In Q1 of 2023, the inflow of international visitors to Georgia showed a significant recovery compared to the pre-pandemic numbers. In particular, the number of international visits reached a total of 1.1 million, which is 106% higher compared to Q1 of 2023 and amounts to 79.9% of the pre-pandemic (Q1 of 2019) total. Of note, tourist visits (i.e. international visits including at least one overnight stay) almost recovered to the pre-pandemic number (4.2% lower compared to Q1 of 2019) and reached 845,322 visits. This could be attributed to the increased global demand for tourism services after the end of the pandemic and non-tourism-related factors (e.g. the continuation of the large-scale migration/inflow of Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians since the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian War). Notably, the official declaration of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 11th of May 2023 is also expected to positively impact tourism recovery.
In Q1 of 2023, Russia was the biggest source country of visitors to Georgia, with 256,787 visits, which is equal to 24% of total international visits (5 pp higher compared to 2019). Pertinently, the number of visits by Russian citizens showed a significant year-on-year increase (257.7%), exceeding the pre-pandemic number as well (by 1.1%). In terms of the number of visits, the second and third source countries were fellow neighbors Turkey (20% of total visits, exceeding its pre-pandemic number by 7.6%) and Armenia (17% of total visits, still 21.5% below its pre-pandemic number).
Among the top 10 source countries, the number of visits from Belarus exceeded the pre-pandemic number by 181%, followed by Kazakhstan (85.2%), Israel (79.2%), and India (23.4%). On the other hand, the smallest recovery among the top 10 was recorded by Azerbaijan (86.2% lower compared to Q1 of 2019), which is directly attributed to the closure of its land borders.
INCOME FROM INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL IN Q1 OF 2023
Despite only a partial recovery in the number of international visitors in Q1 of 2023, income from international travel exceeded the pre-pandemic level significantly. In particular, in Q1 of 2023, income from international travel reached USD 795.4 million, which is 102% higher compared to Q1 of 2022 and 38% higher compared to Q1 of 2019. Significantly, the recovery has been gradual, but since Q3 of 2022 income from international travel has been exceeding the pre-pandemic number for the corresponding periods. Factors such as the partial inclusion of long-term travelers in the calculations, increased average length of stay, and the relative recovery of international tourism as a whole have all played a role in this steep increase in income.
In terms of nationality, income from Russian travelers was highest in Q1 of 2023 and amounted to USD 266.4 million (33.5% of total income from international travel), which is 29% higher compared to 2019. In this regard, Russia was followed by Turkey (12% of total income), which marked a recovery to 64% of the pre-pandemic number, and the EU (recovering to only 38% of its pre-pandemic number, and contributing 9% of total income).
Among the top countries, the income recovery rate was the lowest for Saudi Arabia (recovering to just 10% of its pre-pandemic figure) and Azerbaijan (36%). Meanwhile, after Russia, the highest recovery rates were recorded by Ukraine (78%) and Israel (68%).
According to the National Bank of Georgia, as of 31 March 2023, 35.5% of Russian citizens, 23.7% of Ukrainian citizens, and 44% of Belarusian citizens residing in Georgia were estimated to have been living in the country for one year or intending to stay for more than one year. According to IMF methodology, they are treated as Georgian residents, and their expenses are not included in the calculations of income from international travel.
HOTEL PRICE INDEX IN GEORGIA
In April 2023, in Georgia the hotel price index decreased by 0.2% compared to March 2023. The 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star hotel price index increased by 1.5%, while for guesthouses, the price index decreased by 20.5%. The monthly HPI was the highest in Kakheti (8.5%) and lowest in Shida Kartli (-10.6%).
In April 2023, compared to April 2022, hotel prices in Georgia increased by 5.0%. The prices of 3*, 4*, 5* hotels increased by 4.0% and the prices of guesthouses increased by 7.1%. The yearly HPI was the highest in Guria (25.2%) and lowest in Racha (-12.9%).
THE AVERAGE HOTEL PRICES IN GEORGIA
In Georgia, the average cost of a room in a 3-star hotel was 157 GEL per night in April 2023, while the average cost of a room in a 4-star hotel in Georgia was 247 GEL per night and the average cost of a room in a guesthouse was 115 GEL per night.
The average cost of a room in a 5-star hotel in Georgia in April 2023 was 373 GEL per night. In Kakheti, the average price was 548 GEL, followed by Tbilisi – 452, Samtskhe-Javakheti – 354, and Guria – 328.