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21 Aug, 2007 03:33

Abkhazian Riviera attracts tourists from Europe

The Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia is becoming a favourite destination for thousands of tourists. Traditionally, it has attracted holiday-makers from all over Russia.

Located on the Black Sea coast, just a few kilometers away from the Russian resort of Sochi, the republic is famous for its subtropical climate, unique wildlife, historic landmarks and reasonable prices.

A room in a small family-run hotel can cost as low as $US 15 per night.  Local restaurants serve healthy food, with lots of home-grown vegetables and dairy products.

And with almost no advertising campaign, Abkhazia gets more attention from tourists by the year.

According to the region’s Ministry of Tourism, in 2007 the number of visitors has grown by 40% compared to last year. However, there’s still a lot to be done to provide comfortable accommodation and recreation facilities for all these people.

Abkhazia used to be a part of Georgia during the Soviet times, but in the early nineties it proclaimed independence. Georgia sent in its troops, starting a violent conflict that claimed thousands of lives. Over 280,000 ethnic Georgians fled the republic.

The CIS peacekeepers managed to stop the bloodshed and they still continue patrolling the border between Georgia and Abkhazia in the Gali region and the Kodori Gorge.

Even though the republic is not recognised by the international community, European tourists come here to make up their own mind about what’s happening in Abkhazia.

Adgur Butba, the owner of a fancy hotel in the centre of Abkhazia’s capital Sukhumi, says, “People are attracted by the fact that it’s much safer in Abkhazia now. So we try to provide a sufficient level of comfort for all our visitors.”

Just a few months ago the hotel was in ruins, but it was reopened in April and since then it has had hundreds of visitors from Turkey, Finland, Ukraine and the UK.

As the neighboring Sochi has been chosen to host the 2014 winter Olympics, Abkhazia is hoping to make its own contribution to the event. And although it might take a lot for things to settle in this republic, the locals are hoping that in the next few years their lives will finally get back to normal.