In recent years, high class hotels were constructed in Anaklia and Mestia. Currently, there are 3 modern hotels with up to 250 rooms in Anaklia, and construction of a fourth one has commenced. In the town of Mestia, there are 5 high class hotels with over 400 beds. Currently the town is able to host 600 guests. In Poti, there are 2 comfortable hotels. In addition to the large hotels, there are up to 100 family hotels. High class restaurants operate in the region (mostly in Zugdidi Municipality, as well as in Poti, Senaki and Tsalenjikha).
Samegrelo - Zemo Svaneti region has high potential for the development of tourism as a significant economic sector. This is due to a set of factors such as the ancient culture of Colchis and Svaneti, unique cultural and historical monuments, museums, caves, places for horse-racing and picnics, humid Kolkheti Lowlands and its rare natural environment, geographical characteristics of the region, landscape mosaic and biological diversity, glaciers of Zemo Svaneti, Black Sea waters, and developed resort zones. All these provide unique conditions for the development of various types of tourism (motor, horse, walks and eco-tourism; marine navigation, river navigation, hunting, fishing, observation of birds, agri-tourism, learning tourism, pilgrimage, extreme tourism, etc.).
In the tourism context, Kolkheti National Park, located in the western part of Samegrelo, is a unique site with 28,571 hectares land area and 1,574 hectares marine area. In 1996, the Park was declared as a Ramsar Site, a status given to wetlands of international importance.
The center for visitors and other infrastructure at Kolkheti National Park (significant infrastructure is located in the protected territory: visitor’s center, administrative buildings, shelters for the guards, center for observing birds, information boards, information booths, berths and entrances, tourist paths, etc.) were so designed that the materials and technologies used in the construction process were safe for the environment and visitors. The Park has good potential with respect to eco-tourism development. During the period of migration, numerous rare birds could be observed here. There are towers installed in the Park for birds watching. Tourists could be accommodated either in the visitors’ center of the Park or in the hotels of Poti, Grigoleti and Anaklia. Walking routes run along the coastal dunes and lowland moors, though the best way to view the wetland areas is by boats. Visit to Kolkheti National Park is even more interesting due to the archeological and cultural monuments in its vicinity: Archaeopolis, the ancient capital city of Lazika (with the inscriptions and frescos from 2nd – 9th centuries BC), Martvili Monastic Complex, Khobi Monastery, Tsaishi Church, Khobi Convent and Kortskheli Monastery.
Enguri water reservoir and middle and upper reaches of the river, as well as Martvili Caves and Tobavrchkhili Lakes, provide good opportunities for the development of activities related to eco-tourism, hunting, fishing, horse-riding and other activity based tourism types. There are perfect conditions for the development of boating and rafting on Enguri River.
In 1996, Zemo Svaneti was recognized as a place of world heritage. Zemo Svaneti is a world famous place of natural beauty. It has wonderful landscapes and this, together with the infrastructure developed in the recent years, attracts greater and greater numbers of tourists and visitors. In Zemo Svaneti, winter resort construction has commenced at Atsvali and Tetnuldi mountains, ensuring attraction of additional tourists to the region.
Initiatives and processes oriented towards introducing innovations and new technologies are some of the most significant challenges for the sustainable development of the region and improvement of its competitiveness. At this stage, accurate evaluation of the innovations, development level of the region, its potential and needs is a very hard task because of the lack of relevant data, and suitable methods of processing the data. In Samegrelo - Zemo Svaneti region, any special institution responsible for the coordination of effective innovations and promotion of technological transfers and services is absent For many years, the capacities and resources of the regional administration have been too limited to fund any type of innovation programs.
In the recent years, a number of projects intended for the extension of new technologies in agricultural sector were implemented in the region. An Indian company launched quite a large-scale project in a 7 hectare area in the FIZ. This project introduced green technology into the assembly of crushing equipment. It should be noted that two universities operate in Zugdidi, which provide professional and technological basis for providing expertise to certain innovative projects of small companies.
Investments and export
Direct foreign investments related statistics are not maintained in the region (with the exception of Poti Free Industrial Zone). Regional administration and self-government authorities have limited material, financial and human resources for the development of investment projects and attraction of foreign investments, thus significantly hindering stimulation of economic processes in the region. The region does not have a special investment center or any effective structure to provide mobilization of relevant human resources, development of specific investment projects, effective collaboration with the Investments Agency of Georgia, maintenance of statistical records, negotiations with potential investors, systematization and spreading of the region’s information resources, making contacts between the foreign and local entrepreneurs, consultation with the investors on the region’s economic potential, optimal legal forms for investments, opportunities of creation of joint ventures, real property and other issues, representation of the region, arrangement of special business forums, presentations, marketing analysis and targeted trainings, representation of the region at international exhibitions, implementation of the activities required for the region’s branding, etc. Among direct foreign investments in the recent years, Italian and Canadian investments into the hazelnut processing sector were already mentioned. A timber processing enterprise was built in Tsalenjikha Municipality through Chinese investments. After the creation of FIZ, direct investments into Poti Port and FUZ exceed $200 million. According to the estimates of the FIZ management company and other entities, it is expected that offices of media, information technologies, business consultations and other services and business centers will be arranged in the Free Zone. In addition, continuation of the initial stage works for the development of the Zone remains on agenda. Negotiations with the companies registered in Georgia and abroad to ensure investments in the FIZ are in progress. Preliminary agreements were achieved with two companies, which are planning to commence operations in the FIZ, once licenses are issued to them.
IV. Infrastructure and Public Services