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Standards in tourism- summary of the 2nd International Conference organised in Georgia

Tour Operators and Destination Management Companies (DMC)

On the 18th of February, the 2nd International Online Conference organised by Teona Nemsitsveridze, the Head of Standard Committee of the Georgian Tourism Association (GTA) and Founder of Destination Management Company, took place.

To briefly introduce, Georgia is an emergent tourism destination in the Caucasian region, at the intersection between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. With a population of 3.72 million, Georgia has considerably grown these last few years, increasing tourist arrivals to 9.3 million in 2019 and well-confirming its reputation as a tourism destination.

However, according to Mrs Nemsitsveridze, the country needed to incorporate rules and regulations to avoid conflicts of interests and protecting the country from threats and weaknesses. 

The chance to discuss…

By “benefitting” from the temporary break that has burst the tourism and hospitality sector, the Georgian tourism association gathered different tourism experts to debate and discuss regulations, security and sustainable destination developments.

Indeed, the topics reflected the regulations on Destination Management and Tour Operator companies; the requirements needed to achieve competitive advantages through rules on today’s market and the protection of the private and public sectors.

Significant guests attended the conference, from international Tour Operators to Destination Management Companies.

To name, Tamar Koriauli, – First Deputy Head of Georgia National Tourism Administration, Nina Kekelidze – Head of Tourism Educational Committee at GTA, Ingeborg Fallet Kristensen (Norway-Thailand) – Managing Director of Krabi Spesialisten, Ati Tosun – Co-founder of Indy Guide, Agostin Landeta M. – CEO of Zenit Travel tour operator from Chile, Stefan Pettersson – CEO at Gameng Connect, and Nicki Page – Founder at TLC.  

By sharing different perspectives and experiences, common thoughts emerged: to avoid potential conflicts of interests between stakeholders and co-work to promote destinations. 

Tour Operator and Destination Companies concern…

One highlight that Tour Operators and DMCs shared concerns about is what Mrs Kekelidze pointed out in the Georgian panorama where challenges in regulations and policies have positively and negatively affected the country.

Indeed, the free-law system and the facility for unprofessional businesses to operate have led to a conflict of interest as well as threatened the tourist’s safety and security. By exploiting the system, it may reduce the credibility of Georgia’s identity as a destination.

However, the tourism board has sought to reflect on these issues by implementing further control of the tourism, hospitality and service sectors.

While with Thailand, Norway and Chile, where governments can impose many certifications and rules, and by forcing companies to adhere to challenges and restrictions, governments can act to preserve countries from harming the environment and population.

How to implement standards regulations by embracing the social-corporate-responsibility within destinations, and how that can be used for tourism to provide a better environment to live and work. 

As a result, standardisation and good practice collaboration between organisations, non-governmental organisations and governments can allow competitive advantages in the long-term from both fronts.

Tourism needs to pitch standards in a responsive manner. To grow and preserve country culture and traditions, for instance, where communication can lead to serenity and trust from customers and international providers.

Digital Platforms and Sustainable Development pointed out

Digital Platforms have a massive impact on emergent destinations. Although standards and regulations may be a significant stepping stone, innumerable challenges are also ahead, both for providers and for countries.

Indeed, investing in new tourism realities such as local partners the risk of loss is higher, as the instability of being a new market can cause fewer investments.

Also, the lack of professionalism and expertise may threaten the reliability and the trustworthiness of licenses-related standards, requiring the implementation of secure, trust and safety procedures as a significant step for destinations.

By looking at the big picture, the conference brought together international experts with common thoughts and feelings of hope: to find the best way to do tourism.

Last but not least, the focus was on Sustainable Development. Sustainable development is a current well-discussed topic, which destinations are striving to achieve.

Overtourism, supporting local communities, and carrying-capacity are all parts of the immense iceberg in the tourism world.

These aspects bring to light the current dilemmas: How to implement standards regulations by embracing the corporate social responsibility within destinations, and how that can be used for tourism to provide a better environment to live and work. 

Perhaps by cooperating and using regulations to restore destinations, it may be possible to engage local stakeholders, sustain employees, and businesses integrated as a part of unique development.

The purpose is to embed regulations from the top-down to understand the market, embrace sustainability that can shape and mould the destination, and cooperate between associations, governments and private sectors.

Communication with consumers, clients and potential visitors aim to concretise trust, loyalty and retention while driving to understand the target market.

To conclude…

Overall, by looking at the big picture, the conference brought together international experts with common thoughts and feelings of hope: to find the best way to do tourism.

Tourism is facing a period of innovation where regulations, standards, licenses, attention to sustainability are all aspect that from now on will be the centre of tourism destination development, governments, DMC, tour operators and many others.

Emergent destinations, like Georgia, still have a lot of work to do. This conference was a way to face unique challenges and perhaps finding the right way to act.