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:

  • To bring together families interested in the tourism business and train them to organize and manage such activities;
  • To study the exising family tourism infrastructure and facilitate its development;
  • To establish and demarcate hiking and horseback riding trials;
  • To hold training seminars for guides and families intertested in the family tourism business;
  • To educate the public about Svaneti's tourism resources;
  • To establish contacts with the world toursim industry, offer tourism services, plan tourists' family stays, provide vehicle transport, horses and guides;
  • To publish tourist maps and booklets, produce commemorative photo albums and medalions, and provide other services associated with the tourism business.

The following were accomplished within the framework of the programme in 2005:

  • Thirty families in six communities in Zemo Svaneti (Becho, Mestia, Mulakhi, Ipari, Kala and Ushguli) have expressed interest in the tourism business;
  • Training seminars were held;
  • On the basis of the training seminars a textbook, "The Family Tourism Business: Organizantion and Management", was published and distributed among the population;
  • With the participation of local guides, four hiking trails and one horseback riding route were demarcated

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.

In 2006, FES, SDC and GUMA founded a nongovernmental organization - Union "Mountain-Tourism Center in Upper Svaneti" (SMTC) will be housed Vottorio Sella st. 7 in Mestia.

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.

Copyright ©, 2006, All rights reserved