Ministry of Economy Plans to Develop the Tskaltubo Resort According to a 6-point Plan

On November 11, a public discussion of the Tskaltubo development project (a spa resort in west-central Georgia, Imereti region) took place at the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, Tbilisi. The presentation of the Tskaltubo development concept was attended by Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava, Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Maya Tskitishvili, Deputy Director of Investment Department of JSC Partnership Fund Nino Cholokashvili, as well as representatives of the government, business sector, NGOs and media.

“Today we start discussing the Tskaltubo Revival Project Plan, and we would like this process to be very available to the public and very transparent,” the Minister of Economy told media. “There is very high public interest surrounding it, and the project itself is so historic and large-scale that I want each step to be known to society. Within the framework of the discussion, we will introduce the role and functions of each actor in this project, including the State and the private sector. Of course, Bidzina Ivanishvili, with his charity initiative, is the person who brought new energy and power to the Tsktaltubo revival project, however, the project is so important for the economy and future of the country that it goes beyond the frames of one municipality. Accordingly, we would like to have a detailed plan, divided among several participants, and we are presenting this action plan today.”

As she noted during the public discussion of the Tskaltubo development project, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development plans to develop the resort according to a specially established 6-point plan, which includes:

1. Preparation of a general plan for the Tskaltubo resort;

2. Infrastructural development of the resort, infrastructural projects;

3. Offering alternative places of residence to IDPs currently living in former sanatoriums or buildings in the resort area;

4. Unified administration and management of the resort;

5. Preparing and implementing a multi-year marketing plan;

6. Establishing and managing a unified model for the supply of the resort's main wealth, the healing water, to the private sector.

“These are the six key points the state is responsible for in this large-scale process,” she said, explaining the meaning of each paragraph.

“After Bidzina Ivanishvili's proposal, it became especially urgent that Tskaltubo should be developed not through separate chaotic initiatives, but as a unified complex, where each investor will know for sure how and when the resort will be developed. Tskaltubo itself was initially planned to be a spa resort, and the first plan for it was written 100 years ago.

Our priority now will also be to provide appropriate living conditions for IDPs. 477 families remain in one of the former sanatoriums, living in very difficult conditions,” Turnava noted.

She called on business representatives to invest in the Tskaltubo project and support the government in the process of its implementation and development, which is crucial for the country’s economy, emphasizing the importance of close collaboration between the government and business sector.

The Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia also emphasized the importance of Tskaltubo for the country’s economy and elaborated on the process of establishing a general plan for the resort development, noting that its preparation is the main task of the Agency’s Department of Spatial Arrangement.

Maya Tskitishvili noted that the process of constructing houses for IDPs living in Tskaltubo has already started, part of which will be completed this year.

She added that the rehabilitation of another distinguished Georgian resort, Abastumani, is a good example in the process of the revival of Tskaltubo.

"When the State cannot access infrastructure projects and businesses cannot access private projects, there will be guaranteed investments from both Cartu Fund and the Co-Investment Fund, which is a guarantee that the process will be completed successfully," Tskitishvili said.

As part of the Tskaltubo development concept discussion, Nino Cholokashvili presented the results of a study conducted by Partnership Fund consultants about the project development and introduced their recommendations to the wider public.

She emphasized that despite the grave condition of the Soviet-era sanatoriums in the resort (currently abandoned, Tskaltubo was a popular tourist destination during Soviet times) and the fact that the majority of them need immediate rehabilitation, the consultants of the Partnership Fund strongly recommend their general appearance be maintained and preserved due to their architectural and historic value.

“At this stage, there are 15 buildings owned by the State in Tskaltubo. Our researchers recommend four of them be totally dismantled, while the others are so important and unique that their original appearance and architecture should be maintained during the rehabilitation process," she explained.

At the end of the event, a Q&A session gave the representatives of various sectors an opportunity to get answers to the questions they were interested in.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream party, released a statement on October 29, saying that since the State does not have the resources to develop Tskaltubo, he had decided to buy all 22 hotels and 9 baths of the resort and rehabilitate them completely.

"I have decided to sell all 22 hotels and nine baths in Tskaltubo and rehabilitate them completely," his statement reads.

He noted he believes Tskaltubo has the potential to become the health and tourism capital of the region in the coming years, “and it will surely become so”.

At the same time, he made a concrete offer to the business sector.

“I am publicly offering to Georgian business - I am ready, at any stage of project implementation, including planning, designing, construction, to alienate these facilities to any investors. Naturally, I will not seek any profit: the maximum price will be prime cost of the facilities. At the same time, I am ready to give these projects to interested businesses at a discount, or even at a significant discount. By this action, I want to make the business steadier on the one hand and on the other, to encourage the State to develop infrastructure under a guaranteed investment.”

Ivanishvili claims that after the implementation of the mentioned project, around 15,000 - 20,000 people will be employed in the Imereti region, which will inevitably lead to sustainable economic growth and prosperity throughout the region.

By Ana Dumbadze

11 November 2019 19:32