The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on Georgia’s tourism sector, which is vital to the livelihoods of more than 150,000 people around the country. In 2020, the number of international arrivals declined by nearly 80% from the previous two-year average. Small business owners and their families have had to bear much of the burden.
The silver lining is that Georgia’s tourism industry continues to demonstrate tremendous untapped potential, not only to return to its pre-pandemic height, but to grow into a more sustainable and internationally competitive driver of inclusive economic growth.
To help Georgia capitalize on this potential, USAID is partnering with the private sector to build a more modern and commercially sustainable tourism sector. Specifically, that includes working hand-in-hand with private sector partners who can bring reach, innovation, and digital technologies to upgrading and promoting Georgia’s tourism sector.
To jumpstart a sector still recovering from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID/Georgia partnered with the world’s largest digital travel storytelling platform, Steller.co, to conduct A Digital Day in the Life of Georgia
, an innovative tourism promotion campaign that reached more than 7.5 million people.
Partnering with the Private Sector for Economic Recovery from the impacts of COVID-19
This innovative partnership, jointly funded by USAID, Steller, and the Government of Georgia, introduced millions of potential travelers to the wealth and diversity of sites and experiences Georgia has to offer. The campaign, modeled on Steller’s highly successful campaign with Tourism Ireland in 2019, brought 16 renowned travel and social media influencers to Georgia from the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Israel, and the United States. In total, these influencers produced 88 stories on the Steller Platform and more than 200 Instagram stories and posts, as well as posts on TikTok and other social media platforms.
“The campaign is part of USAID’s broader efforts to help build a stronger and more sustainable economy with opportunities for all Georgians,” said Peter Wiebler, USAID Georgia Mission Director. “In addition to helping Georgia elevate its international brand as a sustainable tourism destination, we are supporting family-owned businesses to upgrade their operations, increase revenues, and create new jobs in their communities”.
A Successful Campaign, and a Template for Future Partnerships
To date, the campaign has engaged roughly 785,000 people who have liked, shared, or commented on campaign content on various social media channels. The campaign focused on Instagram and TikTok - channels that primarily target a tech-savvy audience of people under 40, an important target audience for developing a more sustainable tourism market. Based on industry benchmarks, the total campaign value is $2.7 million (meaning that Georgia’s tourism industry can reasonably expect this much in increased revenue due to the campaign’s reach).
This was a true “win-win” partnership as it bolstered Steller’s brand as a travel storytelling app while inspiring interest in Georgia as a premier tourism destination. Pete Bryant, CEO of Steller, spoke about the mutual benefits of the campaign: “We are overjoyed with the results of this campaign and its ground-breaking showcase. The project harnessed the power and authenticity of stories created by the world’s top content creators celebrating this special destination with evergreen inspiration.”
By building Georgia’s international brand, the campaign can help bring more high-value tourists to Georgia, people who will stay for longer periods of time and spend more money on locally-produced goods and services. This will result in more sustainable tourism, increased revenues for business owners, and more job opportunities. The record-breaking campaign has been so successful, in fact, that USAID and Steller are deepening our partnership. We are planning a new winter tourism-themed campaign slated for launch in winter 2022.