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Prior to the pandemic, Georgia’s revenues from international travel had been growing annually. In 2019, Georgia’s tourism revenues amounted to USD 3.2 billion. According to the statistics of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, tourism accounted for 8.4% of the GDP in 2019. Tourism revenues are particularly important for countries like Georgia with developing economies which need large volumes of capital for development. As result of the pandemic, the tourism sector took a serious hit, particularly in 2020 when stringent pandemic-induced restrictions virtually paralysed international tourism and caused a sharp drop in domestic tourism.

The Georgian National Tourism Administration publishes statistics on international travellers. An international traveller is a non-resident person of any age who moves between different geographic areas for different durations and purposes. This term encompasses both tourists and migrants (who remain in a country for more than six months for study, work, family reunion and other purposes) as well as those individuals who used Georgia as a transit country. International visitors are travellers over 15 years of age and non-residents of Georgia who made a visit outside of their natural environment to Georgian territory whilst a tourist is a visitor who spent a night in Georgia.

In 2019, the number of visits of international travellers amounted to nearly 9.3 million with the number of tourists comprising approximately 5 million of this number. For 2021, the number of visits of international travellers was nearly 1.9 million (a fivefold decrease as compared to 2019) whilst tourist visits amounted to 1.6 million (a 3.2-fold decrease).

Table 1: Dynamic of Visits of International Travellers in 2017-2021

Source: Georgian National Tourism Administration

Naturally, the recovery of the number of tourist visits as compared to the pre-pandemic period (2019) is the most interesting indicator. In the first six months of 2022, 1.6 million international travellers visited Georgia which equals a 42% recovery as compared to the same figure of 2019. Among other things, the number of visits of tourists is close to 1.2 million which means a 56.8% recovery as compared to 2019.

As compared to the first six months of 2021, the number of visits of international travellers increased 3.3 times in 2022 whilst the number of tourists increased 2.8 times. In regard to 2020, a comparison of six-month data here is irrelevant since 1.3 million international travellers visited Georgia which in the first three months of 2020 when the stringent restrictions had not yet been imposed and accounts for 93% of the number of total travellers in 2020. In terms of international visitors to Georgia, Turkey is at the top (262,000) followed by Russia (247,000) and Armenia (196,000).

Table 2: Dynamic of Visits of International Travellers in 2019-2022

Source: Georgian National Tourism Administration

In June 2022, the biggest number of visitors to Georgia came from: Russia – 90,239 visits (annual growth 502.9%), Turkey – 62,192 visits (annual growth 110.1%), Armenia – 61,974 visits (annual growth 364.5%) and Georgia (non-resident) – 22,143 visits (annual growth 103.8%). Of interest is that nearly 42,000 visitors came to Georgia from Belarus in 2022 which is almost 2.1 times higher as compared to the 2019 figure. It is understood that more and more people are coming to Georgia from Russia and Belarus because of political and economic reasons, including the motivation to escape the problems related to the sanctions against these countries. The dynamics of visitors from Russia in 2018-2019 are also of interest. As opposed to Belarus, the number of Russian visitors in March-June 2022 did not exceed the pre-pandemic figure and the dynamics of the percentage distribution of Russian visitors vis-à-vis the total number of visitors is more or less similar. However, visitors from Russia increased sharply in June 2022 as compared to the previous months both in absolute and relative terms.

Table 3: Number of International Visitors from Russia and Their Share in Total Number of Visitors (%)

Source: Georgian National Tourism Administration

The National Bank of Georgia publishes the statistics of the revenues generated from international travel. At the moment, data for the first five months of 2022 are available. Revenue from international travel amounted to USD 840 million which is a 75.3% recovery as compared to 2019 and is 4.7 times higher as compared to the 2021 figure. These are reassuring statistics given the ongoing pandemic. Of interest is that out of the USD 840 million, revenues from Russia account for nearly USD 150 million which is almost 18% of the total revenues. In terms of relative figures, revenues from Russia have not increased as compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Table 4: Revenues from International Travel (USD Million)

Source: National Bank of Georgia