News / Europe

Booming Georgian Resort Lures Black Sea Tourists

Multimedia

James Brooke

Traveling by train, plane and cruise ship, the number of tourists flocking to Batumi, Georgia, is expected to hit 1.4 million this year, 10 times the level of 2005.  This hot new vacation destination is becoming "in" destination of the Black Sea.

For Lucia, from land-locked Armenia, it is the sea. She says she comes for the sea and because Batumi is close to where she lives.

Samir, from Azerbaijan, lives on the Caspian Sea.  But he and his family traveled 18 hours to enjoy Georgian hospitality, in Russian, a common legacy of their Soviet past. He says that Georgian hospitality reached a low point after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Now, he says the commercial lure of tourism means Russians are welcome again.

During the Soviet period, Batumi was the end of the line, only 15 kilometers before a closed border with Turkey, But now, neutrality pays off for Georgia. Armenians and Azeris, Iranians and Israelis, Ukrainians and Turks, all fly here visa-free to vacation in this port on the eastern shores of the Black Sea.

Iran recently opened a consulate on Europe Square, only blocks from the docks where U.S. Navy ships regularly make port calls.

Cruise ship visits have increased five-fold in five years. At Batumi’s new Turkish-built airport, flights now come here from 11 foreign cities.

With this tourist flood, international chain hotels are popping up.  Last year, it was the lighthouse-inspired Sheraton.  This year it is the Italian-designed Radisson.

Regional Governor Levan Varshalomidze says thousands of hotel rooms are under construction. "Last year, we had Sheraton opening, this year already Radisson, next coming for us is Hilton and Kempinsky, and continue Holiday Inn and different brands.  In two-three years, we will have minimum 10 brands, but still it's not enough," he said.

Taking advantage of Batumi’s subtropical climate, the Governor has planted 700 palm trees and expanded a seafront boulevard to seven kilometers.

Construction projects include a pebble-shaped aquarium, a hot pink exhibition center in the shape of a cube, and a seaside pyramid hotel with hanging gardens.

Traditionalists do not like the daring designs and the casinos. In Tbilisi, opposition politician Nino Burjanadze, said, "Batumi was one [of] the most beautiful cities in Georgia.  Right now it's a kitsch.  You can see absolutely different buildings, which have nothing with the style with each other.   You can see building, which has five-six different styles in one building, which is of course matter of taste."

But Vera Kobalia, as Georgia’s Minister of Economy and Development, has the job of attracting investment to find jobs for Georgians. She is a big Batumi booster. “Batumi, many investors, when they are coming are saying, is what Dubai was, is what Singapore was, years ago. They are seeing the same trends in Batumi. We ourselves didn’t expect how much investment we are seeing in Batumi today," she said.

News of Batumi’s building boom has traveled to New York.  Last March, American real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump signed a licensing agreement to put his name on a 52-story hotel and office highrise:  Batumi Trump Tower.

To further attract attention, Batumi sponsored concerts in recent weeks by Sting, the British rocker, and by Enrique Iglesias, the Spanish pop singer.

After languishing for decades behind a rusty Soviet fence, Batumi is booming by opening its doors to the world.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid