News / Europe

Booming Georgian Resort Lures Black Sea Tourists


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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs