Imereti, one of the most beautiful regions in Georgia, is exceptionally rich in history and natural beauty. This region dates back to ancient times, comprising the kingdom of Colchis some 3500 years ago. A place of unique culture, mythology, and political structure, Colchis is probably best remembered as the land of the legendary Golden Fleece, where Jason and the Argonauts arrived in search of this precious trophy.
In more recent memory the region has gained notoriety for its numerous sites and attractions that are enticing an increasing number of tourists each year. Imereti boasts a number of historical sites, including the Gelati Monastery Complex - a World Heritage Site from the 12th century - and shares part of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, one of the largest national parks in Europe, covering more than 76,000 hectares of forests and meadows and home to countless species of rare flora and fauna.
Recognizing the potential tourism has in spurring economic development in Imereti, the Government has attracted support from the World Bank, which has provided $30 million in co-funding, bringing the total invest by government in Imereti to $37.5 million. An estimated 75% of the funds are earmarked for overhauling water and sanitation systems, renovating public buildings and a 70 hectare public park at Imereti’s star resort, Tskaltubo.
Revitalizing the resort is a key part of the World Bank’s strategy for aiding economic development in the Imereti region. Second Regional Development Project is a 4-year project aimed at improving public and tourism infrastructure, raising institutional capacity and marketing, and increasing the promotion of the region as a tourist destination.
Near the heart of the region also lies Tskaltubo, a well-known resort area that has promoted healthy living, relaxation, and medical tourism since the Soviet era. Today, it is the spa itself that is getting a makeover.
The expanded tourism related activities that these improvements can now support would enhance the attractiveness of the area for local and foreign visitors, and encourage more private sector investments around the medical and spa tourism cluster. The volume of private sector investments to refurbish old sanatoria in Tskaltubo will increase by US$20 million.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in Georgia – total contributions accounting for 23.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 20.1% of total direct and indirect employment in 2015. The sector also currently provides as much as 36.4% of total export earnings.