As stated by the Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, Giorgi Chogovadze, despite the fact that Georgia has endured very severe political and economic factors over the last months, the number of visitors grew by 14.7% and the number of tourists increased by 5% in May 2015.

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took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

First of all and to clarify, a visitor is an individual who travels from his native or permanent environment to a certain place, stays there for less than a year and is not employed. Those visitors who spend at least one night in a specific place are qualified as tourists.

According to the information of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, there were 454,000 visitors to Georgia in May 2015 which represents a 14.7% increase as compared to the same period of the previous year. According to the data of the first five months of 2015, there were 1,835,000 visitors to Georgia in total which represents a 2% increase (35,000) as compared to the same period of the previous year.

In regard to the number of tourists, there were 164,000 tourists in Georgia in May 2015. Consequently, the number of tourists rose by 5% as compared to the same period of the previous year. However, according to the data of the first five months of 2015, the number of tourists decreased by 3% (23,427) as compared to the same period of the previous year.

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took interest in those countries from which the largest amounts of tourists are coming to Georgia.

Table 1:

 Countries Where the Highest Growth of Tourists to Georgia (both Quantitative and Percentage) were Registered (January-May 2015)

Countries 2015 Difference (As compared to the same period of the previous year)
Belarus 42% 1,626
Armenia 33% 26,461
Lithuania 44% 1,372
Slovakia 63% 348
Uzbekistan 104% 1,193
Russia 43% 21,302
United Arab Emirates 840% 1,532
United States of America 36% 878

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also took interest in the numbers of tourists from the countries with which Georgia introduced visa requirements in September 2014. From these 24 countries on the visa requirement list, an increase of visitors was registered only from India. The number of Indian citizens who entered Georgia rose by 10% in January-May of this year. The highest number of visitors from these visa requirement countries usually came from Iraq. However, after the first five months of 2015, the number of visitors from Iraq dropped by 93% which in nominal numbers represents 6,678 visitors.

After the new visa regulations went into force in September 2014, together with the abolition of the visa-free regime for 24 countries, visa procedures for foreign citizens became more difficult. According to the new regulations, the State Services Development Agency was no longer authorised to issue visas and foreign nationals had to obtain Georgian visas in Georgia’s diplomatic representations and consulates abroad. Those foreigners with no diplomatic representation of Georgia in their countries had to address consulates and diplomatic representations located in countries with a close territorial proximity to Georgia. The new regulations also abolished the rule of obtaining a visa at the state border. These changes made the obtaining of Georgian visas even more difficult for those foreigners whose countries did not have a visa-free regime with Georgia before September 2014. Five months after the imposition of strict visa regulations (9 February 2015) an electronic portal for obtaining Georgian visas was launched which enables foreign nationals with the aim of tourism and business to obtain Georgian visas abroad without visiting a Georgian consular office.

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also took interest in the degree of impact had by the imposition of the new visa regulations and the introduction of electronic visas upon the number of visitors from those countries which have a visa regime with Georgia. We selected the top five countries in terms of their entries into Georgia.

Table 2:

Top Five Countries with a Visa Regime with Georgia in Terms of Entry into Georgia

2014 (September-December) 2015 (January-May)
Iran -84% -88%
Iraq -97% -88%
Egypt -84% -42%
China -42% -21%
India -27% 24%

As illustrated by the table the trend of declining numbers of visitors from these countries still continues. It must also be noted that in the last five months the drop in the number of visitors has decreased slightly which might be due to some extent to the introduction of the electronic visas.

Of particular mention is that the Government of Georgia adopted Decree N 255 on 5 June 2015 which envisages the prolongation of the duration of stay without visa for up to one year for nationals of 94 countries and territories. Moreover, citizens of the European Union can visit Georgia upon presentation of their personal ID cards or other travel documents. On 5 June 2015, the Government of Georgia adopted a second decree, N256, which determines more than 50 countries and territories whose visas and residence permits allow foreigners to visit Georgia without visas and stay in the country for 90 days out of 180-day period. Despite all of the changes, Georgia maintains a visa regime with 24 countries which lost the right of visa-free travel to the country dating from 1 September 2014. Georgia also maintains a visa requirement with Iran following the abolition of the former visa-free regime in July 2013.

In regard to June’s data which was published after Giorgi Chogovadze’s statement, the number of visitors rose by 9.3% as compared to the same period of the last year and reached 496,000. Taking those results into account, it is possible to assume that June’s amendments, which envisaged the relaxation of visa regulations, had a positive impact upon the number of visitors.

Conclusion

According to the information of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, the number of visitors for the first five months of 2015 reached 1,835,000 and represents a 2% increase as compared to the same period of the previous year. In regard to the number of visitors to Georgia, it dropped by 3% if we take the first five months of the year but registered a 5% increase if we compare May 2015 to May 2014.

In the wake of the imposition of strict visa regulations from 1 September 2014, the number of visitors from Iran, Iraq, China and Egypt remains decreased. However, according to the data of the first five months of 2015 the trend of decrease is slightly lower. It must be noted that the number of visitors grew by 9.3% in June 2015 as compared to the same period of the previous year.

FactCheck concludes that Giorgi Chogovadze’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

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