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Mayor Lasha Komakhidze: "Batumi will become more comfortable for local people, tourists and investors"

A small country on the Black Sea coast - Georgia has already occupied significant places in world ratings for over a decade, attracting investors and tourists from the European Union, the countries of the former USSR, Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

In the World Bank's rating on ease of doing business, Georgia took 16th place in 2017, 9th place in 2018. As previously reported by International Investment in 2017, the growth in the number of foreign tourists in Georgia was 18.8%, which is one of the highest results in Europe. In the TOP-4 steadily gaining popularity among Russian tourists, Georgia ranked first. The level of foreign investment in Georgia has also grown, and the growth of transactions in the real estate market outperformed the results of most European countries. A significant part of the overall success for Georgia was provided by the city of Batumi, Georgia's main seaside resort and undoubted leader in the intensity of construction, long loved by foreign tourists.

What to expect in the future from Batumi to tourists and investors? What are the prospects for the development of the city?

This was in an exclusive interview for International Investment told our colleague, a man with considerable experience in the field of analytics, investment and international activities - the new Mayor of Batumi, Lasha Komakhidze.

Lasha Komakhidze
Was born on September 17, 1974
In 1991 he graduated from Batumi secondary school №9
In 1997 he graduated from the Budapest Economic University (Faculty of Business Administration).
In 1998-2000 he worked in the Georgian Maritime Bank as a specialist in the department of analytics, and then as head of the investment department.
In 2001-2003 he worked as an advisor to the Chairman of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, and then as secretary of the Economic Council.
In 2004-2008 he worked in private business.
In 2008-2016 he worked in international organizations and programs under the auspices of the United Nations
In 2016-2017 he held the post of Minister of Agriculture in Adjara AR.
In October 2017, the party "Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia" was elected Mayor of Batumi.
He is married and has a son.

During the first four months of his stay in the mayor's chair, Lasha Komakhidze managed to put forward a number of significant initiatives for the development of the city and begin their implementation. One of them was the creation of a city development plan since for many years Batumi had no town-planning ideas, which significantly affected its appearance and convenience, taking the form of chaotic development. Now the plan and order should appear in this sphere.

Practicing developers have already noted that with the beginning of the activity of Lasha Komakhidze, the procedures for issuing documents to the mayor's office have significantly accelerated, and those that could have taken up to a month before are now taking place in a few days.

Marina Mitaishvili a representative of the international analytical magazine International Investment in Batumi had a talk with a mayor.

- Mr. Lasha, four months is a short period to ask about the results, so we ask you to tell our magazine "International Investments" what is planned to be done for the development of Batumi?

-The events that are being held to improve the tourist and investment climate of Batumi are part of the strategic plan for the development of our city.

One of the main directions of our strategy is the development of the historical part of Batumi, the so-called "old city". A couple of weeks ago, our initiatives were put to the public debate and widely covered in the media.

The old city is the zone most of all interested in tourists. In order to make this area even more attractive and interesting for tourists, we have planned the reconstruction and restoration of existing buildings and infrastructure. Including buildings that have the status of monuments of cultural heritage. We plan to achieve such a result, so that the historic district of the city becomes as attractive and interesting for visitors as possible. Around the monuments and buildings that have the status of monuments of cultural heritage, it is planned to create public cultural and economic centers. Previously, the owners and the city were faced with the problem of keeping these buildings in a good attractive form. We found such a solution.

If such a building is converted into a hotel or a cafe bar, it will automatically become the center of the public meeting, and, accordingly, the economic center, a source of income for the people living there.

Through cultural programs and activities, we will give new life to the old districts of the city. For example, we announced a program that enables people living in the houses of the old city to turn their yards into open cafes that will be of interest to the guests of the city. Those interested will be financed by the amount of 10,000 GEL, and they will purchase the necessary equipment, in particular, metal tables and chairs, which are not afraid of Batumi rains, coffee-making machines on the sand, etc. Small architectural elements will be recreated, which will underline the ineffable Batumi color.

In such courtyards, the guest of the city can drink coffee, taste local wine, Georgian cheese and join our gastronomic tradition. It's easy for residents of our city to offer guests.

So we want to ensure that the guest while reaching Batumi Square "Piazza", which is one of the attractions of Batumi, could look into the characteristic Batumi yards, sit down there, rest and have a snack. For guests, it will be interesting and for the owners, it will bring economic benefits.

Such contact of hosts and guests will allow tourists to get acquainted with the city better, dilute the visual impression with communication with local people, known for their hospitality.

So, we want to make from the courtyards full tourist facilities, where the biggest attraction is a man and a Batumi microclimate.

- Do you plan to hold more events in the old city?

-There is a plan, a city holiday - City Day, to take it to the old city, and also to move the date of the holiday, from September to April, since it was on April 28 that Batumi received the city status. We want to liven up the streets of the old city during this holiday.

During the celebration, the old names of streets and buildings will be marked, phaetons will ride in the streets instead of cars, and this will emphasize the atmosphere of the old holiday.

In the future, some of the streets of the old city will be closed to cars and become only pedestrian, as is customary in very many European cities. This will allow developing more street cafes and bars. In general, the development of the old city is given a lot of attention.

In addition, activities are planned in conjunction with the departments of tourism, education, culture and sports, and agriculture. We often co-host various events, for example on the "Europe" square - festivals of fish and wine, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture. The "Gandagan" festival is organized by the Department of Tourism. These are spectacular, theatrical festivals that decorate the city. As our experience shows, such events are very attractive for tourists. This is only part of our plan, I think we can do a lot.

- How your plans for the old city can be useful for investors?

-Of course, the development program that we presented implies assistance to investors in organizing alternative housing for residents of the old city, as well as a number of measures for the transfer of buildings or long-term lease or ownership, in exchange for the obligations of their restoration and reconstruction. This program will be of interest to investors.

-In Batumi, a lot was done for a comfortable stay of guests. Many people speak of it as a very comfortable city. And if now, for example, in Spain and Italy, in some cities the authorities and local residents are unhappy with the influx of tourists, then they are always welcome to Batumi. Much has been done from the tourist point of view, but there is a shortage of services intended specifically for recreation with children. Although there are already such initiatives ...

-Batumi will become more comfortable for local people, tourists and investors. If the investors or organizers need some kind of support for such a service, mayor's office assistance will be provided.

-For Europe and even the former Union, it was mandatory to have an approved master plan in each city. Batumi did not have such a plan, which led to a chaotic development of the city. What do you plan to change in this matter?

-Recently, we have announced that a general development plan for Batumi will be drawn up, that is, the city will have a master plan for development, which will be the defining document for investors. With its help, investors, developers and residents of the city will receive information about where, how and in what direction the development of the city will take place, where what kind of development is relevant. It will bring more comfort to the lives of local people themselves and help investors to determine their priorities and plans. The next year will be active work on its preparation since it is necessary to take into account the numerous nuances for each district.

- Recently, the coastal villages of Gonio and Nizhni Kvariati have entered the city limits. They traditionally attract tourists with a very clean sea, beaches, and air. What is planned for the development of these areas?

-Before the Batumi Master Plan is ready, we will develop a plan for building regulation in old Batumi and Gonio-Kvariati. This is the same general plan, only for a separate, small territory, which will then become part of the general plan of the city. We will have regulatory plans for the construction of small territorial units, which will help investors because they need accurate information about where and what is allowed to build, where the object is most relevant, what facilities will be next. We plan to actively develop these territories.

-Will a new bridge be built at the mouth of the Chorokhi River, which will improve transport links with Gonio, Kvariati ,and Sarpi?

-Yes, I can confirm that work is being done in this direction, it will be built as a pedestrian bridge, which will be a continuation of the boulevard, as well as an automobile bridge that will be the continuation of the Batumi bypass road, its next stage, and will connect the city with the road to Sarpi. And this is also a very important step in the development of tourism. The bypass road, in turn, will enable transit transport not to enter the city, and accordingly, in the city, there will be fewer traffic flows and cleaner.

-What can you advise investors, in what business and in what areas to invest their capital in Batumi, and in the whole region?

-First of all, I advise you to study the potential of our city and region well. I do not separate the region from the city, because Batumi, together with other regions of Adjara, has a complete investment potential.

For example, a person is interested in the tourism business in Batumi. It can also be combined with a tourist interest in the Goderdzi resort, since Batumi is a priority for summer tourism, and the Goderdzi resort is for winter. And now, we have several proposals for the construction of summer and winter hotels and recreation complexes. So I advise investors to diversify their approach to studying the tourist potential of the city.

In addition, we want to develop light industry in the periphery of the city. This will not disrupt the tourist climate in the city and contribute to the development of enterprises. This is especially important for the new urban areas, so there is a potential for the development of both light industry and agriculture.

So for interested investors, there are different directions of investment and offers. I especially want to note the construction of large sports facilities in the city. The construction of the stadium and sports school has already begun. The palace of sports, rugby stadiums, football base in the Angis area are built. These five sports facilities enable the city to host large-scale sports events and competitions. By the way, as you know, this year Batumi accepts the international chess Olympiad. And this is also a serious factor for investors.

Medical tourism is developing at a great pace. Several large private clinics of various profiles were opened on the territory of the city. This is due to the fact that compared to neighboring countries, our health care prices are much lower. This can attract and interest the people of neighboring countries. In addition to medical care, they are also interested in the location of the city, the nature between the mountains and the sea creates a favorable microclimate for the treatment of various diseases and for recreation.

-Mr. Lasha, on the ease of obtaining a building permit, Georgia occupies one of the first places in the world. What do you need to get a building permit?

-The procedure is really simple. We need to submit the necessary documents to the architectural service of the city hall, looking at what kind of construction-hotel, apartment building or other facility. It is necessary to take into account several conditions, such as the 41st government decree on compliance with safety standards in construction. This applies to both fire safety and other standards. On the other hand, based on the project area, there will be questions about the architecture of buildings. The building permit will be issued without various bureaucratic delays in the shortest possible time. Usually, the term of consideration of an architectural project does not exceed one and a half months, and the issue of issuing a building permit takes about a week.

-Why will investments be profitable for investors?

-Batumi is one of the fastest and dynamically developing cities not only in Georgia but also in the whole Transcaucasia. It has a huge potential, it is on the Black Sea and is growing rapidly as a sea resort. In addition to the hotels of the world's brands, there are many small private hotels that provide an opportunity to receive more and more tourists every year. At the same time, the city is located at two-three hour distance from the mountain resorts. In spring there are periods when a tourist can enjoy a warm rest at sea and then ride skies in the mountains. Batumi is on the border with Turkey, which gives the opportunity for the holidaymaker to enjoy not only the beauty of Georgia but also at any time will move to a neighboring country. In the city, there are all types of transport communications - air, sea, rail, road. Also, there is maximum accessibility to this developed infrastructure. So, the city has a huge versatile potential and it becomes more and more interesting and attractive for visitors.

-What would you like to wish our readers?

-Of course, I wish you success. 2018 has recently begun and I wish you that this year be better than the previous in all areas of your life, I wish the good, prosperity and fulfillment of all plans that were conceived.

International Investments
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