Ekaterine Meiering-Mikadze: optimistic. PICTURE: Jayan Orma
By Ramesh Mathew
The Eurasian country of Georgia is expecting a big leap in the number of tourists from the Middle East in the coming years, Ambassador Ekaterine Meiering-Mikadze has said.
Georgia, a country with a population of about 4mn, was visited by more than 5.5mn international tourists last year.
The envoy said Qatar and Georgia have been supporting each other closely at international forums and there are a number of agreements between the two countries.
“With the opening of the embassy nearly three years ago, we have promoted people-to-people contacts in several areas,” said the ambassador, who is fluent in Arabic and has been in the region since 1998.
Meiering-Mikadze, who has been in Qatar for nearly two-and-a-half years and is Georgia’s first ambassador to this country, had earlier served in Jordan and Kuwait. While in Kuwait, she had looked after Qatar as well.
The ambassador said many Qatar residents, particularly expatriates, have been visiting her country mainly for tourism-related activities. Several of them are repeat visitors.
“Not many are aware that anyone who holds a Qatari residence permit gets visa on arrival in our country.”
She said the launch of direct daily flights to Tbilisi by Qatar Airways has boosted tourism in her country in a big way. Other Gulf carriers such as Air Arabia and flydubai are also operating daily flights. Etihad will start flights from Abu Dhabi next month.
The ambassador said it was a matter of immense pride for her that many Doha-based parents of different nationalities were sending their children to Georgia for higher studies, especially those pursuing medical education.
“Similarly, some Georgian students are enjoying Qatar’s generosity for higher education as well. After Qatar and Georgia signed an agreement in 2013, some of our students are pursuing Arabic language studies and other subjects at Qatar University, while a few are also at Georgetown University in Qatar,” she said.
Meiering-Mikadze said Georgians have a good reputation in the hospitality industry and some of them are working in some of the leading hotels and restaurants here. Most Georgians, she added, stay in Qatar for a while before relocating to other places, particularly in Europe.
While describing the services sector as Georgians’ strength, she said banking and insurance professionals from her country were well-placed in several countries, especially in Europe. “In addition, there is a broad range of opportunities in logistics, on which Qatari and Georgian businesses can work together,” she stressed, adding that people from her country could provide good support on public sector platforms.
The ambassador said Georgia has been repeatedly rated a top performer by the World Bank and other agencies and her country knows how to make things simple, efficient and transparent.
As part of an agreement signed between the ministries of culture of Georgia and Qatar, an exhibition of Arabic and Georgian manuscripts from Georgia’s heritage collection will be held at Katara in the middle of next month.
The envoy also recalled the growing co-operation between the ministries of justice of Qatar and Georgia. “This has contributed to an exchange of expertise in this important field,” she said.
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