Economic Optimism in Balmy Adjara, Georgia

Village House in Adjaran Highlands

Situated on Georgia’s humid subtropical Black Sea coastline, Adjara has transformed in just over a decade from a semi-separatist fiefdom into a key economic region for the country of Georgia.

Adjara was once a booming agricultural zone during the Soviet period for tea, citrus, tobacco, hazelnuts, and a variety of other warmer-climate products. However, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and 1990s instability damaged local production. But following extensive reforms in the 2000s, Adjara is emerging as a major economic success story. Agricultural production is being revitalized and Adjaran hazelnuts, citrus, and even tea are returning to Georgian and international shelves.

Thank god, my personal economic situation has been getting better recently. I work hard in agriculture, and it pays off.
— Male, 54, Farmer, Didadjara

Tourism is another growing industry, where the number of visitors increased between 2010 and 2014 by over 62%, according to the National Statistics Office of Georgia. In the Adjaran capital of Batumi, increased tourism has led to a string of new upscale hotels, including a number of Western brands, and visitors are reportedly flocking to Batumi’s casinos and nightlife. And only 62 miles from Batumi in the Adjaran highlands, the new Goderdzi ski resort is welcoming visitors for a year-round experience.

However, economic gains are primarily concentrated in urbanized, coastal regions. Government services have improved with reforms, but some locals report progress has slowed, especially in less-developed, agrarian highland areas.

Over the past year, my financial situation has pretty much stayed the same. My family’s only income is my grandfather’s pension. But, in general, I feel more free than I did a few years ago.
— Male, 20, Unemployed, Khulo District

Tourism development in the highlands and growing success in Adjaran agriculture could significantly help unemployment and increase the region’s prominence as an economic center in Georgia.