? Perhaps. Only time will tell. But I wouldn’t wait to find out... The Similarities: • Livestock in the road. In the countryside, a traffic jam means a shepherd and his sheep crossing from one pasture to another, or a herd of cows unbothered by the passing cars. • Grandma culture. Both countries have a strong family base (more on that below), and with that comes the grandma culture. Grandmothers are respected and feared, and will get aggressive about their affection, stuffing you with food, inquiring about your marital status, and giving you unrelenting hugs and kisses. Young people – be ready to give up your seat on public transportation if a grandmother gets on board! In Georgia, one of the prime places for a grandma sighting are roadside stands where they are likely to be selling homemade churchkhela, honey, and jams! • Family culture. The family is the most critical unit of society in both Italy and Georgia. Most men can be classified as “mama’s boys,” young people typically live with their families until marriage, and everything revolves around the home. If you hang out with a Georgian person for long enough, expect multiple phone calls from parents and aunts and uncles just checking in. The warmth and love from the family atmosphere can feel a little stifling at times, but in the end, you know you can always count on family to be there for you. • Homemade alcohol. Although Georgia is the birthplace of wine, Italians have taken the tradition and run with it. Most Georgian households outside the capital make their own wine, just as there are thousands of family vineyards throughout the Italian countryside. The home brewing doesn’t end with wine, though! In Italy, limoncello is the garage liquor of choice, in Georgia you’ll find the clear grape liquor chacha in glass carboys and old water bottles in cellars throughout the country. • Crazy drivers. Italian drivers are known to be aggressive, irreverent, and quick to hit the horn. Georgian drivers aren’t much different, with little concern for lane lines and right of way. A funny joke in Georgian is that, when crossing the street, you should carefully look to the left, to the right, up and down! In Georgia, however, you don’t have to
worry about the little scooters that zip around cobblestoned corners in Italian cities. • Mañana culture. Yes, mañana is a Spanish word (meaning ‘tomorrow’), but it also makes sense in Italy and Georgia! While parts of Italy definitely have a fast-paced, espresso-fueled lifestyle, you can find throughout the country a relaxed atmosphere of people who are more concerned with enjoying life than working for the sake of working. In both countries, working on a Western timetable can sometimes be frustrating, it’s easy to fall in love with the lifestyle when Georgians suggest that a work meeting can be postponed in favor of showing their guests a taste of the famous Georgian hospitality. Time is flexible, so don’t expect precision in transportation schedules or event start times, but all the beauty and goodness of life is expected to be enjoyed to the fullest – both Georgians and Italians know how to throw a party! • Language. Both Italian and Georgian are spoken fast and loud with plenty of hand gestures! For those not familiar with it, Georgian speakers can sound like they are constantly arguing. • A fashion hot spot. Milan has a long history as the world’s fashion capital, but Tbilisi is quickly making a name for itself as one of the most interesting destinations for global fashion, and as the home of trendsetters and risk takers. Probably Georgia’s most famous fashion export is Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga and head designer of Vetements, but he does not stand alone, as Georgian designers are being worn by celebrities all over the world, such as Avtandil, worn by Lady Gaga and Mary J. Blige, Situationist, worn by Bella Hadid, and George Keburia, worn by Rihanna and Kortney Kardashian. • Beautiful churches. Italy is a majority Catholic country and Georgia is a majority Orthodox Christian country, and in both religion plays a major role in the lives of most people. One of Georgia’s most striking features is the tapestry of ancient churches that cover the country – tucked away in Tbilisi’s side streets or a beacon in a sea of pastureland or rugged mountains. Georgia adopted Christianity in the 4th century, and there are sites dating back to the fifth century! In both Catholic and Orthodox churches, you will find elaborate frescoes, depictions of saints, candles, incense, and plenty of gold and dramatic embroidery. Plus one for Georgia – in the country’s southeastern Kvemo Kartli region and the western, coastal Adjara region, you will also find beautiful and historic mosques built by and for Georgia’s Muslim population! In both countries, churches are not the only ancient architecture. While corners may be crumbling, the beauty of
Photo: Giorgi Nikolava
many old buildings is still evident. And the top four...food, wine, views, and hospitality. • Food. The table is always full, there are always new things to taste and experience, and the traditional dishes are incredible! Italian food is well known the world over, while Georgian food has only recently begun to get the attention it deserves. Georgian cuisine, like Italian, is diverse with regional variations, and focuses on fresh, local ingredients. • Wine. Georgia is the cradle of wine, and wine plays a central role in traditional life as the most sacred drink for toasting at feasts, and as an important product economically. Most rural households grow grapes and make their own wine for personal consumption. Even in Tbilisi, you will see grape vines strung across courtyards and up trellises. Georgian wine varieties have very unique flavor profiles, so you have to try them yourself! Additionally, a new study was recently published showing that Georgians’ drinking habits are more similar to that of Italy than other parts of Eastern Europe. • Stunning scenery. It’s easy to find articles with titles like “27 Photos That Prove Italy is Heaven on Earth” but, while Georgia remains less discovered by the travel writers, there are plenty of travelers gushing about their experiences, and on everyone’s list is the natural beauty. Georgia is just 23% the size of Italy by land area, yet has an abundance of breathtaking vistas – snow-capped Alpine mountains, gushing rivers, pristine mountain lakes, the Black Sea Coast, and the man-made wonders – ancient cave cities, dramatic towers in the mountains, remains of fortresses, and the historic old cities of Tbilisi and Sighnaghi. • Surprises. Being invited to meals with strangers, a spontaneous plan to go on a hike or a road trip, hidden adventures around every corner – these experiences are increasingly difficult to find in Italy, but Georgia is still a treasure trove of surprises! Georgian hospitality is a major point of pride, and you’d be hard pressed to miss it if you spend any time at all with locals. The Differences: It depends, of course, on what you want out of your visit, and it is so incredibly hard to compare and rank whole countries, but for numerous reasons I think Georgia is a better place to visit for most people than Italy! What you love about Italy, you can probably find in large measure in Georgia, and what bugs you about Italy is largely absent in Georgia. That being said – caveat emptor – there are still a few glitches Georgia is working out. If Italy is the model for a great travel destination, Georgia is an improvement on it, a 2.0, but maybe in beta version... • Money. Italy is a much richer country
than Georgia. Its GDP is approximately $1.85 trillion, while Georgia’s GDP is just $15.5 billion (World Bank, 2016). When you look at growth, however, Georgia’s GDP growth rate is 4.8% compared to Italy’s 1.5% (World Bank, 2017). Per capita income is much lower in Georgia, meaning that the cost of food, services, and activities is significantly lower than in Italy and other European countries. Your dollar goes much further in Georgia, and you can have some of the lifechanging experiences that might be out of your price range in Italy. • Architecture. If you’re looking for ancient ruins – both Italy and Georgia can deliver, but the Roman Empire was much more developed than ancient Georgian settlements, and more of its buildings remain. With a good tour guide, though, Georgia’s ancient history can also dazzle and amaze, such as the 6th century Jvari Monastery which contains the base of a 4th century cross thought to have been erected by Georgia’s ‘enlightener’ Saint Nino, or the early Medieval towers of Svaneti, an analogue of which is found nowhere else in the world. On the whole, Italy has preserved more of its architectural heritage – perhaps the comparison will encourage Georgian preservation efforts in Old Tbilisi and various important sites nationwide that need significant TLC. • Festivals. Italy and Georgia both have festivals, traditions, and celebrations, but Italian cultural festivals are more organized. Perhaps due to their attraction for tourists, it is easy to find information about festivals in Italy online and surrounding most festivals there is a sort of framework to facilitate tourist participation and enjoyment. In Georgia, on the other hand, most traditional festivals are really still local and regional affairs, making it harder for outsiders to participate in the festivities. Georgia is home, though, to several internationally recognized music festivals including the Black Sea Jazz Festival and Gem Fest! • Tourism Development. The tourism industry is much more developed in Italy, which has its pros and cons. In Georgia, less established areas can have few transportation links or options for accommodation, so your choices can be a bit more limited. There is also not as much information (especially in English) online or in print about the country and the best ways to explore it. On the up side, you won’t be trapped in throngs of mindless tourists piling off buses, paying more attention to their guide books than the actual place they are visiting. You also have the chance for a much more local experience, staying in guest houses and eating at restaurants that don’t see many tourists. If you are ever looking for information on visiting Georgia, make www.where.ge your first stop!
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Mtatsminda Mountain Being Restored After August 2017 Fire BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he Tbilisi-based real estate company m2 met last Thursday with the head of Tbilisi City Hall’s environmental protection department, Gigi Gigashvili, to announce that it has completed the first phase of its planned restoration of the fire-damaged area of Mtatsminda Mountain. m2 Real Estate is financing a project to give the mountain back its greenery. Representatives from the Mtatsminda Park administration and local university students gathered to plant bushes and put in terraces and footpaths on the 26,000 sq. meters of hillside that burned in the August 2017 fire. The National Seedling Farm planted 3,000 saplings of eight different species and installed a modern irrigation system. Experts from the nearby National Botanical Garden are overseeing the restoration process. The restoration team is striving to initiate the reforestation of Mtatsminda with a focus on creating a biologically diverse and resilient ecosystem. In February of this year, m2 Real Estate won Georgia’s premier corporate social responsibility (CSR) prize, awarded by the CSR club and Global Compact Network Georgia, in the category of “Successful Partnership for Sustainable Development (project jointly implemented by business and noncommercial
partner)” for their project “Restoration of Mtatsminda Forest.” m2 has committed to covering the costs of maintaining the trees planted for the next three years. The project partners with non-governmental organizations in a public school campaign to prevent fires, teach fire safety, and reduce disasters such as the 2017 fire. A fire broke out near the territory of the Bombora Mtatsminda theme park in Georgia's capital city of Tbilisi at 10 pm on August 8, 2017 and spread down towards the upper Vera cemetery, damaging a large swath of mature pine forest. The nearby residential areas were evacuated while 70 firefighters fought to
control the blaze. There were no casualties reported due to the fire. In September 2017, there was another fire on Mtatsminda Mountain that also burned approximately two hectares. Later that August a massive, multi-day forest fire destroyed more than 10 hectares in the Borjomi Gorge and was battled with assistance from fire brigades from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Turkey. Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly popular in Georgia, and corporations also took responsibility for forest restoration after the Borjomi fire. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Salome Kukava from Agadgine.ge, a social campaign initiated in April 2017
by the Business Information Agency (BIA) and Treepex Startup in order to restore the areas in Borjomi damaged by fire during the August 2008 War which have been unable to rejuvenate independently. Kukava says that 80% of the trees planted in the framework of the campaign were burned in the week’s fire. “The planting season ended on May 20 and we were planning to continue planting in September,” she told us. “32,300 trees had been planted [some 3,000 trees per hectare], but following the fire, unfortunately, only approximately 2,000 are left.” Agadgine.ge plans to replant the trees as soon as a study of the area is done, “considering the recommendations from the Ministry of Environment Protection and other institutions,” Kukava told us. “We’ll keep to all the responsibilities taken on with our campaign and of course we’ll be planting trees to replace those 30,000 that were lost in the Borjomi fire.” TBC Bank Group, Anaklia Development Consortium, Anaklia City, Coca Cola Georgia, and Lisi Development united with a pledge to restore the Borjomi forest. “In these difficult times, we’re joining our efforts, taking the responsibility to fully restore 10 hectares of the forest,” said Mamuka Khazaradze, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of TBC Bank Group. “I would like to appeal to all businessmen to join us in this initiative. Together, I’m sure we can restore the unique nature of Borjomi”. PASHA Bank dedicated its 2017 CSR
project to rehabilitating the Borjomi forest, working with Agadgine.ge and Tissue Paper. "We hope that the restoration will be done more effectively through our joint efforts," PASHA Bank representatives said. In December 2016, PASHA Bank planted 2017 Georgian Pine Trees in the Daba municipality near Borjomi and later funded the planting of an additional 500 trees as part of the Agadgine campaign. Most of those trees were destroyed by the fire. This year, the Bank donated 2018 trees to the Agadgine campaign. Speaking about CSR with The Financial in March, head of PR for m2, David Gorgiladze said, “Corporate Social Responsibility, or, to be more precise, Corporate Sustainability, is one of the postulates of our company’s philosophy. It goes directly in line with our company’s motto: creating a comfortable, safe environment for people. We take CSR seriously and focus on more longterm, sustainable projects, which will have lasting, resonating benefits.” Specifically, on the Mtatsminda restoration project, Gorgiladze said, “Experts and environmental care organizations were unprecedentedly involved in this project. Every step is overseen by specialists with relevant knowledge... At the same time, we tried to add an educational component to this project, in collaboration with our environmental protection NGO partners. The educational aspect implies raising awareness about fire prevention, risk aversion and adequate response to disaster.”
Pantheon Roma – an Italian Perfume Brand, Founded in Rome natural and mystical. Blue was an expression of divine color during the renaissance period. The perfume is unique, incorporating Raphael’s earthly chaos and richness, while the bottle is decorated with a 16th century Italian painting, and the entire collection line is dedicated to the famous painter, Raphael. The perfume expresses the smell and color of the sky. The aroma is connected to peaceful-
BY ANNA ZHVANIA
he brand is inspired by an Italian renaissance story about acknowledged, universal artist Raphael Sanzio. On instructions from the Pope of Rome, the painter started painting the Vatican Palace. During that period, Raphael was engaged to Queen Medici’s daughter Maria, but fell in love with the daughter of a baker. The forbidden love
between them didn’t end well. After spending a night together, the painter passed away. He was the only painter given the honor to be buried in the Roman Pantheon. Margherita, who was madly in love with Raphael, committed to her endless love and spent the rest of her life in a nunnery. This story inspired the brand Pantheon, arousing memories, feelings and the sharing of endless love. Cosi Blue – an expression of mysticism and freedom of the renaissance period. The vertical view between earth and sky,
ness, freedom and mysticism. Dolce Passione – refined purity and elegancy, with a warm and turbulent mood expressing a pleasing spontaneous feeling. It was a perfume of 2016 created for men and women. L’Arome Boutique – a niche perfume boutique chain, including niche fragrances created by the best perfumes. Leone Fadelli presented the niche brand Phantheon Roma.
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Georgia Sees 6.1% Economic Growth Since January BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he National Statistics Office of Georgia (GeoStat) has released data from the first five months of 2018. Most notably, real GDP growth is at 6.1% year-on-year. For the month of May, 2018, GeoStat estimates a real GDP growth rate of 7.5% year-on-year. Growth was mainly due to the transportation, manufacturing, trade, financial intermediation, and hotel and restaurant sectors. Georgia’s government has predicted 2018 economic growth will average 4.5%. The World Bank estimates 4.2% growth, while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian
Development Bank both expect 4.5% growth. The International Monetary Fund also forecasts robust growth – 4.5% for 2018, and 4.8% for 2019. For complete statistics, see the GeoStat website. Commenting on the latest economic reports, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said the economic growth is a sign that the government’s economic policy is effective. “I would like to note that the quality of economic growth is improved. First of all, we should touch the export growth that was increased by 50% compared to the previous year, this is a significant contributor to this economic growth,” Bakhtadze said before today’s Cabinet meeting. He also touted the reforms his new government has announced, saying they have created a healthy economic environment where growth rates will continue to increase.
1 GEL Land to Build Parking Lots in Tbilisi
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
bilisi City Hall has announced plans to sell land for parking lots for just GEL 1. City Hall has already selected 183 locations around the city, which they will offer for the symbolic price of 1 Georgian Lari to build a parking lot on the site. Andria Basilaia, Head of Economic Development Department of Tbilisi City Hall, met with businessmen on June 28 to announce the call for tenders. The deadline for tender submissions expires on July 15. Tbilisi suffers from a notorious lack of parking, leading to cars parked on sidewalks, and blocking entrances and wheelchair ramps. The lack of parking combined with high car ownership rate also leads to extra time driving searching for parking, which costs the city economic productivity and
releases more pollution into the air. In April, 2017, City Hall under former Mayor Davit Narmania planned to create ten multi-level parking areas. Narmania said that the parking areas would be built in all the overcrowded districts of Tbilisi, including Station Square, Marjanishvili Avenue, Pushkin Square, Dinamo Arena and Tbilisi City Hall. Nine were planned underground, and one above ground in order to preserve architecture and green spaces. These plans did not come to fruition under Narmania. Kaladze’s government released a call for proposals to develop the concept, but no companies responded to the call, perhaps due to the technical difficulty of constructing multistory underground parking facilities. In March, Kaladze ended Tbilisi’s contract with the parking regulatory company C.T. Park, which had exclusive rights to manage parking in the capital. Parking management services were subsequently taken on by Tbilisi Transport Company.
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Spar Opens New Supermarket in Kutaisi pizza, sandwiches and shawarma, along with a wide selection of traditional Georgian dishes and salads. The retailer said that a highlight of the store is the bakery section, offering freshly made Georgian cakes and breads. In 2017, Spar Georgia’s first full year of trading saw the business post solid growth, through the opening of 19 stores. With this latest store opening in Kutaisi, the Spar partner now has a total of 43 Spar supermarkets. Spar also has plans in place to move into sub-licensing to enable independent retailers to benefit from the brand. Overall, Spar International has recently pushed expansion in Eastern and Southern Europe. Alongside budding markets in Greece and Italy, Spar International opened its first store in Malta this year, and has plans to introduce its brand to Cyprus.
BY SHAWN WAYNE
par Georgia has opened its biggest supermarket in the country to date, in the city of Kutaisi. The new supermarket is located approximately 200 kilometers west of the capital, Tbilisi. A conversion of an existing store, the supermarket was re-branded to Spar and redesigned inside and out, according to the retailer. Spar Georgia has maintained its focus on offering a good selection of fresh produce and traditional Georgian bakery products, the retailer said. This new supermarket offers more than 10,000 SKUs, including Spar own-brand products from various Spar partners. There is also an in-store café that sells
Presentation on Regional Activity Guria Group (RAGG) held in Nodar Dumbadze’s Foundation BY ANNA ZHVANIA
n June 29, a presentation of the annual summary report and development vision of the Regional Activity Guria Group (RAGG) was held in the Nodar Dumbadze Foundation. The group comprises professionals with different specialties who are engaged within their own personal responsibility for the sustainable development of the Guria region and who, through various initiatives, enhance tourist attraction to the region. The presentation also included the main findings of tourism potential research of the Guria region, carried out by Eichstätt - Ingolstadt Catholic University Master students, professors and tourism experts. “My understanding of Guria’s regional development, first of all, implies the fulfillment of the Gurieli ‘son-in-law’ role,” said Knut Gerber, Founder of RAGG, Business Consultant, Georgian citizen. “Even 20 years ago, I saw that Guria, with its authentic hospitality, welcomes guests and is open to foreign nationalities. As a tourism expert, I can say that Guria’s unique selling points (USP) exactly meet tourist expectations: sincere hospitality, authentic nature and rich heritage. The research identifies that Guria should sustain its development, maintain its identity and believe in its regional economic potential. RAGG
is active in this direction, initiated a first step of initiatives to incentivize tourists and raise awareness of the culture, heritage and traditions of the local community. As a result, I can say that we can already observe tangible results.” “Guria is not known as a rich region. Research on tourism potential shows that it is not developed enough in any direction. Guria, at this stage, does not utilize its natural potential at its maximum capacity,” said Gaga Gogichaishvili, Co-Founder of RAGG. “If we want the region’s sustainable development, meaning the pres-
ervation of natural and cultural heritage for future generations, which we believe to be a worthy task, then we have to take this initiative together with the community, administration and businesses to actively involve all sides. Every member of RAGG’s team and its numerous supporters believe that it is a personal responsibility, a message to Gurians living in Georgia and abroad, to join us and take responsibility to maintain the heritage and traditions which makes Guria and our country, Georgia, unique. We believe now is the time to act and support the
process of transformation.” Within the scope of the presentation, supporters of the initiative, Anzor Erqomaishvili, Keti Dumbadze, Director of Nodar Dumbadze Foundation and the founders Gaga Gogichaishvili, Soso Erqomaishvili and Knut Gerber, discussed the importance of similar civil unions in terms of regional development, the existing stage of Guria’s development, the present challenges and potential and reasons why members support and are part of the group. Meetings with Guria’s community are
already in progress within the project framework and have raised interest in tourism development from an investment group. “The initiative started by RAGG is vital to the well-being of the community,” said Mikheil Chkuaseli. “In the two years the group has existed, the involvement and interest of the population has grown. The research carried out by the investment group is crucial, well demonstrating the problems that Guria faces, challenges that we are ready to develop solutions to overcome.”
Tbilisi Market Project BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he Department of Economic Development at Tbilisi City Hall has announced a new project called Tbilisi Market. Every Saturday for the month of July, Tbilisi will host an exhibition of handmade crafts by Georgian artists and small businesses. The products will include textiles, enamel, felt, ceramics, glass, wood, and leather goods. City Hall hopes that Tbilisi market will become an “interesting and verified trade space for local guests and tourists as well, where micro and small entrepreneurs registered in Tbilisi may take part.” The aim of the project is to promote local creativity and business development in the arts. The market will be held at Rike Park from 5 pm – 11 pm. The first market day was Saturday, June 30, and the event was met with success by vendors and visitors alike. Any entrepreneur
may register and participate. “It is highly important to encourage people who work in this field to sell items regularly from this location. As you know, there are many tourists in the city and this opportunity is vital for them,” said Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze when speaking about the project. The Head of the Economic Development Department at Tbilisi City Hall, Andria Basilaia, says he is planning a similar event for the fall. “I call on everyone to visit Rike Park from every Saturday evening to buy items of local entrepreneurs in order to promote their production,” said Basilaia. The exhibition was held in sync with “Cultural night tours in Georgia,” a project within the framework of Check in Georgia, organized by the Georgia National Tourism Administration. “Cultural night tours in Georgia” invited guests and tourists to attend a concert by the State Academic Group of the Georgian National Ballet ‘Sukhishvilebi’ and musical ensemble ‘Theatrical Quartet.’
GEORGIA TODAY JULY 3 - 5, 2018
Where.ge Team Opens Meama Restaurant Kazbegi, Lopota Spa and Resort, Chronograph and he host restaurant, Meama. Prizes ranged from discounts on travel, overnight stays, dinners for two and special gifts. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Gary Dunkley, Owners' Representative at the Government of Ras al Khaimah, and Andreas Heidingsfelder, General manager at Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace, to get their take on Where.ge. “It really hits what is required by the visiting tourists and really gives an insight into Georgia, its culture and everything,” Dunkley told us. “If I was a tourist coming to Georgia, it would be the best magazine to teach me where to go!” “The fact the magazine comes out every two months is perfect,” Heidingsfeldersaid. “Whenever I have visitors, I hand them some editions of the magazine and they can find out where they want to go and what they want to see.” “Where.ge is a central item for us to gift our business delegations and VIP
BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
o launch the summer issue of Where.ge, the team and around 100 specially invited guests took to the beautiful new Old Tbilisi restaurant of Meama, just up the hill from Meidan Square and set on three cozy but spaciously designed floors in a converted house. High quality Chelty wine was served alongside everyone's favorite, Teliani Valley, and a delicious Georgian buffet was prepared by Chef Levan Kobiashvili.
"I would like to thank our partners, readers, guest columnists for spending time with us at a wonderful restaurant Meama," said George Sharashidze, WHERE.ge publisher. "Thanks to Meama, we all had the privilege to taste a unique food selection – one of the best Georgian fusions in town! I am really happy that two years since launching, WHERE.ge has become an established brand acknowledged for the most comprehensive, trustful and updated travel tips for tourists, of course thanks to our editorial team! I would like to thank our invited columnists who share their personal travel recommendations to Where.ge readers and
guests with when they arrive to Georgia,” Oliver Regner, Managing Director of DWV (the German Business Association) noted. Attendees got to enjoy the dulcit tones of the Rustavi 2 "Only Georgian" mega project singing contest winner, Sopho Batilashvili on the roof terrace of Meama. The terrace overlooks the most stunning part of the city, with the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the President's Palace lit up in the distance and the cable car and Mother of Georgia overhead. Unbeatable for a night out! The restaurant, a combination of European standards and that exotic EuropeanAsian-unique Georgian mix, is now all set to delight guests with their dishes prepared with love and a respect for the historical significance of the setting. And Where.ge is set to keep you informed of where to Go, Stay, Eat, Drink and Buy year-round. Grab YOUR magazine now or head to where.ge and choose Where You Want to Go Next...
make the publication so unique. I also want to express my gratitude to the Georgian National Tourism Administration and Mr. George Chogovadze for the continuous support from the very first issue, and I can promise that we will keep doing our best to provide tourists with the most useful information – be it 8 million or even more!" After the welcoming speeches and time to eat and mingle, guests were treated to an exclusive raffle with generous prizes provided by sponsors Regus, Voyage tours Georgia, Hotel Porta Caucasus Kazbegi, Bluebird Travel, Sachkhere Gardens Hotel Complex, Erekle II Hotel
Elton Mesmerizes Georgia REVIEW BY INGA MUMLADZE
o, Elton John – where do I start? Probably by addressing him as Sir Elton instead of just his (admittedly unusual, you have to agree with Rowan Atkinson here) name? Alternatively, we could just call him the living legend that he is – although that would also cheapen the man’s achievements- there are a few living legends out there, some have even performed in Georgia, but there’s one and only Sir Elton John. And when it was announced that this wonderful man, after postponing his planned concert back in 2017, would this time really give it a go, there was little choice but to pack things, thank the gods (and the marketing teams) for things like press accreditation and head to Adjara. Oh, and lest I forget – the concert was organized by Eastern Promotion in the scope of the government’s Check in Georgia program, adding yet another feather to their proverbial hat. Apparently, it was also Sir Elton’s first and only European show this year, before a massive gig in the States that’s supposed to kick off in September 2018. Not one known to be understated, the 71-year-old British musician nonchalantly
Photo by Mirian Meladze
flew to Tbilisi on a personal jet hours before the concert, before heading to Adjara, specifically to the Black Sea Arena in Shekvetili that has become a familiar stage for world famous stars performing in Georgia. To his credit, if he was suffering jetlag, he made no show of it whatsoever. At around 9pm, clad all in
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black (of course with some sprinkles and starry bits and whatnot, but still – this was by far the most somber outfit I have seen him perform in), Sir Elton appeared, accommodated himself at the enormous black piano and started doing what he does best – quality music. The repertoire consisted of songs from his
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latest album Wonderful Crazy Night, with some older, well-known hits strewn around. Here is a bulleting of sorts, with a few takeaways from the first day, both good and bad: • Good: Everything was well-organized, down to the police and security being alert and at the same time non-intrusive. Well done on that part. • Bad? The concert was just two hours and perhaps a ten minutes long. Sure, I get it, the man is 71 and unlikely to gallop around the stage and pull an allnighter, but I would have done just fine with an additional hour. • Good: An enthusiastic, if cultured audience. Lots of old timers, the original hypsters, my parents’ generation. All clearly enjoying the show. • Bad? Acoustic system. The quality itself was fine and you could tell the equipment and sound system were top notch, but whoever the sound engineer was had little idea how to tune it down, or just little regard for other people’s ears, or both. This was one of those concerts where not being in the first rows actually helped. • Good: harking back to my earlier complaint on the concert being a bit too short, this time I would like to applaud the said 71 year old gentleman for rolling back the years, being a spritely chap and not forgetting to stand up, have a
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stroll or two and cheer his public repeatedly (not that we needed any encouragement, mind you). • Bad? Nothing. Disregard the earlier bads as well. There can be nothing bad about an Elton John concert. The first half of the concert consisted of more mellow tracks, ideal for those who were there to sit and enjoy it, while the second part was more dance-y and energetic, with the guitarist taking a bit of the limelight. Credit where its due, the lighting works were superb – no flashy special effects, but they added some nifty touches to the overall atmosphere. The final applause was a roaring one, with the musician “forced” to play additional songs several times, submitting to popular demand. Update from the second day: Everything got even better – better sound, Elton being even more energetic and the concert lasting longer than the previous one. I don’t know whether they feed him Khinkali or Khachapuri but Elton (he’s been here for two days already, we can call him simply Elton now) seemed to have grown in(to) Georgia. Fun fact: A drum stick was thrown, a Georgian girl caught it. What’s fun about that? That it’s the same girl who caught a drum stick at the Scorpions concert last year. I sense a pattern here. Or I am probably just jealous. Probably the later.
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July 3 - 5, 2018