- As you know Georgia’s national carrier – Georgian Airways will be starting first regular flights between London and Tbilisi. In your opinion, what impact will the regular direct flights have on strengthening the relationships between the UK and Georgia.
I am very pleased Georgian Airways are launching a direct flight. This year is the 25th anniversary of re-establishing our diplomatic relations after the restoration of Georgia's independence. Links between Britain and Georgia, in all kinds of areas, are expanding quickly. Making the journey between London and Tbilisi easier and shorter can only help those ties to grow even stronger.
Of course, the friendship between Britain and Georgia goes back further than 1992. Some of the history of our contacts in earlier centuries is still being written. But those ties make it a special relationship. And I think it can become even more special in the future.
- Numbers of international visitors to Georgia grow each year. Only in the first trimester of 2017 the number of visitors increased by 11.4 % in comparison to the same period last year. Do you think British travellers will be interested in Georgia? Can we predict that regular air flights will motivate British travellers to come to Georgia?
Georgia is a fascinating, beautiful and welcoming country. More and more British visitors are arriving to discover Georgia for themselves. Whether you are in culture, music, dance, food and drink, winter sports, hiking, bird-watching and so many other possibilities, Georgia is a wonderful destination. I am confident the number of visitors from Britain will continue to grow.
Of course, I hope direct flights also mean that more Georgians take the chance to visit the UK. There is a lot to discover!
- What will be the impact of direct flights on trade and business relations between the two countries? In your opinion, what other opportunities are there other than trade for more engagement. For example cultural and science?
Direct flights will boost business links between Britain and Georgia. Being able to meet clients and customers face-to-face – and quickly - is a crucial part of doing business. I am proud that Britain is one of the top investors in Georgia. Major Georgian companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange. You find the best of British design in Tbilisi and excellent Georgian wines in British supermarkets. More direct links will help to take our trade relations to a new level.
Looking ahead, there is lots of potential for wider links. One area where I would like to support more connections is education. Already British and Georgian universities offer joint degrees. Many alumni of our Chevening Scholarship scheme, after a year of postgraduate study in the UK, are making important contributions in Georgian government, civil society, business and the media.
Best of all, are the ties of friendship that grow all by themselves. Over nearly three decades, the cities of Bristol and Tbilisi, and Newport and Kutaisi have built very special bonds of friendship that have changed lives. Britain and Georgia also share the language of sport, in particular rugby. The day is not far off when one of the British and Irish national teams will play a full rugby test in Tbilisi for the first time. That will be something not to be missed.
- Have you ever take the Georgian Airways flight and when are you planning to use the now direct flight to London?
No, not yet. I am looking forward to using the direct service between Tbilisi and London Gatwick as soon as I can!
- What would you tell first passengers of Tbilisi London direct flight?
If it is your first visit, welcome to Britain! If it is a return visit, good to see you again. Enjoy London. Visit its world-class museums, theatres, restaurants and shops. Stroll in its street markets and beautiful parks. And if you have time, discover another part of Britain. There is so much to see in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the rest of England.
My advice for first time British visitors to Georgia is the same. It would be easy to spend all your time in Tbilisi. But don’t miss the other riches that Georgia has to offer, in every direction and at any time of year.