Georgia, the official host country of ITB Berlin 2023, is promoting its wide-ranging tourism attractions while protests erupted in its capital against the government’s controversial draft law that would require some organizations receiving foreign funding to register as foreign agents.
Georgia organized the festive opening gala on 6 March in the CityCube Berlin and took guests on an impressive tour of the cultural and ethnic diversity of this country in the Caucasus.
On the eve of the trade show, high-profile figures from politics and the industry set the stage for the guests at the opening event of this year’s ITB Berlin. They included Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Dr. Robert Habeck, Governing Mayor of Berlin Franziska Giffey, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Julia Simpson, and Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Zurab Pololikashvili.
“The most convincing reason to travel there was Georgians’ infinite hospitality, rooted deep in their DNA,” said Vice Prime Minister Levan Davitashvili.
“Georgia was a dream country to visit, and because of its low tax rates and welcoming approach to business founders was equally an outstanding place for investment,” added Davitashvili at the opening press conference on Media Monday.
While the Georgian travel and tourism industry exhibits their country at ITB Berlin, their country has big unrest at home. Thousands of people, some waving EU and Ukrainian flags, stood outside Parliament and listened as speakers denounced the law, which would require any organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from overseas to register as “foreign agents”, or face substantial fines.
The US and European Union added their voices to a growing chorus of condemnation against a controversial newly adopted law in Georgia on foreign agents.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck backed the European Union membership bid of Russia’s Caucasus neighbor, Georgia, saying that the country was “very much welcome” in the bloc.
Georgia, a former Soviet state situated on Russia’s southwest border, applied for EU membership on March 3, 2022, one week after Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine.
There is “a feeling of deep concern because of the potential implications of this draft law,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Price said the US stands with all of those who are peacefully exercising their right to assemble, to have their voices heard, to speak freely and to hold their own governments accountable.
Georgian authorities arrested 66 people amid demonstrations in the capital Tbilisi against the adoption of a bill on foreign agents, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.
Sources: CNN, France 24, AA