Sunday, 21 July 2019

GEORGIA: Russia Flight Ban Causes Tourism Losses To Georgia.

Residents of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi working in the hospitality industry are upset by Russia’s decision to bar its airlines from flying to Georgia amid bilateral tensions, as tourism will decrease just as the high season begins.

"It has affected tourist flow. Russian citizens often visit. I cannot give you specific information on the number of Russian nationals who are currently living in our hotel. But there are a lot of them", a representative of one of Tbilisi hotels said.

Owners of restaurants and taxi drivers predicted a decrease in Russian tourism, as well.

"It is, of course, very bad. It is the beginning of the season. Tourism is economy, money and investment", they said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended air traffic starting on 8 July, ordering that all Russian citizens currently in Georgia be returned.

Putin also instructed travel companies to remove package tours to Georgia for the ban period.

The Russian Association of Tour Operators said that there are currently some 5,000-7,000 Russians in Georgia on tours organized by travel companies, while up to three times more Russians are traveling on their own.

Putin’s decree was announced after violent protests erupted on Thursday in Tbilisi over the participation of a Russian delegation in an international parliamentary forum in country's capital.

They subsequently grew into an opposition rally with demonstrators calling on the government to step down.

At least 240 people were reportedly injured in the unrest, while around 300 people were detained.

Moscow has slammed the response of Georgian leadership during the international event and said it was outraged by the actions of the protesters.

The majority of people arriving in Georgia in early 2019 are Russians.

In the first quarter of 2019, 222,700 people arrived in Georgia from Russia, which is 21.4 percent of the total number of tourist arrivals. In comparison with the figure for 2018, this indicator has increased by 24.3 percent.

Such an increase in the number of Russians is taking place while the total number of visitors to the country has hardly grown.

In total, in the first quarter of 2019, Georgia was visited by a million foreign visitors, which is 1.7 percent more than the same period last year.

Of these, there were 900,000 tourists, those who stayed in the country for at least a day, this is just five percent more than last year.

In the first quarter of 2019, guests in the country spend about 1.2 billion lari about $437 million, which is 15.2 percent less than the same indicator for last year.

The average expenditure per visit decreased compared to last year by 16.1 percent and amounted to 889.7 lari about $323.

According to data released by the national statistics service, visitors spend the most money on food and drinks.

Tourism Observer

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