What do tourists want?

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

There are many types of tourism: adventure travel; agritourism; archeological tourism; ecotourism; culinary tourism, religious tourism; sex tourism; volunteer tourism; wildlife tourism; and . . . wine tourism.

Wine tourism consists of visits to wineries, vineyards and restaurants where one can taste and consume unique vintages of wine.

Georgia is famous for its wines. It is the birthplace of wine, and 500 of the world’s 2,000 types of grapes are grown in Georgia. The primary wine-growing region is Kakheti, and the Georgian government is promoting Sighnaghi as the capital of Kakheti’s wine tourism industry.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

So today, a warm, sunny day, Susanna and I visited Sighnaghi. We were disappointed. A sentence from Wikipedia hints at why we didn’t linger. “Sighnaghi has recently undergone a fundamental reconstruction program and has become an important center of Georgia’s tourist industry.” Indeed! Three years ago the government and entrepreneurs “renovated” Sighnaghi, taking away the local color and leaving a manicured infrastructure. A 2.5 kilometer stonewall from the 18th Century and two Georgian Orthodox churches maintain their historical character, but it seems that everything else was constructed (or re-constructed) for tourists. We saw a few hotels, restaurants, and cafes. People can take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage or a trolley down the main street. We saw a few tourists, but we didn’t find opportunities to interact with local people.

There is one winery—Pheasant’s Tears (http://www.pheasantstears.com/), which is a 30-minute drive outside of town, and Pheasant’s Tears offers a wine tasting in town. Susanna took my photo at the wine-tasting location. It shows a kvevri, which is a giant clay vessel in which wine was fermented. People buried kveri in the ground, where the fermenting mixture stayed at a constant, and ideal, temperature.  Pheasant’s Tears continues this tradition. We didn’t see other evidence of wine tourism.

In my opinion, Sighnaghi is in a beautiful location, but I’ll be surprised if tourists want to spend more than an afternoon in the small town.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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