On July 25, 2019, Sputnik Georgia released an article headlined “Tbilisi emptied of tourists” (Опустел без туристов Тбилиси). Sputnik claims that according to expert assessments, tourist season will be thwarted this year, because a great part of Russian tourists changed their plans to travel to Georgia. The article is accompanied by a video featuring respondents talking about decline in Russian tourist arrivals.
Sputnik correspondent also talked to an owner of one of the souvenir shops located at Kote Apkhazi Street in downtown Tbilisi, who noted that three hotels and two restaurants had been closed in the area, because Russian tourists are no longer arriving and it resulted in the loss of incomes. The shop owner does not specify either the names of closed hotels and restaurants or the dates of their closure.
To verify the information, the Myth Detector contacted Sputnik Georgia and asked it to provide the names of allegedly closed restaurants and hotels. The editorial board responded that they would provide information once the author of the article returns to work after vacation.
The Myth Detector managed to find and talk to the owner of the shop with the help of the image and video accompanying the article. The latter, however, said that she did not know the names of closed hotels and restaurants, adding that the information was provided by another person.
The Myth Detector also tried to recheck the information about closure of the above mentioned facilities with the employees of other shops, but neither did they have any information about closed restaurants and hotels.
In recent times, both Russian and pro-Kremlin Georgian media outlets are actively promoting a narrative as if tourism has been thwarted in Georgia due to Russia’s ban on direct flights. Such manipulations aim at sowing fear in the society and portraying the dependence of Georgia’s economy on Russia in an exaggerated manner. According to the research conducted by TBC Research, in July 2019 number of tourists in Georgia increased by 3.7% year-on-year.