Since 1991, Georgian Guide Service (1991-1993), Georgian Mountain Guide School (1993-1998), Georgian Mountain Guide Association (1998-current) and Adventure Tourism School (2015 – current) are developing adventure guiding institutions and training programs in Georgia.
From the very beginning, the mission was to support local communities in mountainous regions to become prepared to deliver quality services to growing number of international travelers, to become competitive guides, to become owners of the tourism industry. Hundreds of teenage villagers were trained in basics of mountain guiding, some most successful one made to the IFMGA guide standards. “Hire Locals” was and remains the motto of all these parent – daughter organizations. Bringing Georgian guides to international standards was the ultimate goal. With the continuous leadership of Swiss Mountain Guide Association, joined later by German Mountain Guide Association, Georgia became candidate member of International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) in 2018 and was scheduled to become full member by 2020, however, due to Covid-19 pandemic this occasion was postponed.
In 2015 GMGA in partnership with Mountain Resorts Development Company and Georgian National Tourism Administration launched “Mountain Tourism Initiative” – a strategic framework, defining areas for development and set of strategic actions. Within this strategic framework, three key priorities were defined for adventure guiding: a) Formalized professional education and create sustainable TVET platform for adventure tourism professions; b) diversify GMGA, add new professional fields, enlarge membership and c) lobby for regulating adventure tourism professions;
In line with Mountain Tourism Initiative Strategic Framework:
a) professional education was formalized by establishing first time ever Public-Partnership - The Adventure Tourism School (https://www.facebook.com/AdventureTourismSchool/) was jointly founded by the ministries of economy and education on the one hand and Georgian Mountain Guide Association, on the other. Adventure Tourism School is authorized provider of VET program/s since 2016 and complies with the standards defined by the regulations;
b) GMGA initiated 4 industry standards: Trekking Guide, Ski Guide, Alpine Guide, Mountain Guides, approved by NCEQE and re-formed organizational and management structures accordingly. GMGA has set association standards, called “Professional Clusters and areas of competence”. These documents regulate eligibility of different cluster guides to work in a specific environment.
c) With the help of Swiss government, GMGA conducted feasibility study and developed draft law on regulating high-risk to life professions. This study has become foundation for the draft law on tourism, which is being discussed since 2020 by Georgian Parliament. The process is supported by the USAID.
In 2015, GMGA established Mountain Tourism Forum, which was aimed at promoting GMGA members to the industry, as well as to discuss most acute topics related to mountain tourism business. MTF was first ever job fair were certified guides have been introduced to the industry.
In 2016 GMGA introduced to the GoG and group of stakeholders HuRoGuRe Concept, referring to Huts, Routes, Guides, Rescue – a value chain that will define level of mountain tourism development in Georgia. GMGA continues to work on this project with various stakeholders.
In 2021 GMGA adopted 2-year strategic plan, laying down vision for institutional development (attached).
Adventure Tourism School:
Since establishment the school has trained and delivered to the labor market up to 500 certified professionals in Adventure tourism and safety management: trekking, alpine, ski and mountain guides, ski instructors and SPRAW instructors (Safe Practices of Rope Access);
East European Mountain Guides Association started training courses in Georgia; Georgia became a candidate member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA); the number of the Mountain Guides Association members increased and the first regional office was set up in the town of Mestia, Georgia.
In 2016 GMGA/ATS was awarded with $642000 MCC grant for elevating education quality and standards and creating permanent educational process. The curriculum of the Adventure Tourism School is based on the international standards developed by the Technical University of Munich, Swiss Mountain Guides' Association and IFMGA, international partners of the ATS Consortium.
GMTA and ATS work jointly towards establishing new standards, enlarge adventure guide professions portfolio and become one-stop shop for adventure tourism professions. Based on this vision, Adventure Tourism School Strategy 2019 – 2026 was developed (attached). It envisages developing and authorizing up to 15 adventure tourism and safety management certificate and diploma TVET programs, creating pre-TVET programs and Adventure Tourism Clubs in up to 10 regional schools and establishing International Boarding Tourism School in Dusheti – Experience Tourism College (Concept Paper Attached).
Currently GMGA and ATS work on 6 new Certificate Programs: Equestrian Tour Guide, Bicycle Tour Guide, Rafting Guide, Rock Climbing Guide, Ski Teacher and Overland Tour Guide;
GMGA and ATS have been successfully working with MES GNTA and donor community, including UNDP, IOM, GIZ, GRETA, MCC, USAID to support institutional development and educational processes. Most recently, ATS has become winner of U.S. Embassy TVET 2021 grant competition for authorized TVET providers. The project is due to start on October 2021 and over two years will focus on developing new TVET programs, popularizing adventure tourism professions in general and increasing female participation in adventure tourism professions in particular.