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Horse Tourism Development Stage II and Touristic Trails Marking in Borjomi and the Sorroundings of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in Georgia

In the 2012 summer season, 28,000 tourists visited the Borjomi Kharagauli National Park. Seventy per cent of them spent one or two days in the region, mainly being interested in hiking and horse riding trips lasting up to several hours. By October 2013, the park had been visited by about 32,000 people and, as was the case the year before, 70 per cent of visitors spent an average of one day there.

In 2013, within the area of Borjomi, the Kaukaz.net foundation carried out a project providing support for the development of equestrian tourism. Under this successful project, the Horse Tours Georgia Association was created and registered as the first producer group of horse breeders in Georgia. As a result, the quality of equestrian tourism improved markedly in the area.

Before 2014, the region had no basic tourist information infrastructure such as proper information boards and well-marked trails and paths. This significantly lowered the region’s attractiveness to tourists. Statistical data and interviews with tourists indicated that a significant portion of visitors were particularly displeased by the absence of short tourist trails and information boards describing the region’s attractions. Therefore, the project also included marking a network of short trails that would expand opportunities and encourage tourists to stay longer. According to data obtained from the Borjomi Municipality, this could have contributed to the increased incomes of as many as 1,000 families associated with tourism services in the region.

Horse Tourism Development Stage II and Touristic Trails Marking in Borjomi and the Sorroundings of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in Georgia

The project was implemented from 1 April to 30 November 2014 in Borjomi and its surroundings. Under the project, members of the Horse Tours Georgia Association took part in a series of training sessions about the quality of horse riding services, business organisation and professional horse riding. The training ended with participation in high-class training in Poland in accordance with programmes of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism and the Mountain Horse-Riding Tourism Committee of the Polish Tourist Society.

Another project component involved the training of specialists and marking of tourist trails in the city of Borjomi and the Borjomi Kharagauli National Park (BKNP), along with the installation of information infrastructure co-funded by the municipality of Borjomi and the national park. Members of the Horse Tours Georgia Association, who learned how to mark tourist trails in the course of equestrian tourism training held in Georgia and Poland, partnered with the municipality and the national park. Upon completion of the equestrian tourism training and their return to Georgia, they took part in marking trails in the area.

The Borjomi Kharagauli National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia. The area continues to have significant untapped potential for tourism services. Because of structural unemployment in the national park area as well as in all of Georgia, residents have poor prospects of finding employment. Tourist traffic is one of the few opportunities for improvement.

The project beneficiaries are 16 existing members as well as new members of the Horse Tours Georgia Association and their families. Their standard of living will improve with higher stable revenues from tourism. The project will also benefit Borjomi’s local self-government and the BKNP. The effective infrastructure solutions at work in the municipality of Lutowiska and in Bieszczady National Park will be applied. Marking short trails and paths in a simple way will enrich the region’s tourism offerings and will encourage many tourists to stay longer.

According to statistics, until 2014 about 70 per cent of visitors to the Borjomi region stayed for only one day. These visitors were interested in short, several-hour-long excursions along tourist trails that were not available earlier. The project activities filled this gap in the region’s tourist offerings. In this way, secondary beneficiaries included the thousands of tourists visiting the region each year, including visitors from Poland. Marking tourist trails in accordance with Polish and European standards also indirectly improved safety, particularly during excursions in the national park.

Horse Tourism Development Stage II and Touristic Trails Marking in Borjomi and the Sorroundings of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in Georgia

The project was fully implemented within the established time frame (1 April to 30 November 2014). As a result, the quality of equestrian tourist services in the region improved significantly. Currently, beneficiaries use horse riding equipment that ensures a European level of comfort and safety for tourists. The modern promotional tools conveyed to the Horse Tours Georgia Association (HTG) – a promotional meeting attended by 18 tourist firms, 3,200 fliers, 16 professional variants of horse tours, two updates to the HTG website, four advertising texts – additionally strengthened the capacity of its members, making them potentially the strongest entities of this kind in Georgia.

The most important project outcome is the improved quality of the region’s tourist offerings following the creation of a network of four short marked trails with a total length of about 28 kilometres in the city of Borjomi. The trails have been equipped with an information infrastructure in the form of eight boards and 25 signposts. In the longer term, this will lead to increased tourism revenue for residents. Similar effects are expected from actions carried out in the Borjomi Kharagauli National Park. There, the target will be significantly exceeded. On the basis of the Polish system, eight trails with a total length of more than 200 kilometres have been marked. The trails have been equipped with nine information boards and 30 signposts that were designed, turned over and installed throughout the entire park. An additional project outcome were 6,000 fliers showing tourist trails in the city of Borjomi and the Borjomi Kharagauli National Park.