In one of his interviews with the media, the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili talked about the decrease in the number of tourists in the country. He said that the number of visitors from those countries with which Georgia has no visa regulations (Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and so on) has also shown a decrease. He explained this to be the result of the worsening economic situations in these particular countries. According to the Minister, visa regulations have also slightly influenced the number of visitors.

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of this statement and looked into it.

A visitor is a person who travels from his/her physical environment to a specific destination, stays there for less than a year and is not employed. All visitors spending even a single night in a specific location are categorised as tourists.

A total of 5,493,492 visitors entered Georgia in 2014 which was 2% more than in 2013. The number of visitors shows a trend of decrease in the first two months of 2015.

The largest annual inflow of visitors to Georgia is typically from its neighbouring countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine). We looked into the exact number of visitors from these countries by year.

Table 1:

 Number of Visitors from Neighbouring Countries in 2013 and 2014

2013 (12 months)

2013 (September-December)

2014 (12 months)

2014 (September-December)

Turkey

3%

1,597,428

23%

697,380

-10%

1,435,822

-35%

453,199

Armenia

40%

1,291,838

32%

466,212

2%

1,321,500

-3.6%

448,972

Azerbaijan

15%

1,075,857

15%

386,694

19%

1,282,222

9%

422,539

Russia

49%

767,396

4%

249,806

6%

810,233

0.9%

250,303

Ukraine

65%

126,797

59%

46,785

13%

143,157

7%

43,508

A total of 1,435,822 visitors entered Georgia from Turkey which is 161,616 people less than it was in 2013. Hence, the number of visitors from Turkey to Georgia decreased by 10%. This also decreased the overall number of visitors to Georgia by 3%. As for the current year, the number of visitors incoming from Turkey decreased by 7% in January and by 10.7% in February.

The number of visitors from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Georgia did not decrease in 2014. However, the number of visitors from Armenia decreased by 2.4% in January 2015. As for Azerbaijan, the number of visitors, much like the previous years, has been increasing in 2015 as well. It increased by 11.9% in January and 8.5% in February.

By number of visitors to Georgia, Russia and Ukraine hold the 4th and 5th

places, respectively. Despite the fact that the number of visitors from Russia to Georgia did not decrease in 2014, the growth rate went down significantly. The growth rate was 49% in 2013 whilst in 2014 it reached only 6% and fell by 7% in the first two months of 2015. As for Ukraine, the growth rate of visitors from this country reached 13% in 2014 whilst in 2015 it saw a 12.5% decrease.

Visa regulations, according to which Georgia cancelled visa free regimes with 24 countries from 1 September 2014, also had their effect upon the decrease in the number of tourists in the country. Five of these countries are amongst the top 30 countries with the number of visitors to Georgia. Given the fact that there are no exact statistical data describing the number of tourists entering Georgia from specific countries by months and years, we used the data about the number of incoming visitors to the country in order to analyse the results of the new visa regulations.

Table 2:

Change in Number of Visitors in % from Top 30 Countries (September-December 2012-2014)

Country 2013 2014 Country 2013 2014
Turkey 23% -35% Kazakhstan 45% 22%
Armenia 32% -3.6% UK 19% 19%
Azerbaijan 15% 9% France 20% -4%
Russia 4% 0.9% Belarus 58% 43%
Ukraine 59% 7% Bulgaria 0.03% 4.1%
Iran 0.93% -84% Italy 6% 9.3%
Iraq 253% -97% Egypt 47% -84%
Israel 23% 12% China -17% -42%
Poland 95% -4% Netherlands 48% -5.9%
Germany 20% 6% Philippines 33% -47%
USA -13% 3% Czech Republic 17.8% -3%
Greece 4% -5% Latvia 7.7% 34%
India -25% 27% Lithuania 0.5% 96%
Austria 3.9% 6% Moldova 51% 18%
Uzbekistan -36% 4% Spain 12.8% 86%

A total of 1,729,004 visitors entered Georgia from the top 30 countries in the last four months of 2014. The number of visitors from the countries with which Georgia introduced visa regulations decreased by 41,112 as compared to the previous years which constitutes 2.3% of the overall number of visitors.

A total of 25 of the abovementioned 30 countries showed a decrease in the number of visitors or a decreased in the growth rate. Despite the fact that Georgia has no visa regulations with 25 of these 30 countries, the number of visitors from eight countries of these 25 still went down. The number decreased by 15% as compared to the same period of 2013.

One of the reasons for the decrease in the number of tourists is the worsening economic situation in the region. The growth rate of the economy in the Commonwealth of Independent States fell in 2014. This is confirmed by the data of the International Monetary Fund which show that the overall economic growth in the Commonwealth of Independent States fell to 0.75%. However, if the decrease in the number of visitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States (2,290 people) was only from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the number of visitors from Russia and Armenia has also fallen in the first two months of 2015.

Conclusion

As the data above make clear, the number of visitors or the growth rate of this number in 25 of the top 30 countries by number of visitors to Georgia have decreased. The number of visitors from those countries with which Georgia introduced visa regulations since 1 September 2014 also went down which made for a 2.3% decrease in the overall number of visitors in the last four months of 2014.

The number of visitors from those countries with visa free regimes with Georgia decreased by 15% in the last four months of 2014. Among these countries, as stated by Mr Kvirikashvili, are Armenia and Turkey. He also added Azerbaijan to this list even though the number of visitors from this country increased and there has been no trend of decrease.

Apart from the countries with which Georgia introduced visa regulations since 1 September 2014, the number of visitors from the countries with visa free regimes with Georgia also went down. In addition, the number of visitors from countries with stable economies has also fallen. It should be pointed out that the decrease in the number of visitors does not only concern the countries from this region but shows a larger-scale character.

Hence, Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s statement is HALF TRUE.

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