There has always been a bit of showman in Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s governing style. Now the Georgian president is pushing for an all-out merger between entertainment and politics with the aim of promoting tourism to Georgia.
The Georgian government is negotiating with an entity affiliated with MTV, the popular US cable television channel, about staging what could become an annual rock festival in the Black Sea resort of Batumi, according to the Prime Minister’s office.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement has not been made, confirmed talks are ongoing between the government and MTV.
If the deal goes through, a rock concert would dovetail neatly with Tbilisi’s penchant for using music to promote public policy. In this particular case, the main aim would be to give tourism a boost. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive].
Georgian officials are specifically hoping to replicate the success of The Isle of MTV Malta festival. That annual MTV-staged event, now in its fourth year, is responsible for bringing tens of thousands of additional tourists to Malta in each year the festival has run. According to the Malta Tourism Authority, over 50,000 visitors came to the latest free show on June 30 – headlined by Kid Rock, Kelis and other international music personalities.
In recent years, Saakashvili’s administration has repeatedly turned to local and international musical acts to both rally support for his government’s policies and to attract the attention of tourists. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive].
In late August, he told government officials that the number of foreign visitors every year should outnumber locals by 2013. “[I]f we work hard, we will reach … 10 million tourists,” he said during the August 30 meeting.
Over this past summer, Batumi hosted a bevy of concerts as Saakashvili and his government vigorously sought to promote tourism along the Black Sea Coast. The acts playing at these concerts ranged from unknowns to has-beens: Anglo-Irish balladeer Chris de Bourgh -- a one-hit wonder whose song The Lady in Red climbed to # 1 on the UK charts in 1986 – was perhaps the most prominent name to play in Batumi.
An MTV-sponsored event would be able to attract much bigger names to Batumi: The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Enrique Iglesias have headlined their Malta concerts in the past.
Earlier this year, the Georgian government was reportedly close to reaching a deal to have rock legend Stevie Wonder play in the country. However, those plans fell through when Wonder, now 60, said he could not travel to Georgia due to a scheduling conflict.
Molly Corso is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi.