Just a few years ago, Tornike Tsikhistavi could not have imagined running a modern cafe in Telavi. Today, he owns one called “Bravo,” near a park in the small Georgian city he was born in and has never left.
“A beautiful city means more tourists,” Tsikhistavi said. “More tourists bring more money. It’s very important for the economic development and job creation for small cities like Telavi.” Which is why, the week-long Telavi festival – where tourists do anything from browsing local handicrafts to tasting locally made wine, is a huge score for Georgians like Tsikhistavi who own small businesses and depend on tourism for their daily income.
The festival is part of a larger regional development project supported by the World Bank with a $60 million IBRD loan to promote sustainable tourism in the Kakheti region of Georgia. The project has been critical for Georgia’s economy.
About 210 historical buildings have been restored, water supply systems, sewage networks, roads and sidewalks have been rehabilitated, while new energy efficient lighting posts were installed. Three public parks have also been rehabilitated in the old central Telavi and Kvareli cities during the past two years.
Thanks to the renovation, Kakheti has become a new tourism destination in Georgia with its cultural heritage, natural attractions and wine industry. The project has inspired the local population to start new small businesses like bakeries, bed and breakfast inns, salons, cafes and restaurants.
In Telavi, fall is an especially important season for both locals and tourists alike.
This year, the Telavi festival “NEWnadimi” held for a week from Oct. 13 stirred broad interest, attracting local and international visitors to exhibitions of Georgian products such as textile, ceramics, and quilts produced by local artisans(who were trained on production and marketing for six months as part of the project), taste Kakhetian organic wines, cheese and churchkhela (nuts dipped in grape juice), listen to folk music performed by local singers; and watch traditional dances.
Sopho Potolashvili, another store worker at the festival, says the event is important for small businesses like the one she represents. “We may not sell a lot of enamel and textile products during events like this, but having a chance to show our work to a broad audience makes us popular,” Potolashvili says. “This challenges us to present ourselves in an even better way at other events.”
Potolashvili’s guess is right –her shop and other small enterprises have been invited to participate and present their work free of charge at the festival, in collaboration with the local municipality and the Georgia’s National Tourism Administration.
Tourists and locals alike say they look forward to next year’s celebrations and to see the progress of the region’s diverse talent.
Telavi tales from bloggers around Georgia
(All posts are in Georgian)
Visiting Renovated Kakheti by Maiko Lukhumaidze
Find Your Own Kakheti by Shorena Tkeshelashvili
The Village Builders and Komble, Churchkela, IPAD and Lots of Fun in Kakheti by Maia Shalashvili
Renovated Kakheti and New Nadimi Festival by David Lobzhanidze
Visiting Renovated Telavi and Kvareli by Maria Rekhaviashvili