Local Innovation Experience in Georgia. Tourism as Social Innovation in Kakheti Region
in CD-ROM “EU Regional Innovation Policy and EaP Programme”
Nelly Tskitishvili – Associated professor, Iacob Gogebashvili Telavi State University
The innovative aspects of tourism industry have attracted researchers’ attention during the recent two decades. The importance of tourism in the development of information technology, finance, trade and other sectors, as well as the role of the latters in tourism development, in some regions of Georgia, including Kakheti, is emphasized. Another dimension is added to modern tourism, especially to international tourism. Its development is an important social innovation, creating a new sector of economy in some regions and performing a role of locomotive for other sectors. At this point, tourism in Georgia is considered to be one of the main priorities. The Ministry of Economy estimates 18% growth of tourists in 2014, while the number of people employed in the
tourism industry will increase by 21%. In Kakheti region, compared with Georgia’s coastal regions, tourism potential (associated with winemaking, rich and beautiful nature, historical heritage, etc.) is less used, but its assimilation rate is high, and the prospects – attractive. Therefore, recognition of tourism as innovative direction by the central and local governments creates special favourable conditions. The lack of suitably qualified personnel is one of the barriers limiting the development of tourism. In this conditions, Iacob Gogebashvili Telavi State University, as the largest center for training and research in the region, has been involved in resolving the problem. Development of contemporary training programs, on the basis of international and primarily European experience, for the sustainable development of tourism is the main direction. The EU TEMPUS project Development of new modules for international bachelor and master programmes in sustainable tourism management (SuToMa) serves the above purpose. Other means, for example, Jean Monnet program mechanisms are applied too. The article discusses the importance of tourism for Kakheti region, development problems and the ways of solution. It portrays tourism in Kakheti region as social innovation and sets promising perspectives for agro/rural tourism. Success will depend on establishing European standards related to the tourism industry and on the integral use of local natural and cultural resources.