We are two co-founders at Caucasus explorer. I’m responsible for the Northern Caucasus. So I will tell about the North. Till now most of the places there are very real. I mean…
When you travel worldwide you can see that territories are losing their uniqueness, and tourists usually don’t touch the reality, they see the facade made specially for tourists. So what are people travelling for? In the olden days travelling was the way to touch something different, to jump into a situation full of uncertainty and freedom! That was the way to clean the mind from the conventions of one’s own culture and find the reality, find the real self.
And I love the Northern Caucasus because it is real till now. Of course the travel industry is coming. And there are few places which became resorts even in the 19th century. But when you travel in most of the regions here you see real life and you become a real guest of the people, not a tourist or a client.
And my biggest concern is how to develop tourism here not hurting traditional culture. It's like going on a rope over an abyss. I have to be a master of intercultural communications. Sometimes local people accept travellers as guests but they are not travellers, they are tourists who expect services and are afraid of being cheated. That hurts hearts and my relations with locals. Sometimes locals are so passionate in their hospitality, they cannot understand that travellers want to see many places and cannot spend too much time in one place. And every time I have to find a way to satisfy both sides.
But also I have down-to-earth, uninteresting difficulties… Border-zone permits! It takes 60 days to get them and success is not guaranteed. South Ossetia is a very closed country, unlike North Korea they don’t have a сlear and stable permit-issuing procedure till now. They say that the process takes one month but really it can take up to 3 months and it is very expensive. And also the Russian visa, which is expensive, difficult and takes a long time! If Russia starts giving a visa on the border, thousands of tourists travelling in Georgia will come to Ingushetia to see the unique Vainakh towers…
And I always get asked about security. I don’t understand why. Wars in the Caucasus finished 10 years ago. We have less terrorist attacks here than in Europe. But people still compare Chechnya and Dagestan with Afghanistan and Iraq!