Telebridge between Chisinau and Comrat: Development of Tourism is One of the Priorities for Gagauzia

Chisinau and Comrat recently held a telebridge on Moldova 1 and GRT public TV channels. The telebridge was dedicated to the development of tourism in Gagauzia. Representatives of authorities of the autonomy, entrepreneurs and experts discussed how to make Gagauzia an attractive destination for international tourism, what is needed for that and how the Programme for Development of Tourism in the ATU Gagauzia 2025 could contribute to that.

How the Tourism Development Programme 2025 would promote the tourist sector in Gagauzia

According to Alla Levitcaia, a CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation expert in the sphere of regional economic development, in the five-year tourism development programme, there are three key areas: the first is creation of a legal framework that would foster development of tourism; The second is solving the institutional issue; The third is promotion of the tourism product at the national and international level.

For the purpose of solving the institutional problem, as Natalia Ciuvalscaia stated, the programme envisions improvement of mechanisms for interaction with national institutes in the sphere of tourism promotion and division of powers between departments: “Who develops polices and who implements them”.

Alla Levitcaia, in her turn said that the recently created unit for tourism development and promotion within the Department for Economic Development of Gagauzia would be engaged in developing policies. But it is not yet clear who would implement these plans.

According to the draft Tourism Development Programme, the institutional problem should be in part, solved by the Advisory Board which would include representatives of small businesses in the sphere of tourism, local authorities and non-governmental organizations. The Board should make proposals on the development and improvement of the tourism industry. Activities of the Board should be coordinated by the regional information tourism centre. In addition, the programme envisions establishment of up to 10 entities that would take care of marketing and management of the tourist destination.

While speaking about promoting Gagauzia as a tourist destination, participants of the telebridge noted the importance of training for everyone related to this industry. Thus, the programme includes a set of educational programmes, including those for artisans and tour guides.

In this regard we plan to cooperate with Comrat University and with the Scientific and Research Centre named after M. Marunevici.

remarked Alla Levitcaia

In her turn, entrepreneur Anna Statova made a point that legislative stability and predictability is very important for business.

When there are clear rules, it is easier to work and develop. Also for those who are just about to get into the tourism business. It is necessary to consolidate all those who are interested in developing this sphere

said Anna Statova.

How they decided to promote tourism in Gagauzia

Natalia Ciuvalscaia, head of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism of Gagauzia noted that tourism is one of the priority areas of socioeconomic development of the autonomy.

Participants of the telebridge mentioned that recently Gagauzia has become an attractive tourist destination for residents of Moldova, but it could also become attractive for foreign tourists. In particular, according to Andrei Chistol, the head of the Department of Tourism of the Investment Agency, efforts could be focused on Turkey.

This week I talked to colleagues from Turkey. We agreed that Gagauzia is a tourist product that has to be promoted in the Turkish market. But first of all we have to understand what exactly we can offer to foreign tourists. Whether we have enough instruments to attract these tourists. In any case we are in need of serious investments

said Mr. Chistol.

In 2020 for the first time, Gagauzia adopted the ‘Event Tourism Plan’ which included the five most important events in Gagauzia: The national holiday Hederlez, the Gagauz Kilim Festival, the Gagauz Costume Festival, the Wine Day and the Family, Love and Faith Day. Three of them were included in the tourism plan of Moldova.

noted Natalia Ciuvalscaia

How the pandemic affected tourism business in Gagauzia

According to entrepreneur Anna Statova, during the pandemic, authorities did not provide sufficient assistance to businesses that had to cope with all the problems on their own. “We could not close down because our business is our brainchild. We followed all the restrictions introduced by authorities by reducing the number of clients and visitors”.  At the same time, she noted that the pandemic helped to develop domestic tourism: “People from all over Moldova started to visit us. Thanks to the pandemic we have become more friendly”.

Ms. Statova also lamented that people in Moldova know very little about Gagauzia: “Some even think that we have a different currency, that foreign passports are needed to visit us. There were a lot of such calls and questions”.

The HoReCa sector was the one that was most affected by the pandemic, participants of the telebridge said. However with lifting of the quarantine and mitigation of restrictive measures, according to Statova, the situation is gradually coming back to normal and there has even been a slight increase compared to figures before the pandemic. As the entrepreneur noted, after opening of borders tourists from more than 40 countries have already visited her rural guest house.

How Gagauzia should use foreign experience

Philipp Corradini, an expert at the Institute for Regional Development, Eurac Research (Eurac Research is one of the leading scientific centres in northern Italy), spoke about the importance of developing tourism in the regions. And Viorel Miron, the head of the Moldovan Tourism Development Association, who is at the same time the expert of CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation, spoke about the experience of developing the South Tirol region in Italy. “This zone develops its own legislation, which guarantees development of tourism”, Mr. Miron noted. He also drew attention to the fact that in South Tirol they managed to create institutes that administer the tourism industry at the regional level. 

In the Tourism Development Programme of Gagauzia we also strive to create a similar structure. We would like to create institutes that would at the regional level manage information bureaus for tourists, touristic routes, etc

mentioned Mr. Miron.

When summing up the discussion, all participants agreed that tourism has a future in Gagauzia only if all the parties are involved in implementation of the programme.

Anna Statova concluded that “Tourism cannot develop on its own. Only together with local authorities and all stakeholders will we cope with this very important matter”.

From September 7 to 24, 2021, the General Department of Economic Development and Tourism of the ATU Gagauzia held public consultations on the draft ‘Special Purpose Programme of Tourism Development in the ATU Gagauzia’.

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The Tourism Development Programme 2025 was developed with support of local and international experts from the CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation in the framework of the project ‘Supporting Inclusive Dialogue and Strengthening Capacities for Better Functioning Gagauz Autonomy in Moldova’ or ‘Gagauzia Dialogue’. This is a three-year project that brings together legislators, experts and stakeholders from Chisinau, Comrat and across Moldova to find joint solutions for common issues related to the Gagauz Autonomy. The project is being implemented from 2019 to 2021 with CMI support and funding from Sweden.

CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation is a Finnish foundation that is involved in preventing and resolving conflicts through informal dialogue and mediation.  Martii Ahtisaari, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of Finland, established the CMI in 2000.  Since then, the Foundation has evolved and became one of the leaders in its field.

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