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EU support transformed traditional hospitality into family business in Juta, Kazbegi


Located 2,200 meters above the sea level, the village of Juta in the municipality of Kazbegi, is one of the highest settlements in Georgia, which is situated on the main ridge of the Caucasus mountain range. Over the years Juta has become the favourite destination of hikers, tourists and those people who just want to spend holidays in the fresh air. With its bare rocks, lakes and unique views Juta easily attracts adventurers. The synthesis of Juta’s peaks and mountains, glaciers and gorges, rivers and lakes, hospitality of the local population and the centuries of mountain activities, creates exotic atmosphere, which encourages adventurers to buy waterproof shoes, get warm clothes and prepare to hike a mountain for sunrise.  In the evening, it is pleasant just to sit outside, drink local tea, get warm with scarf wrapped around the shoulders and enjoy fresh air, unique nature, friendly environment and new adventures. Here, in such fantastic environment, a family hotel is located. The hotel is now headed by Tamar Arabuli, who is oriented towards creating unforgettable impressions and maximum comfort for the guests.

Tamar Arabuli grew up in a family who hosted one of the first tourists of Juta. Everything started about 16-17 years ago, when Tamar was 16 years old. That time tourists rarely knew about Kazbegi municipality. A foreigner guest visited Tamar’s relative’s family. Due to the certain circumstances they asked Arabuli’s family to give a night’s stay to their guest. Tamar’s parents accepted the offer and hosted the guest for free. There were several other occasions when the family hosted some gusts of their villagers.  Very soon the demand increased, and the Arabuli’s family decided to turn this activity into a business.

The Arabuli family has been hosting local or international travellers for 12 years at their own home. Over time, the family has improved hospitality business and offered additional services to the guests. Family hotel was mainly headed by Tamar’s parents, Tamar herself was less involved in the business. The number of guests was growing annually while the family had only two rooms which could accommodate about 5-6 people. The family realised that it was time to expand the hotel and improve its conditions. With the two-years of savings the family decided to build an isolated hotel. At this time Tamar Arabuli decided to lead this new initiative.

„The fact that we were receiving guests but could not feel free, was bothering me. I wanted to offer more to our guests; to create comfortable and desirable environment for them. I wanted to have an isolated room, where tourist would be able to lock the door and rest comfortably. This was impossible at our house. It was necessary to arrange more rooms and an isolated bathroom as well to be able to host several people at the same time as the demand was quiet high”, said Tamar Arabuli.

In order to expand their activities, the Arabuli family started construction of a new hotel in summer. The works completed soon, in spring. Next to the Arabuli family house, in the same yard, the two-storey building was built with 5 rooms, where about 15-16 people were are able to be accommodated. Depending on the guests’ interests, it is also possible to provide accommodation for 20 people.

However, the completion of the construction was not enough to develop a business. Family savings was not enough to fully cover the cost of inventory for the new hotel.  Accordingly the goal was still not achieved. At that time, Tamar Arabuli learned about the EU ENPARD program and Kazbegi Development Group and set a goal to make the hotel operational with the support of EU.

Tamar was born and grew up in Juta. After she finished school, Tamar continued studies in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. By profession Tamar is an economist, specialising in banking and audit. She tried to start her own business while studding in Tbilisi and during certain time she headed one stationery shop in the city. Later she started working at the Larsi customs point and returned to her hometown: in summer she was alone in Kazbegi or with parents in Juta. Meanwhile in winter, as the road leading to Juta was closed that period, Tamar was staying in Kazbegi and spending her free time there.

 „In parallel with my work there has always been an idea to continue my family’s business and to expand it”, said Tamar. 

As already mentioned, the new hotel needed inventory. For this reason Tamar addressed EU’s partner organisation ‘People In Need” and EU-supported Kazbegi Development Group and submitted an application. Meanwhile, the hotel was still under repair and Tamar had to be in Juta, sometimes in Kazbegi.

„The trainings carried out with EU ENPARD support was very useful and helped me a lot. With the help of the Kazbegi Local Development Group, I looked at issues including travel and tourism services, financial activities, service sphere, in a simpler way. They supported us a lot. They were offering to arrange the trainings in accordance with our interests. They were involved in the process of writing a plan, creating a project and an application”, said Tamar. 

Friends also helped Tamar in writing a project. Despite the fact that over the years Tamar has been involved in family business management and had experience in serving the tourists, she still had a lot of questions to her parents, who were constantly helping her to overcome the challenges. Tamar received many advices from her father about business development, relationship with guests and planning of various services. Meanwhile, mother was actively involved in organising the kitchen-related issues.

Finally, Tamar’s initiative was financed by EU and a hotel was equipped all necessary inventory. The family was able to purchase kitchen equipment, technique, beds, wardrobes, nightstand and bedside tables, outdoor lightning and other facilities with the support of the ENPARD project and the EU co-financing, which totalled 18,200 GEL.

Now it was necessary to arrange the yard to make the hotel fully operational. Due to the climatic conditions, it was impossible to plant fruit trees in Juta. So it was decided to make the hotel surrounding areas beautiful with different kind of flowers. Now the Arabuli family was able to meet the tourists with comfortable and hospitable environment where Tamar could offer different kind of traditional services such as homemade ecologically clean products, planned tours, car service from regional centre to Tbilisi, to organise horse riding… In addition, many innovations are planned for the future. Tamar’s mother is going to offer master-classes in domestic animal care and in making dairy products.

„There were cases when the tourists refused to hike or to have walk in Juta and preferred to follow my mother with their cameras and watch how she was milking cow or making cheese. They were interested in not only watching this process but to involve in it as well. Milking cow and making cheese or matsoni [Georgian yogurt] is something exotic for them. My mother is surprised that tourists who have visited so many countries and have seen so many things in their lives are still surprised about how local people take care of domestic animals in Juta”, says Tamar.

When the Arabuli family hosted their first tourists they rarely knew about tourism industry. Demand was increasing and the service standards was improving at the same time. Today there is no tourist season in Juta as the village has developed into four-season mountain resort over the years. The Arabuli family could not even imagine that several years later it would be possible to host the tourists in winter as well. For the third winter in a row the tourists are not afraid of the closed roads. They continue to visit Juta in winter as well and enjoy its bare rocks while spending nights at Arabuli’s family hotel.

Earlier there was no information about the hotel and the guests were mainly finding the family hotel thanks to the recommendations from their friends.

 „It is like a chain reaction. I remember too many cases when new guests arrived at out hotel on the advice of already hosted tourists; they show us photos of their friends taken at our hotel. Such things happen very often. Tourists share their experience with each other, saying that there is a family in Juta who can properly host them”, says Tamar.

Today Tamar is waiting tourists from various countries of the world: Israel, France, Germany, Russia, Baltic countries.

The Arabuli’s hotel has an important role in developing the region. The hotel is able to host 3-4 people: driver, guide and kitchen staff. Despite the fact that Tamar’s parents can handle all the work themselves, with the help of other people, the work becomes much easier. The family plans to employ more people in the future.

Other families, who are involved in the same business, also contribute to the development of the region. Before the construction of a new hotel about 3-4 families used to host tourists in Juta. However, in the recent period, the number of tourists has increased significantly. Almost every family in Juta thinks about expanding their business, while those still not involved in it, are willing to join.

„If we expand our activities, more tourists will visit Juta, more people will be employed and they will earn more money”, says Tamar.

„If not ENPARD, development of my business would take more time as it was related to finances, which I have not had. My family could not afford hotel repair works. The EU helped a lot. Today when I go to Juta and look at new hotel, I realize how much relief this co-financing was for us. It was possible the development of our business to be interrupted for years. Or there was another option, to take a loan for being able to continue business activities”, says Tamar.

Today Tamar’s goal is to maximally meet the requirements of the tourism market and never satisfied with the achieved goals. She intends to raise awareness of the hotel not only in Georgia but abroad as well. For this reason in the nearest future Tamar will launch a new website of the hotel and will become active in social networks as well, where the guests will be able to received detailed information about the Arabuli’s family hotel in Juta.

Relationship with people from other cultures has become part of the Arabuliy’s life. It is impossible to lead such business and not be a communicative person. Experience shows that the Arabuli family manages to create a friendly atmosphere for all types of people.

„I never get tired of this business. On the contrary, we have hosted many visitors who have gaven us beautiful, memorable evenings. We are in communication with many people but I cannot remember any negative experience. This winter we hosted four men from France. Mainly, my mother was hosting them. They were so friendly with my mother, helping her in everything, and we got closer easily. When the guests were leaving our hotel, my mother could not hold her tears”, says Tamar.

The Arabuli family are waiting for the guests at their new hotel. The number of visitors is high and so are the expectations.

„We want the new hotel to work with full capacity, but if the number of visitors will be very high, we will host them at our home as well. We hope for a great summer!”- says Tamar.

Author: Tea Ghvinadze