Georgian tourism growth to remain positive despite flight ban, new report claims

In the two weeks since Russia banned its airlines from flying to Georgia, the number of Russian tourists travelling to Georgia has decreased by 21.4 per cent to around 41,400 in a year-on-year comparison. However, the Georgian tourism sector is still on course for growth.

According to a report from Georgia’s TBC Bank, while arrivals by plane to Georgian airports dropped by 78.6 per cent year-on-year between July 8 and 23, arrivals by car or other means showed only a slight, 1.7 per cent decrease during the same period.

TBC analysts noted that despite the ban of direct flights, “a significant number of Russian citizens still arrived by plane, suggesting the alternative routes are already active and are expected to increasingly substitute direct flights” to Georgia.

“Indirect arrivals of visitors by plane coupled with only a moderate decline of arrivals through other means of transportation indicate that Georgia still remains an attractive destination for Russian tourists,” the report said.

The bank’s analysts expect the total number of tourists visiting the country in 2019 to remain on a positive trajectory (3.2 per cent growth on 2018). “The initial period following the restrictions is likely to be the toughest but a more active marketing campaign targeting other countries has been launched and therefore tourism inflows may strengthen,” the report concludes.

Russian president Vladimir Putin introduced a flight ban to Georgia from July 8 following mass protests in Tbilisi against Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).