Georgian Gov’t Offers Help to Tourism Sector after Russian Travel Ban

The Georgian government has decided to assist the country’s tourism sector by partially paying their bank loan interests in order to help the field develop after the Russian ban on flights with Georgia.

The statement was made by the Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze who said the government will help entrepreneurs involved in tourism, in particular owners of small and medium hotels, in co-financing loans.

“The most important thing for us is to support our citizens who are employed in the tourism sector, among them the most vulnerable group - owners of small and medium hotels. Many of them have bank loans, taken to develop the appropriate infrastructure, and we will help them co-finance the interest of these loans,” he announced.

The PM highlighted that these entrepreneurs took out loans in response to the fact that tourism was the fastest growing sector, and many of them planned to expand their hotels or to build a new one.

“Consequently, the mechanism we have created with the European Union, in cooperation with European institutions, is a credit warranty scheme that will be directed to those entrepreneurs employed in the tourism sector. All projects that have been planned and which now face obstacles [due to the Russian flight ban] will be assisted. No hotel construction should be stopped,” he stressed.

Bakhtadze also noted that the government will activate marketing campaigns abroad and contribute to launching new flights to Georgia.

"I have daily communication with the representatives of the tourism sector. The Ministry of Economy has developed this working plan based on the information they provided,” he added.

Georgia’s Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Natia Turnava, said the new program of grants will be launched from September for the owners of small and family-type hotels.

Turnava says the new program will be just one of the mechanisms used to assist the tourism sector affected by the Russian sanctions.

The Minister said that work is ongoing to co-finance the interest rates on bank loans and financing of marketing activities and added that the Ministry of Economy is working with the Ministry of Finance to do so. The service will also be utilized by the "Produce in Georgia" project.

Turnava says that apart from helping to pay the interest on loans, the Credit-Guarantee Scheme introduced by the government gives guarantees to the banks when owners of small and medium hotels want to expand their businesses and need loans.

“The Credit Guarantee Scheme will be fully oriented to these types of businesses and will offer an additional guarantee to banks, not only supporting existing businesses but also promoting their expansion and financing interesting projects,” she explained.

Regarding advertising Georgia abroad and attracting more foreign tourists, Turnava said by the end of July, up to 800 journalists and bloggers will be brought to Georgia to tell the world about it.

“We have an ongoing contract with CNN, Bloomberg and National Geographic where Georgia is advertised and popularized as being a safe and attractive country for tourists. Marketing plans and campaigns have been activated for the Baltic States, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine,” she said.

Bloggers and journalists will come to Georgia from the United States, Germany, Holland, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, as well as from the Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Israel, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The guests will visit various parts of Georgia and film resorts and tourist attractions, to prepare videos, reports and articles about Georgia as a tourist attraction and a safe country, with unique culture and diverse nature.

Georgian tourism faces challenges after Russian President Vladimir Putin imposed an embargo on direct flights with Georgia, which significantly reduced the inflow of tourists and visitors to the country- Russian tourists amount to around 25% of the total visitors annually.

By Thea Morrison

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18 July 2019 18:48