FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Georgia eyes becoming a sustainable agritourism destination

With its storied gastronomic traditions, rich cultural heritage and striking scenery from mountains to shores, Georgia has set its sights on becoming a top sustainable agritourism destination in the Caucasus region in the next decade.

It wants to give tourists a chance to sample authentic Georgian food and wine, enjoy the outdoors and appreciate the biodiversity, food diversity and traditions that make its gastronomy so unique.

A new roadmap seeks to help Georgia invest in developing its agritourism industry in a responsible, inclusive and eco-friendly manner.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are partnering with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, the Georgian National Tourism Administration, Elkana Biological Farming Association and Georgia’s Farmers Association on the initiative.

A common vision

Though Georgian authorities had recently drafted a law on agritourism, the country still lacked a clearly defined strategy on agritourism development and governance.

That is where the roadmap comes in. Stemming from a series of highly participatory workshops, the roadmap lays out four strategic directions targeting food producers, the hotel, restaurant and café industry and agribusinesses.

For one, the roadmap recommends developing high-quality and diverse products and services that will make Georgian agritourism more attractive, experiential and competitive.

It also looks at ways to help small-scale producers of high-quality specialty products tap into new markets, including local restaurants, cafes and hotels.

The roadmap provides guidance on how to safeguard living cultural heritage while also adapting to climate change and complying with food safety and quality standards.

And it sets out ways to develop governance mechanisms to raise awareness on the value of agritourism, enforcing standards and ensuring inclusive development.

For Mariam Zhorzhikashvili, founder of the Nikvi’ Commune and Projects Development Manager in Imereti’s Destination Management Organization, the roadmap managed to successfully bring together many different stakeholders to agree on a common vision.

“We hope there will be better communication, particularly between the private sector and the government, and that this roadmap will improve the quality of the services provided by local farms and agribusinesses, stimulate high-quality production and upgrade the hospitality skills of everyone involved,” she said.  

In addition to the roadmap, FAO and the EBRD have been hosting a series of webinars to share tips with agritourism operators, destination managment organizations and other stakeholders on developing and promoting sustainable agritourism in the country. Topics range from the necessary legislation and investments to how to showcase local gastronomy and create memorable tourist experiences.

A pilot project in Georgia’s Samstkhe-Javakheti region is already putting some of the ideas from the roadmap and webinars into play.

Celebrating what sets Georgia apart

This latest work builds on the EBRD’s and FAO’s efforts in recent years to help Georgia register its distinctive Tushuri guda and sulguni cheeses as Geographical Indications (GIs) and to publish an inventory of origin-linked Georgian foods.  

In addition, the two organizations are conducting a value chain analysis on six Georgian products: Megrelian sulguni, Tushetian guda and Tenili cheeses; the ancient and endangered wheat variety called Tsiteli Doli; Kakhuri Zeti, an artisanal sunflower oil; and a traditional red pepper paste known as Ajika.

Sustainable agritourism not only can help revitalize local economies and keep small businesses alive but also preserve what sets Georgia apart, from its gastronomy to its natural wonders. Ultimately, it can contribute to better production, a better environment and a better life for the country’s rural communities and small-scale producers.

16 December 2021, Tbilisi, Georgia