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Israel Tries to Switch Tourists from Turkey to Georgia
Written by Keti Chkhikvadze
The FINANCIAL -- Number of tourists from Israel to Georgia was more than double last year”, Yehiel Bar, City Council Member, Tourism and Foreign relationships Portfolio Holder at Jerusalem Municipality told The FINANCIAL. “We are marketing Georgia in Israeli media especially after diplomatic crisis we had with Turkey so we want Israelites who go to Turkey to switch to Georgia and visit Georgia,” he said.
Real estate, tourism, commerce sectors are named as the most attractive spheres for investment by Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business and Jewish Delegation visiting Georgia during Israel Week in Georgia.
“From Israel to Georgia there is 250 million USD investments in total, if not the crisis the figure would have reached milliard USD,” says Itsik Moshe, President of Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business.
“The crisis has not ended in Easter Europe yet. The total investment from Israeli side to countries of Eastern Europe Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary are approximately 10 milliard USD. The next stage is Georgia. The investment from Israel in Georgia will start from Batumi and Tbilisi at the first stage.
We see advance in several sectors in Georgia. Tourism has increased by 85%, the flights are almost 7 times per week and the investors are arriving from Israel to Georgia,” adds Moshe.
“There are many Jewish and Israelite investors who have come and are coming to Georgia and we are encouraging more to come to invest here,” says Itzhak Gerberg, Ambassador of Israel in Georgia.
“The most attractive areas we have identified with a lot of potential are agriculture, communication, healthcare, equipment and all the IT issues,” adds Gerberg.
Moshe and Bar named tourism and real estate sectors as of high potential for investing.
As Moshe declares there will be deficit of 10 000 hotel rooms in 2013 in Georgia, thus creating deficit of 100 hotels. As for real estate market there is 15 million square meters amortized, and deficit of 7 million square meters of dwelling houses.
“There is a huge real estate opportunity in Georgia. Now Israel investors can buy land here in Georgia and help in building houses, business malls, industry areas and Israelites are very good at it,” says Bar.
“Very many big and small construction and building companies in Israel are coming to Georgia these days and with the help of Itsik Moshe and Israel Chamber of Business find opportunities here.
It’s good time for investment now as if you have a look at Georgia three years ago it was much cheaper and three years from now it will be much more expensive, so the right thing to do is to invest in Georgia where the prices are not so high but are much higher than 3 years ago,” adds Bar.
“Tourism as well as agriculture is very interesting. As much as I know Israel developed the system of how to use small land with major products. Government of Israel and Embassy here are developing the courses of different approaches in all what agriculture is in this country.
Moreover, Israel is very famous in hi-tech, so I think this is what Israel can share with Georgia,” says Eli Cohen, General Director of Jewish Agency in Israel.
As Bar declares, except of real estate opportunities in Georgia there is a vast opportunity in commerce and merchandise.
“Just in this delegation we brought big delegation from Jerusalem of businessmen and commerce people to find things to bring and import from Georgia to Israel and maybe to offer from Israel to Georgia as well.
Israel can offer to Georgia things in the area of medicine, science, pharmaceutical and everything you can imagine Israel has. Georgia can offer a lot of the products Israel is lacking of. I know in a couple of weeks we will have agreement of trade and merchandise between Israel and Georgia, and this is the thing we have to do more and more in order to strengthen both economies,” declares Bar.
Moshe says there are the companies which think of exporting Georgian products to Israel at present.
“Georgia is becoming more advertised country and its products become more interesting. Production in Georgia was good before however, the country was not famous in the West. There are many Georgian products such as wine, Borjomi, Nabeghlavi, agricultural products which will be successful in Israel market,” says Moshe.
According to Bar, mainly water and wine might be of success in Israel.
“In Israel we drink a lot of wine every year. Mainly wine is brought from France or South America or Africa, and I think Israeli people have not discovered Georgian wine yet. So, wine is one thing and of course water. Israel has deficit of water, so you have the best mineral waters Borjomi, Nabeghlavi and other brands. I think water and wine can be the best products Georgia can give to Israel,” adds Bar.
Legal base and the environment for investment is pretty interesting for Jewish investors.
“Jewish companies feel support in Georgia. Georgia is already western progressive free country. If banking sector issued loans with lower rates I see the investments from Israel will be doubled, as big scale projects need support with loan and at this stage this is still stopped,” declares Moshe.
“Legally everything is good in Georgia. Around the world and in Israel people have some fear because they think Russia will attack again or maybe the Bank of Georgia will collapse. However, now Georgia became partner in the western world and has a lot of support from America, Israel and from other countries and what happened with Russia a couple of years ago, cannot happen easily next time,” says Bar.
“Bank of Georgia opened a branch just recently a few months ago in Tel Aviv, and I know Israel businessmen do invest in Bank of Georgia in Tel Aviv. Investing in Bank of Georgia means we believe in Economy, otherwise we would not spend a dollar,” adds Bar.
Cohen said that this was his second visit to Georgia after 8 years. “I see during this visit how much the country has developed and Tbilisi city. I visited Gori and saw how they renewed all the places that were damaged by the war in 2008. So, I think the potential here is very high and I really wish Georgia to continue to develop.
I think the relationship between Israel and Georgia can strengthen mutual communities and help the knowledge of Israel with the potential of this country. The relationship can help this country to be more developed,” adds Cohen.
“Georgian market is much weaker than Israeli market, which has much stronger economy and survived the latter crisis,” says Bar.
“Georgia is reminding Israel maybe 15-20 years ago, and you can see clearly that the stages in root of growing getting stronger, so what happened to Israel should and will happen to Georgia as Georgian economy is now very smart.
There are a lot of young people who are very talented and educated. In Israel we invest in science, in education and this is what this generation has made after revolution and what is actually very similar to the road Israel took before, so I can see the resembles and I am pretty optimistic about Georgia,” adds Bar.
Georgian and Israeli people have 26 century relationship. Moshe says the relationship of nations transfers to relationship of countries and between Georgia and Israel the country relationships have already started.
“Georgian and Jewish people have more than 2000 years relationship and I am very glad that recently Israel and Jewish people discovered Georgia again, as for many years we had not such good relationships. Now Georgian and Israel have both come to visit, to make business, to do tourism.
I think Georgia is one of Israel’s best friends. In Georgia we found people who love and appreciate Israel, and Israel and Jewish people appreciate Georgia very much,” declares Bar.
“Georgia was the first country to open borders, when Soviet Union collapsed it was the place where the Jewish agency built the office to serve the Jewish community here and to strengthen the relationship between both countries,” says Cohen.
“There is big Georgian Jewish community in Israel that is helping to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. I was very happy to know that Georgian government avoided visa regime from Israel. I hope that in the future there will be good conditions to help Georgians come to Israel as well,” comments Cohen.