Late last week, video of a horrifying scene at Gudauri Ski Resort in Georgia wherein passengers were flung from chairs as the thing accelerated backward wildly went viral. Ten people, nine of them tourists, were injured, according to reports. And it’s a surprise that more were not.
In the aftermath, the nation of Georgia has gone into damage control mode, offering to pay medical expenses for all of those injured in the accident, and trying to assuage safety concerns among prospective tourists.
Giorgi Chogovadze, head of Georgia’s tourism administration, expressed the government’s invitation to those injured and their families to return to Georgia, reports Al Jazeera.
“It made us very happy that all of them are interested and expressed their wish to visit us again. In the next winter season, those injured and their companions will be invited, and all of their expenses will be covered by the Georgian Mountain Resorts Development Company,” he said.
Over the years, Georgia has cultivated an image among tourists as a premier winter sports destination.
“The country’s image has somewhat suffered from this fact, of course,” said Chogovadze. “The tourism administration and other government bodies will increase efforts tenfold to improve the image, including by inviting journalists as well as [launching] advertisement campaigns.”
The heightened media coverage of the accident prompted Rustam Ibragimov, who was on the chairlift when it malfunctioned, to take to Facebook and write a lengthy post in defense of operators who have largely taken the blame. “Indeed, for some reason, both brakes did not work, the operator (the same cable man) could not do more,” he said. “The cable car rolled back according to my feeling about 300-400 meters. Indeed, everyone started jumping off the ski lifts, who was closer to the lower tower, the less fortunate, but some of them quickly reacted and jumped off. It’s good that the day before there was snowfall and the slope was soft. I myself had to jump 8 meters at high speed. It was scary, but there were no other options. Some rescuers were nearby. They very quickly all those who needed help were evacuated. I also helped everyone who needed help. At the moment 11 are injured, of them only one person is under the supervision of doctors, the rest feel good and they were helped in time. Everyone is alive.”
Between 2011 and 2017, Georgia saw a 365 percent increase in ski resort visitors, and the nation is hopeful the viral video doesn’t absolutely kill that growth. “Gudauri and Georgia’s other mountains are much loved. We hope the incident will not change that attitude,” said the Georgian Mountain Resorts Development Company in a statement.