Georgia is a small country situated at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, bordered by the Black Sea to the west and the Caucasus Mountains to the north. A land of beautiful and diverse natural attractions, a rich culture and centuries of turbulent history, it’s no surprise that the country attracts the attention of tourists worldwide. The Georgian tradition of hospitality, as well as viticulture and winemaking spring from deep-rooted customs. With a unique cuisine boasting a wide variety of delicious food and wines and a diverse cultural heritage, the mountains, beaches and valleys of Georgia make the country a great place for tourism.

It is not surprising, therefore, that this land of massive tourism potential holds an annual national tourism awards project. Entitled “Welcome to Georgia!” since its establishment in 2015, it has rapidly become an important event amongst companies operating in the field of tourism. Participants in the Welcome to Georgia! awards are companies closely associated with the hospitality sector – from hotels, restaurants, business and entertainment venues to festivals and event’s organisers, travel photographers, tour agencies and tour operators.

“Tourism and hospitality are one of the core developing sectors in Georgia,” Maryna Chayka, Co-Founder and CEO of Welcome to Georgia! told OCA Magazine. “We view our project from a global perspective. We see huge potential for further progress in this industry in the country. Georgia has an untouched nature; there are lots of places that are yet to be discovered, developed and promoted on a global level. As a result, the inflow of foreign guests is set to reach record numbers. There is room for the development of destinations in Georgia, as well as of the service spheres. Although hospitality is deeply rooted in the Georgian psyche, a lot of work needs to be done to improve the service sector. By combining international standards with the Georgian touch, however, we will arrive at something unique.” 

On December 2nd 2016, the official opening ceremony of Welcome to Georgia! was held at the Biltmore Hotel in Tbilisi. The gala hosted over 500 guests, among them general managers and owners of the best hotels, restaurants and wineries in the country, representatives of the largest hotel operators, tour agencies and tour operators, government officials, mass media and press industry insiders. 

This year awards were presented in 19 different categories:

BEST BUSINESS EVENT VENUE AWARD – Holiday Inn Tbilisi

  1. BEST MICE TOURISM AWARD – BTL Georgia
  2. BEST TOURISM RESTAURANTS SERVICES AWARD – Restaurant "Georgian House"
  3. BEST TOURISM WINERY AWARD – Winery Khareba
  4. BEST BOUTIQUE ACCOMMODATION AWARD – Vinotel
  5. BEST STANDARD ACCOMMODATION AWARD – Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
  6. BEST DELUXE ACCOMMODATION AWARD – Crowne Plaza Borjomi
  7. BEST WELLNESS & SPA RESORT AWARD – Lopota Lake Resort & Spa
  8. BEST MOUNTAIN ACCOMMODATION AWARD – Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
  9. BEST SEA ACCOMMODATION LOCATED IN THE CITY – Divan Suites Batumi
  10. BEST SEA ACCOMMODATION LOCATED ON THE COAST – Hilton Batumi
  11. BEST LOW BUDGET ACCOMMODATION AWARD – Dvizh Hostel Eli Spali
  12. BEST TOURISM INNOVATION OF THE YEAR AWARD – Check in Georgia
  13. BEST FESTIVAL OR EVENT AWARD – GEM Fest
  14. BEST INCOMING TOUR OPERATOR AWARD – CAPITAL GEORGIA TRAVEL
  15. BEST OUTBOUND TOUR OPERATOR AWARD- Easy Travel Agency
  16. BEST ADVENTURE TOURISM AWARD – rafting.ge
  17. BEST TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR – Shermazana
  18. THE FASTEST GROWING COMPANY OF THE YEAR IN THE SME SEGMENT – Continent Cron Palace Tbilisi

To participate in future events, entrants should register online at the official website of Welcome to Georgia! where they can choose the most appropriate category for their business. The process of rating participants is divided into two parts. The first involves free online voting on the official website, whilst the second is the purview of the professional jury board. BDO Georgia, independent auditor of the Welcome to Georgia! Awards Project then calculates the number of points awarded to each nominee and determines the finalists and the winners in each category, thus ensuring the process is entirely transparent. 

Welcome to Georgia! has huge support from the government and private businesses. The Georgian National Tourism Administration is a co-organizer, and Tbilisi City Hall and the Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development are official supporters. The general sponsor of the project is the Alliance Group, a leading building and development company in Georgia. Innovators in the market, since 2015 they have constructed the 41-storey luxury complex, the architecturally distinctive Alliance Palace, which combines premium apartments with the international standard Marriott Hotel. Another official supporter is the Bank of Georgia, one of the leading banks in the market, which offers a broad range of retail and corporate banking and investment management services. Bank of Georgia’s UK incorporated holding company, BGEO Group PLC, is listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange (BGEO:LN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.

The Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards wishes to express its gratitude and appreciation to all of its partners who have supported the project during the second year – Independent Auditor of the Award: BDO Georgia; Sponsors: Julius Meinl, YanAir, Inglot, Sam Raan, TV Lux, FINA, Weekend Max Mara, Sarajishvili, DHL, Financial Office, Ardi, Daikin Georgia, FFG, Ctrl P, Business Georgia, Monta&Go, Sixt, Ozti, Tbilvino, Sakurami, the Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi, MarxerImmo, Favorite style, Radio Partner – Fortuna, Hotel Partners –Admiral Hotel, Hilton Batumi, Mercure Tbilisi Old Town Hotel and the Coral Boutique Hotel.