Ecotourism is often considered an oxymoron, since tourism involves air travel and many other factors that cannot be environmentally friendly and often contributes to its degradation rather than preservation. However if we discuss the topic, it is very needed to bring in the context and analyze every aspect of the conversation around ecotourism in Georgia and its necessity.
As an ecotourist, you decide to travel in a way that shows respect to nature and people. Aside from being respectful, there is a massive and growing interest in “returning to nature”, people from all over the world search for a place to spend a portion of their vacation observing wildlife, going hiking, exploring the unexplored etc.
Where am I going with all of this blabbing about ecotourism? There is a good chance you already guessed it, but I will spell it out anyway- Georgia is a perfect place to explore the opportunities for ecotourism.
Biodiversity in Georgia
The Caucasus is regarded as one of the most prolific biodiversity areas and it’s no surprise WWF’s list of 200 global ecoregions includes Georgia as well. In 34 hotspots of biodiversity recognized as the richest and at the same time the most endangered soil ecoregions biologically, Georgia is part of two hot spots – the Caucasus and Iran-Anatolia regions.
Since Modern day tourist is looking for cultural and environmental authenticity, contact with local communities and subcultural groups, learning about flora, fauna and ecosystems, Biodiversity is the perfect mean to spark an interest in international tourists and a perfect opportunity for businesses to explore the possibilities in hospitality sector around biodiversity theme.
Georgia covers only one-seventh of the Caucasus, however, the region is distinguished by a high level of biodiversity with its unique flora and fauna, landscape diversity – from humid mountainous forests and wetlands to high mountains, alpine ecosystems and deserts. Almost a quarter of terrestrial vertebrates and fish and much more of flowering plants are considered endemic to the Caucasus region: species include 12 amphibians, 54 reptiles, more than 100 mammals and over 370 species of birds.
Protected Areas in Georgia
August is the peak season month for national parks and PA-s in Georgia. The highest daily concentration occurs in Imereti caves with 761 visitors per day.
Although hotels near protected areas and World Heritage sites will obviously be used by many of the tourists to these sites. Luxury lodges and camps are an attraction in themselves, but it is very rare to find one of those in Georgia. The type of accommodation near a protected area depends on the site location. If the area is near a popular tourism destination, the accommodation choices will cover a relatively wide range, but the choice is still limited. Accommodation around more remote protected areas are generally basic and small, and run as a family business. So, there are numerous opportunities for new hospitality businesses to gain from the lack of middle-class hotels around the PA areas
Rich culture and heritage of different regions can be very appealing to new visitors, if explored and marketed correctly. There are a couple of places here that could be a gift to the investors that keeps giving
Unique Stays in Georgia
So, we live in an Instagram age and the more Instagrammable the place is, the more it sells. Prime example of this is growing businesses of unique stays. On AirBnB and other platforms Unique stays are usually more expensive and most importantly- more popular than, say, modern and polished apartments or even houses.
A great example of this is Casita Mimosa, a tree house at Lagodekhi National park. In this area average price a night on AirBnB is 20-30 USD dollars, the price of 1 night at the tree house is 130 USD dollars and it is as often booked as any other budget property, if not more.
This proves the point that Unique Stays, as much as they require creativity and resources, has a much higher return than mainstream ones
Luxury and Ecotourism in Georgia
If ecotourism is considered as an oxymoron, imagine what luxury ecotourism in Georgia would be. I still say it’s possible to merge these two.
If ecolodges and picking organic fruit is not your thing and you are more of a hot tub with breath-taking mountain view coupled with 5 star service kinda person, but at the same time still enjoy exploring local culture, trekking, camping and horse riding, example of Rooms Kazbegi, luxury hotel located in northern Georgia, proves that it is possible to combine the two.
“When the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi opened in 2012, it finally brought city-worthy digs and amenities to the highlands of northern Georgia.” said Vogue Magazine about the luxury hotel, but the thing is, in addition to city-worthy digs it offers guided trekking, horseback riding- very popular with locals, Quad-bike tours, snowshoeing and even camping.
Rooms Kazbegi is one of the most popular destinations for locals and tourists from all over the world
And it’s only an example of Kazbegi. Georgia can offer numerous atmospheric destinations and breath-taking nature to explore: Svaneti, Racha and many other regions in Georgia could benefit from a luxury hotel or two, while your business could bring honest people of the world back to the nature.