Tourism Development
in the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

Dorothea Wegelein, Borjomi-Khalagauri NP, Georgia

The National Park
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is located in central Georgia and is situated in the Lesser Caucasus. The total area of the park covers 76.000 ha, which amounts to nearly 1% of the territory of Georgia.
It is one of the largest national Parks in Europe. A large area of mountainous forest has been preserved in its pristine state. There is also a traditional use zone within the National Park which is open for the local population, who have used it as pastures since older times.
The National Park was officially inaugurated April 2001. The tourism infrastructure was ready by the end of 2002. The national park establishment was financially supported with approx. 3,5 mln Euro via German funds (KfW-Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and implemented by WWF Caucasus Programme Office in Tbilisi.

Tourism has started on a small scale, 2003 was the first "official" tourist season. The network of trails (170km) allows trips from one day up to one week, ranging from 400m up to 2600 m. At the park entrances there are picnic and camp sites for visitors, as well as fire places and parking. In 4 tourist shelters and 2 ranger shelters used by tourists, up to 60 people can be accommodated simultaneously. The tourist season lasts from May through October. The current number of tourists amounts approximately to 300 (several day - tourists), including day visitors approximately 600.

The Region
The economy in the six districts, which are part of the support zone, consists mainly of subsistence agriculture and small trade. Some towns and villages used to be famous and were well visited spa resorts during soviet times (e.g. Borjomi, Abastumani, Zanavi). Today they are operating on a small scale but as important destinations for domestic tourism. The region is also famous for its mineral waters (e.g. Borjomi Mineral Water).

A minority of the villagers has a very critical attitude towards the National Park, while the majority expects economic benefit, especially through tourism development. A special support zone programme financed by German KfW and the World Bank aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of the local population and to facilitate the sustainable development of the Park.

Objectives for tourism development
- increase the amount of tourists visiting the National Park
- provide additional income through tourism for the National Park
- support locally-run small scale tourist enterprises / create jobs in the support zone (surrounding region)
- to facilitate nature experience and environmental education for visitors

The approach (2002-2004) includes the following work fields:
- Tourism marketing and promotion activities for the National Park (region)
(e.g. development of target specific multilingual promotion material for expatriates and incoming tourism as well as target specific promotion activities for domestic Georgian tourism)
- Product development and Product improvement in the National Park
(e.g. improvement of shelters, target specific diversification and enlargement of trail net, evaluation of further attractive offers as well as establishment of transparent fee-system for the use of National Park infrastructure)
- Tourism related capacity building within National Park staff
(e.g. in-house visitors management training & service training, training on the job and study tours)
- Support of locally-run small scale tourism enterprises in the National Park support zone
(e.g. training of freelance National park guides, set up private run of horse rentals)
- Optimizing of the relations in between (tourism) stake holders
(e.g. establish cooperation between the National Park and tour operators as well as between local companies and the National Park)
- Integration of the National Park into Regional Planning
(Preparation of a Tourism Masterplan for the National Park Region (2004))

Services of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
- Supply with information material
- Hiking equipment rental
- Arrangement of free-lance guides, tourist horses, catering and transport
- Tourism advisory service
- Special arrangement for Spa Tourists

Community Involvement
- certified free lance National Park guides
- 4 private run horse rentals supported with grants & microcredits
- tourist transport to park entrances
- food supply on shelters through mountain farmers on 2 tourist shelters
- Accommodation in support zone

Regarding tourism the main challenges the National Park faces at present are:
- to attract more tourists, esp. Georgians into the National Park
- to ensure income/reinvestment through tourism for the National Park (partial budget autonomy, future concession fee (or anything. similar)
- to develop a regional tourism plan and revive spa tourism in the support zone

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is the first National Park according to international standards in the Caucasus and the first to offer a tourism infrastructure, visitors service and trained National Park guides. It is the only National Park in the Caucasus with experience in dealing with visitors and community involvement into the National Park Tourism Development. The National Park staff offers to share the experiences. Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park could be the model for further National Parks in the Caucasus Region.

For further information please have a look at our website
and contact Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park Administration,
Ph: (00995 32) 935119
Natja Muladze:
Karin Steinmetzer: