USAID South Caucasus Regional Tourism Program

  • Client: United States Agency for International Development
  • Partners: J.E. Austin Associates, Inc., Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), and Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN)
  • Project Duration: September 2023 - September 2026

Project Overview 

The South Caucasus Region is known for its diverse landscapes, beautiful valleys, and rugged peaks. These landscapes offer various outdoor adventure opportunities, including hiking, trekking in the Caucasus Mountains, skiing, snowboarding at mountain resorts, and whitewater rafting on rivers like the Aragvi River  and the Debed River. The region is also known for its diverse traditions and histories that have developed over centuries. There is no doubt that traveling through the South Caucasus Region provides an enriching journey, with each destination contributing to an exceptional and captivating trip. 

The USAID South Caucasus Regional Tourism Program centers around an ambitious objective: to foster collaborative relationships with the tourism industry within the region. The Program identifies opportunities for product development and innovative marketing, develops regional multi-day itineraries to promote tourism, and facilitates mutual learning to foster best practices in the tourism sector.

Major Activities

  • Establish Private Sector Advisory Groups. Advisory Groups provide advice to the program on tourism networks and other implementation activities.  
  • Create Tourism Product Networks. Spearheaded by the private sector, these networks will rally tourism businesses to share mutual interests, goals, and visions. These dynamic coalitions will encompass various facets of tourism – trekking operators, wineries, whitewater rafting companies, biking tours, cultural heritage tours, or other niche tourism operators. These networks will identify niche-specific opportunities, offer recommendations, and harness technical assistance and marketing support to target identified markets as they come together.
  • Create Tourism Support Networks. These entities are pivotal in enhancing the competitiveness and inclusiveness of the tourism sector and backing the industry’s growth ambitions. Potential tourism support networks could include Destination Management Organizations (DMOs), protected area authorities, World Heritage Sites, university tourism programs, tourism and technology companies, and specialized networks like ‘women in tourism.’ Their invaluable role is geared towards bolstering the overarching tourism landscape of the region.
  • Forge inter-country links.The initial focus of the program activities will be on nurturing country-specific networks, but the vision extends to forging inter-country links. By connecting similar networks across borders, the program aspires to foster mutual learning and unearth opportunities for cross-border collaboration. This interconnectedness will manifest through initiatives like study tours, sales missions, and virtual networking sessions.
  • Support tourism through grantsThe program will collect proposals for 30 grants from the tourism networks to support priority network-strengthening initiatives/activities. Networks will receive support from business service providers and other sources throughout the grant implementation phase

Anticipated Results

The overall goal of the program is to strengthen tourism enterprises in the South Caucasus Region toward international norms, then incentivize their engagement in mutually beneficial activities with like-minded regional partners to contribute to region-wide economic growth. Anticipated results include: 

  • Increase in Tourist Arrivals: Attraction of a larger global audience to the region due to combined marketing efforts leading to more tourists visiting the region.
  • Growth in Tourism Revenue: Tourism related taxes and fees increased and local business revenue enhanced through higher spending on accommodations, attractions, dining, and other tourism-related services.
  • Job Creation: Employment opportunities created in the tourism sector, from frontline roles to managerial and planning positions.
  • Diversified Tourist Offerings: Development and promotion of niche tourism products that reach high-value segments of the global tourism market.
  • Stakeholder Collaboration Forums: Regular cross-border meetings, workshops, and conferences involving tourism authorities, protected areas managers, businesses, and communities to increase growth in regional tourism.
  • Unified Tourism Training Programs: Joint initiatives to enhance service standards and best practices across the region.
  • Joint Marketing Efforts: Coordinated campaigns and promotional activities showcasing the combined attraction of the South Caucasus as a region, in collaboration with government counterparts and stakeholders.
  • Harmonized Policy Advocacy: Unified voice in seeking supportive policies, infrastructure investments, and international partnerships.

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