Experiencing thrill, trend, tradition, and tranquillity
Galina Razmadze — the co-founder of Time For Georgia, is a thrill-seeker who runs a business to
educate people about the interesting treasures Georgia has to offer. In this interview, she talks
about what drives her, what makes her company unique, the kind of care that goes into each
travel package and her top picks to spend your weekends.
She also reflects on her philosophy about customer satisfaction, talks about her favorite travel
trends, and how she combats the challenges of working in the adventure travel world.
What would you consider the top attraction driving tourists to AREA?
I would say the top one is Gergeti Trinity Church, 2170 meters above sea level, located close to Stepantsminda village, 10km from the Russian border. This place offers splendid views to Mt. Kazbek and slopes of Caucasus, and there are plenty of hiking routes available for tourists who travel without a car.
Where would you personally recommend getting to?
I would say it all depends on the season, but the most impressive part of Georgia is the Tusheti region. The most remote of Georgian regions, placed in its far northeast corner, Tusheti is available only by 4WD cars 4 months a year.
Picturesque routes, a lack of civilization, peaceful environment and middle-aged old towers are what make this destination special.
What is your favorite location to spend your weekends at?
When I have time, I travel to Racha. This is where I originally am from. There are several reasons why I love this place, such as:
– Unlimited choice of trekking routes, both in the forest and in the high mountains, leading to glaciers and beautiful lakes
– Beautiful nature, not affected by civilization. Fruit and vegetables grown in Racha are considered to be the most ecologically pure out of all regions
– Best wines in Georgia (Khvanchkara, Tvishi, Usakhelouri, Aleksandrouli) are produced in Racha. This region is located at a 4-5 hours ride from Tbilisi, and yet it is not very popular among tourists.
– Best rafting in Georgia. Beautiful canyons and deepest Georgian Rioni and a professional team of local instructors make every visit special.
– A special, peaceful atmosphere. That was the reason why a few years ago, our government started a marketing campaign which was named: «Slow your time in Racha».
I see great potential in developing agro-tourism in Russia and I hope that will be our next project. There are only a few companies who include Racha in regular tours, and we are proud to be on that list
Which adventure will you call is the most popular here—is it hiking, kayaking, camping?
Short, 1-day treks are most popular among tourists and locals—probably because anyone can experience it, even families with children and elderly people. Wherever you go, it’s always possible to find several hiking routes that will lead you to the top of a mountain with a beautiful view.
What are the specialties of the local cuisines here? Which dishes would you recommend as ‘must haves’ for travelers? Any restaurants you consider worth a recommendation?
Georgian cuisine is rapidly becoming popular all over the world. Besides meat, most dishes contain walnuts, and we eat cheese a lot! You should not leave Georgia without trying khachapuri, pkhali, khinkali, chakapuli, gebjalia and elarji. For the best khinkali in Tbilisi, go to Pasanauri restaurant (37/46 Griboedov st) for traditional dishes from Megrelia, visit MegruliSahli (31 Atoneli st) and if you are a fan of organic amber wines, Dadi wine bar is a must-visit place for you.
Being a bit tired of the standard menu, I prefer fusion restaurants, that offer Georgian food served in a new way with original tastes. Best ones include Meama, Barbarestan and Schuhmann bar in Tbilisi.
When would you recommend travelers to visit here? What are the seasonal activities of the region?
The hottest months for Georgia are July-August. We recommend visiting mountainous regions (Racha, Svaneti, Tusheti, Khevsureti) in that period. The best time for sea resorts (Batumi, Ureki, Kobuleti) is in July and September. Kakheti, Imereti, and Racha are especially green in spring and autumn. In autumn, you can participate in Rtveli (wine harvesting) in Kakheti, and visit Tbilisoba—one of the main fests of the year. And in winter, it is better to stay in Tbilisi and to have 1-day trips to other destinations. Unfortunately, most of the hotels around Georgia do not have proper heating in winter. So, if you need a comfortable stay, it’s better to stay in Tbilisi. Skiing and snowboarding are very popular in winter, especially because there is a Gudauri ski resort just 2h drive from Tbilisi.
Could you tell us more about your favorite adventure?
A 4-day hike to azure Tobavarchkhili lake (2650 meters above the sea level), during which you change several climate zones and enjoy the most beautiful landscapes in Georgia.
How long have you been a travel agent for? What makes you unique as compared to the other travel agencies out there?
We founded this company 3 years ago. But before that, I got the experience of working in a Concierge company, and 5-star hotels in Moscow, Russia and Antalia, Turkey. On the previous positions, I learned how to deal with difficult situations and to fulfill even really complicated wishes of our clients. I learned the value of customer satisfaction, and practices on how to achieve it.
What areas of travel does your agency specialize in, and why did you pick those areas?
One is high-quality cultural tours with professional guides. The history of my country is incredibly rich, and I want my guests to return back from Georgia carrying not only wine and souvenirs but also some knowledge and interesting facts from my country.
Also, we organize tours to off-the-beaten trek destinations, where amazing trek routes are well-combined with an immersion into the local life and culture.
What areas of the business are performing well at the moment and how do you make it possible for it to be that way?
At the moment, most of our guests join our regular tours, starting every Saturday. The route depends on the time of the year: in summer, we stay more in the mountains, while in spring and autumn visit Kakheti region with multiple wine tasting and fests.
What do you think is that aspect of your business that contributed to your success?
Our personal love of travel, a great willingness to discover more and more new corners in Georgia is the strongest motivation for us. Also, a constant personal contact with our guests, attention to details, working only with small groups (not more than 10 guests for our regular tours)—that are the main factors that help us keep the tour quality on a high position.
What travel trend do you find the most notable?
There is too much information around us, and for busy people living in cities it’s quite hard to organize a trip properly—they need time to study reviews, find and book the best hotels, guides, restaurants. So asking a travel agent to organize a tour is the best choice in that case.
Also people more often are interested in immersing in the local culture. Visiting local families for dinners, taking part in workshops, and living in family-owned hotels is becoming more and more popular.
What are the biggest challenges of working in the adventure travel field?
Adventure is a complex product, which contains lots of elements (guides, transportation, coordination, accommodation and so on). All these elements depend on the human factor which makes managing it the most difficult thing. A tour agent should know all the possible risks and should be able to deal with them immediately. That is possible only if you have broad experience, if you are eager to study on previous mistakes and if you have a strong community that supports you.
What future do you think AREA travel agents will have, bearing in mind the growing popularity of online travel?
I think, people will start booking tours directly from companies creating them, without any intermediaries. That will make the cost of tours lower and more affordable.
How are you going to keep growing business?
We are going to build a strong team, based on people with common interests. We also plan to launch new destinations (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey) and regular tours to remote parts of Georgia.
Which popular blogs on adventure travel do you follow?
Lost with purpose, Lonely planet and National Geographic.
Do you have any favorite quote on adventures we could share with our readers?
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer,” Time for Georgia