Tourism Admin Head: Georgia May Lose 1 mln Tourists after Russian Ban on Flights

Georgia’s National Tourism Administration (GNTA) Head Mariam Kvrivishvili says that the Russian travel embargo on Georgia will likely lose the country around 1 million tourists this year.

Kvrivishvili said Georgia had expected around 1,700,000 Russian tourists to come to Georgia.

“The 2019 six-month data shows the country has already hosted 700,000 Russian tourists, which means that as a result of [Putin’s] travel ban with Georgia, which took effect on July 8, the country will lose around 1 million tourists and GEL 2 billion (around $ 713,979,722) income.”

The GNTA head also said that talks that the embargo will not hit the Georgian economy are “unserious.” She says other factors also contribute to the reduction of Russian tourist inflow, including direct propaganda from the Kremlin, which claims that Georgia is not safe for Russians, and constant traffic jams at the Lars checkpoint on the Georgian-Russian border.

“Tourism agencies operating in Russia are a direct source of business for our tourism sector. They were cooperating with our tourist companies and booking hotels, transport and guides. These people, according to our information, have been contacted by specific structures in Russia and told to cut tours to Georgia,” she said.

Kvrivishvili says Georgia cannot afford experiments to see how the country will manage with no Russian tourists at all.

“This is why we are doing our best to reduce the risks and effects of the Russian sanctions to the minimum,” she told Week of Forbes.

She also said she had held meetings with the representatives of the tourism sector throughout the country to better estimate the consequences of the sanctions.

"We were in Ajara, Batumi, Kakheti, and Kutaisi, as well as in the capital. Our problem and challenge is the private sector. Ajara and the seaside towns face the biggest challenge because a large number of reservations have been cancelled. Regrettably, in Kakheti, we have no better situation as the majority of bookings have been cancelled,” she noted.

Kvrivishvili says the private tourism sector is asking for measures to be taken to hold on to the Russian market as it is the largest consumer of Georgian tourism services. She said that a detailed action plan will be presented soon.

The recent data published by the Georgian National Tourism Administration reads that Russian tourists amounted to the largest part of visitors that Georgia hosted in June 2019.

In total, Georgia received 471,979 tourists last month, which is 71,990 visits more compared to the same time last year. In addition to this, in January-June 2019, Georgia hosted 3,862,444 international travelers, which is 8.4% more compared to the same period of 2018.

The GNTA reports that in June, the number of visits from Russia increased by 30.8%.

The list of top origin countries with the most visitors to Georgia last month is:

• Russia (+30.8%)

• Turkey (+45.8%)

• Azerbaijan (+8.8%)

• Armenia (+9.7%)

The National Tourism Administration also said that tourism plays one of the main roles in the country’s economy, adding that in January-May 2019, international tourism revenue reached $1.1 billion, which is $101 million more compared to the same period of 2018.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning Russian airlines from flying to Georgia and vice versa on June 21 in response to large-scale anti-Russian occupation rallies in Tbilisi.

By Thea Morrison

Image source: Travel in Georgia

08 July 2019 17:47