Baghdati, Georgia, 24 July 2019 – The municipality of Baghdati in western Georgia welcomed colleagues from the Polish town of Kostrzyn for a 4-day Staff Exchange Programme aimed at strengthening opportunities for tourism to the Georgian municipality. concept for promoting Baghdati as a tourist destination during a final workshop.
Launched within the framework of the EU’s ‘Mayors for Economic Growth’ (M4EG) initiative, Staff Exchange Programmes send experienced municipal staff from EU countries on week-long missions to selected signatories in order to share their experience and render assistance. To date, 50 signatories from the 6 Eastern Partnership countries have applied for such support; in Georgia, the municipalities of Baghdati and Kutaisi were among the beneficiaries selected for the first 9 missions to take place in 2019.
Baghdati seeks practical advice on how to organize annual festivals and fairs of locally made products in accordance with European standards, and on how to attract tourists from both Georgia and abroad. The municipality of Kostrzyn volunteered to share their experience with Baghdati, which provided significant co-financing for the mission.
The Polish delegation was led by Kostrzyn’s mayor, Mr Andrzej Ludwik Kunt, who was accompanied by the manager of the town’s European Integration and International Co-operation Office, Ms Agnieszka Żurawska-Tatała. The workshop also included representatives from the M4EG initiative, the Georgian National Tourism Administration, the government of Georgia’s Imereti region as well as local groups and small businesses from the towns of Kutaisi, Terjola, Zestaponi and other neighbouring areas.
After a series of welcoming speeches, the Polish delegation presented an international tourism growth case study from Kostrzyn, and familiarized their Georgian colleagues with international standards to help them overcome the challenges of ‘going global’. In turn, Baghdati municipality presented their new concept—‘Come to Baghdati: Promoting the city in new ways’. These presentations were followed by lively discussions during which all the participants made numerous recommendations.
Following the workshop, Mr Archil Gogsadze, the Mayor of Baghdati, noted that ‘Our work was very productive, and we held many discussions with our guests. The Polish experts gave us directions and advice for organizing festivals in Baghdati according to international quality standards. We are now more confident of being able to adopt European values and standards in our region. We have already planned to hold a wine and art festival in Baghdati this autumn, and we hope this event will attract many visitors thanks to the new approaches.’
For his part, Mr Andrzej Ludwik Kunt, the Mayor of Kostrzyn, declared that ‘We are glad to have been given the opportunity to support the municipality of Baghdati. In Kostrzyn, we organize a great number of festivals every year, which are attended by almost half a million people. Sixteen years of experience in this field have enabled us to advise Baghdati on how to arrange successful events. We are truly fascinated by the town’s great potential for tourism, which is due to its amazing natural surroundings and the hospitality of its people, who are hard-working and ready to be actively involved in the municipality’s growth and development.’
Mr Zviad Archuadze, the M4EG Country Coordinator for Georgia and Azerbaijan, highlighted the fact that ‘The M4EG Initiative’s Staff Exchange Programmes enable our signatories to learn about the best European practices and to benefit from advice in their fields of interest. Nine Georgian signatories applied to the programme this year, of which 2 municipalities, including Baghdati, were selected—but this is only the first year of the Staff Exchange Programme, and we might soon announce the next edition in order to give other municipalities the chance to learn from their European colleagues.’
In the meantime, a second staff exchange will see another team of EU experts visiting the Georgian municipality of Kutaisi this August.