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Given the diversity of its relief and the richness of its history and the unique ethnic identity of its residents, Svaneti is one of Georgia's most outstanding regions. It had long attracted many tourists, but the political and economic decline experienced by Georgia following the fall of the Soviet Union and independence has hampered efforts to revive and further develop Svaneti's tourist and recreational potential. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to foster the development of the family-run tourism business, especially given that this business employs much of the population (host families, providing tourists with products and traditional crafts, vehicle transport, horses, guide services, museums, folk music ensembles and more), and provides the local people, many of whom live near the poverty line, with additional incomes.
Having appreciated the potential for the development of the family tourism business in Svaneti, the nongovernmental organization Georgian Union of Mountain Activists (GUMA) has developed a far-reaching programme to facilitate the development of the family tourism business in Svaneti.
The goals of the programme are:
The following were accomplished within the framework of the programme in 2005:
These activities have sharply increased the population's interest in the tourism business. The locals have requested that the programme be continued and expanded. In 2006, more trainings have been held and the present web page has been designed.
In 2006 the South Caucasus Office of the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC) became actively involved in efforts to facilitate the development of the family tourism business in Svaneti. The SDC has bought and renovated a two-storey building in Mestia, the capital of Zemo-Svaneti, in order to ensure the successful implementation of the programme.
The centre's objectives are to increase the participation of the local population in the development of the tourism business, hold seminars on providing top-quality tourist services, demarcate new hiking and horseback riding roues, organize regular exhibition-sales of folk handcrafts and deal with other local issues associated with the toursim buisness.
The centre also aims to establish ties with the world tourism industry, arrange tourists' accomodation in families, provide them with transport and guide services, ensure security for tourists on transport routes and mountain paths, and develop cultural programmes and sightseeing tours.
During the period of impmentation, the programme was financed by FES. After its completion, the building acquired by SDC, the equipment supplied by FES and GUMA has transferred free of charge to the SMTC so that it can function independently.
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