Buffalo Trace Newsletter reprinted an article from Agence France-Press (AFP) with this headline – Georgia Toasts Tourists With Alcoholic Fountain. I knocked over my coffee in the rush to book a flight to Atlanta, and then realized the Georgia in question was the country not the state.
Georgia is a sovereign state (ex-Soviet Union) in the Caucus mountain region on the border between Europe and Asia. It seems that they have been pushing hard to attract tourists to the city of Batumi, an up and coming party town on the Black Sea coast. Past attraction efforts have included wedding cake buildings, Dubai-style glass towers and an upcoming aerial tramway. The new venture is a fountain that dispenses local booze.
The Mayor of Batumi (who I picture sounding like Borat) had this to say about it, “Once a week, for 10 to 15 minutes, Chacha will flow from this fountain instead of water. Tourists will have an opportunity to taste the traditional drink.”
In case you didn’t know (I sure did not) Chacha is a clear strong liquor made from grape using the pomace — grape residue after making wine — or what I like to think of as seeds and stems. In other words it’s like Grappa.
My research on Chacha revealed that it is a term used in Georgia to refer to any type of moonshine made of fruit, although it mainly refers to grape distillate. But here’s the best part – many Georgians claim it has medicinal properties. Among other things it’s said to help remedy “ear blockages” and indigestion. Also, Chacha is supposedly a cure for stomachaches by “applying to the abdomen.” I’m not sure if that works best before or after drinking the booze.
Let’s get back to the fountain. It will be part of a minaret-like tower that will also house an observation deck and a pool, which unfortunately will not be filled with Chacha. At least, not for now.
I wonder how tourists will drink from this fountain? Do you bring a cup or do you buy one at the site? Can you just stick your head under the flowing Chacha? Is there a time limit per person or can you drink for 10 to 15 minutes?
Above all, as a marketer, I wonder why countries don’t understand the concept of branding. Georgia is a brand whose equities can be marketed in a number of different ways to increase tourism but also overall economic development. A fountain of booze is a tactic not a strategy.
But, then again, I read that Georgia has cancelled visa requirements for Russian citizens and expects an influx of tourists from that country. Booze from a fountain may cause a friendly invasion.
Here’s the building that will house the fountain.