Most Popular Destinations in Winter
Written by Kate Chkhikvadze
The FINANCIAL -- On average 36,000 tourists will visit Gudauri and Bakuriani, famous winter resorts in Georgia, during the winter season 2009-2010, says the Department of Tourism.
Almost all hotel rooms in Bakuriani and Gudauri are already booked for the Christmas period. The majority of tourists who visited the ski resorts last year were Georgians. Bakuriani is popular among Georgians living in Russia whereas Gudauri is mostly visited by Ukrainian citizens.
Bakuriani is located on the northern slope of the Trialeti Range, at an elevation of 1,700 meters (5,576 feet) above sea level. Gudauri is a ski resort located on the southern slopes of The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range in Georgia. The resort is situated in the Stepantsminda District, along the Georgian Military Highway near the Cross Pass, at an elevation of 2,196 meters (7,200 feet) above sea level. The trip from Tbilisi to Gudauri usually takes two hours by car. The ski season lasts from December to April. Heliskiing is also available throughout the season.
The department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia is working on the improvement of quality in winter seasons.
“New units will be opened in Bakuriani and an additional ski route in the Didveli territory. We have entertainment and sports activities planned which will lead to an increased number of tourists. To raise public awareness we are planning to locate web-cameras in the winter resorts,” says Vakhtang Asatashvili, Advisor of the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia.
Hotels in Bakuriani vary in prices and services. On average you need 300-350 GEL per day for all the activities that are associated with holidays in Bakuriani. Hotels cost 70-120 GEL per person per day, Skis are available at 25 GEL per day or 10 GEL per hour, you need to pay 100-150 GEL for a Buran (snowmobile) per hour and a trip by horse will cost you 50 GEL per hour.
Moreover, Hotels provide one day tours to Tabatskuri, the 4th largest lake in Georgia. The 5-6 hour tours are by Buran (snowmobile) and cost from 200 GEL to 200 USD per person.
The highest costs are usually in the first two weeks of January, after which the costs usually decrease. In most hotels children under the age of three are free of charge.
The hotel Crystal is the nearest hotel to the Didveli cable way. The hotel costs 140 USD per day for two. “The cost includes meals 3 times a day (Swedish table), a swimming pool, sauna and Wi-Fi. Moreover, the hotel offers some other services such as billiard rooms, a bar, children’s room, shop, chemist, conference room for 50 and other business services,” says Keti Kharadze, Managing Partner of Hotel Crystal.
The Hotel Lemani is located on the circle road near the so called 25 meter roll way. The price for a double room starts from 165 GEL, including meal, laundry and airport transfer. “As the hotel is new, we do not yet have a pool or billiard room, but plan to have them for the next year,” says Lasha Mebagishvili, owner of the hotel.
Hotel Vere Palace Bakuriani offers some additional services such as a disco bar, business centre, volley-ball square, table tennis fitness gym and three conference rooms.
Hotel Fagusi and Red House are family hotels mostly oriented on family comfort. “We have certain discounts for children, up to age three their stay is free of charge and between the ages of 3-8 we offer half price, which is approximately 30-35 USD,” says Gigla Makharashvili, the owner of Red House.
It costs less to holiday in Gudauri compared to Bakuriani. On average a person will need approximately 130-200 GEL per day in Gudauri. The price of hotels varies from 80-115 GEL per person. A day pass for the cable way is 25 GEL and a one-way ticket - 3 GEL.
The House of the Sun is a family hotel located in Gudauri 800 meters from the first cable way. The price per person is 45 USD, including meals two times a day and passes for the cable lift. Additional services include a bar and DVD room. “We provide skis only for our guests which cost 15 USD per day,” says Otar Pavlenishvili, the owner of the hotel “There are some individuals who have a Burani (snowmobile), however their use is not yet that widespread in Gudauri.”
The Shamo family hotel is 5 minutes away from the cable lift. A single room costs 115 GEL and Double room 150 GEL, the price includes catering two times a day and transport to the cable lift. Moreover, the hotel has some additional services such as a bar and billiard room. “We provide skis and horse rides that are counted as extra costs,” says Gela Burduli, General Manager of the hotel.
“The winter season starts on 20 December in both resorts, according to tradition in Bakuriani it lasts for three months and in Gudauri - four to five months. Demand for the winter season in both resorts peaks in January,” says Asatashvili. “The roads to both resorts have been renovated. It is not possible to predict avalanches in the areas however services and technology will soon be available in those places where there is the highest probability of avalanches.”
A week at a Georgian ski resort costs less for Georgians than it would in Europe. A weekend (or 3 nights) in Switzerland, one of the most popular destinations for wealthy ski lovers, costs about GEL 1,500.
Seven nights’ half board at the five-star Hotel Kulm is from GEL 5,000 per person, and seven nights’ B&B at Hotel Hauser is from GEL 3,000, including a return flight to Zurich and Swiss rail transfers.
Alpine Answers offers seven nights’ half-board at the three-star Hotel Cristal from GEL 1,500 per person from January 9, 2010, excluding flights and transfers.
Best deals offered by travel agencies
Travel agencies in Georgia offer tours to different destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa. The tours are adjustable and the starting price is 500 EUR per person, including air tickets and hotel accommodation.
Levon Travel LLC offers all kinds of tours to winter resorts, starting from around 500 EUR per person. “The price usually includes air tickets and hotel accommodation with breakfast; the tours are adjustable and always according to the client’s wish. At present, reservations are made to mostly all directions, including Egypt, Shengen Countries, Bulgarian winter resorts, Turkey and Asia. However the process is very slow,” says Mamuka Kelauradze, the Tourism Manager of Levon Travel LLC.
Intertour JSC considers Egypt and Dubai the most demanded places in winter for Georgians. The fixed cost for the tours is not estimated; prices usually vary and depend on the period and customer demand. In general packages include hotel, transfer, airline ticket and insurance.
“At present a New Year tour to Prague is the most popular, the full tour package starts from 665 EUR including hotel (with breakfast); air ticket; transfer; visa fee; two excursion in Prague; one excursion in South Bohemia; one excursion in Dresden; guide service; insurance. We have an exclusive price for Prague tours,” says Salome Kokosadze, Marketing Manager of Intertour JSC.
For the winter season International Tour Operator Ntour introduces tour packages to 10 different destinations. “The most demanded place is Egypt; the price of the 10 day tour begins at 585 USD per person, including all accommodation, meals, air tickets, medical insurance and all transport. The things that are excluded from the price are visa fees and excursions,” says Head of the Sales Department Maya Shavgulidze.
Ntour offers different tours to Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Italy and France. For a Beach and Luxury Holiday in Dubai, the 7-8 day package price begins from 800 USD per person.
The 10 day tours per person in Thailand begin from 998 EUR, Malaysia - 1,500 EUR, Singapore - 1,300 EUR, Indonesia - 1,400 EUR. One week tours to Israel start from 800 EUR, Italy - 895 EUR, and France - 890 EUR per person.
Intercontinental mostly focuses on tours to Egypt (Sharm EL Sheikh). The full package starts from 499 USD.
“Our company’s goal is to popularize Egyptian destinations for Georgian holidaymakers. As we have our own charter flight to Sharm El Sheikh we can provide special offers with very interesting prices for our travellers. We have prepared specially cheap tour packages for young people. The total cost of a full package starts from 499 USD. The tour includes: air tickets, accommodation in hotel will all-inclusive board, transfer from hotel to airport and medical travel insurance. Moreover, we offer different activities within the tour such as: diving, cultural tours, and sightseeing excursions to other cities in Egypt,” says Khatia Gabrichidze, Marketing Manager of InterContinental .
Intercontinental offers tours to the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) and European countries such as the Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands.