Speaking in the interview with Obieqtivi TV’s “Gamis Studia” (Night Studio) program on June 7, Jondi Bagaturia, leader of the Georgian Troupe party, said that Russia is Georgia’s main donor in terms of tourism and tourists with highest spending power are just arriving from Russia. He noted that after Russia banned direct flights to Georgia, the National Movement celebrated this fact, while the Georgian population suffered a huge loss.
Jondi Bagaturia, Georgian Troupe: “Until the National Movement keeps its feet on the ground, there will be no peace in this country. These people were celebrating when Russia - the main donor of tourists to Georgia, the best tourists, highest-spending tourists - banned [the flights] and these people were celebrating, making no secret of it… Do you know how many families faced a tragedy; they all had taken loans to run hotels, cafes, restaurants; how many families got ruined…They [the National Movement] are not denying themselves anything, feeling quite comfortable in the Parliament.”
Jondi Bagaturia’s statement as if highest-spending tourists are arriving in Georgia from Russia is disinformation as well as a continuation of the narrative that tourism industry will collapse without Russia.
- How much do Russian citizens spend during their stay in Georgia?
According to the 2019 report of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, Russian citizens spend much less money than international visitors from European, American and Asian countries. The United States leads the list with the highest spending level (GEL 3,813 per tourist), followed by Saudi Arabia – GEL 3,632; the United Arab Emirates – GEL 2,453; the United Kingdom - GEL 2,438; Czech Republic – GEL 2,142; France – GEL 2,101, etc. Russian citizens spend GEL 1,282 on average
It is worth noting that average length of stay among tourists from Europe and other countries exceeds average length of stay among Russian tourists. Average length of stay among tourists from Central and Eastern Europe is 7.9 nights; the rest of Europe – 7.8 nights; other countries – 8.5 nights. Average length of stay among Russian tourists was 5.9 nights in 2019.
The situation was almost the same in 2018. Russian tourists stayed in Georgia for fewer nights as compared to the tourists from European countries: Russia – 6.3 nights; Central and Eastern Europe – 7.7 nights; the rest of Europe – 8.3 nights.
Although total spending by Russian tourists amounted to GEL 2.1 billion in 2019, a total amount of spending by tourists from other countries exceeded GEL 6.3 billion, proving that Georgia does not depend on Russian tourists only and in case of further market diversification, this figure may even improve that will make Georgian economy less vulnerable to Kremlin’s political decisions.
The Myth Detector wrote about the same topic last year, providing the 2018 statistical data.
- Despite Russia’s flight ban, number of tourists increased in 2019.
The attempt by Russian MP from the Communist Party, Sergei Gavrilov to address the delegates of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) during its 26th session in Russian from the Georgian Parliament Speaker’s seat triggered opposition’s protest as well as unrests outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi on June 20. Protest rallies outside the Parliament building overgrew into the confrontation between civilians and police overnight, prompting the latter to use rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
Following the June 20 developments in Tbilisi, Russia imposed ban on direct flights to Georgia from July 8, upon President Putin’s decision. Nevertheless, according to the research conducted by TBC Research in July 2019, following Russia’s flight ban, number of tourists increased by 3.7% y/y. According to the data of National Statistics Office of Georgia, total number of tourists increased throughout 2019 as compared to 2018. 7,725,774 international visitors arrived in Georgia in 2019 against 7,203,350 a year earlier. So, it can be said that number of tourists increased by 7.2%.
According to the statistical data of Georgian National Tourism Administration, in 2019, Georgia earned USD 3.3 billion from international travelers that is by USD 47 million (1.4%) more compared to the previous year.
According to the data for January 2020, Georgia had most visitors from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and Turkey. Growth tendency was again observed in respect of the EU countries with number of international visits increasing from Italy (133.1%), Poland (82.9%), France (46.8%), Lithuania (43.7%) and others.
The identical narrative as if Georgia economically depends on Russia and the loss of Russian tourists due to the June 20 anti-occupation protests caused damage to the country was widely circulating in Russian as well as pro-Kremlin Georgian media outlets in 2019.
Such manipulations aim at sowing fear among the population and promoting an opinion that Georgia’s economy depends on Russia.
Prepared by Maiko Ratiani