Land borders opened, curfew remains in place - gov't expects a recovery of local tourism
News ArchiveJune 03, 2021
Land borders opened, curfew remains in place - gov't expects a recovery of local tourism 

After a 14-month pause from June 1,  Georgia's land borders have opened to all foreign citizens who can present a COVID-19 vaccine certificate or a negative PSR test result taken within 72 hours before arriving in the country. 

With the onset of the tourist season the government decided to speed up the opening of the borders in order to attract foreign tourists. Otherwise, the country’s tourism sector would not have endured a second season without tourists. Apart from that, a significantly improved epidemiological situation after two large-scale lockdowns made it possible. 

Georgia’s air borders have been opened a few months ago, but the opening of the land borders was vital for tourism, since a majority of tourists arrive in Georgia from neighboring countries, they accounted for more than 70% of the tourist flow in the pre-pandemic period. 

The backbone of Georgian tourism are still low-income foreigners who prefer cheaper land transport. 

In 2019 Georgia was visited by 7.7 million foreign nationals, of which 74.8% arrived in the country by land transport, 23.8% by air, 1% by rail, 0.5% by sea. It’s worth mentioning that despite the steadily increasing share of land transportation, its share was still decreasing in comparison with previous years - in 2012 land transport accounted for 87% of all tourists arriving in the country. In 2018, the share of land transport decreased to 73.8%, and a 1% increase in 2019 was caused by the Russian tourist embargo and a ban on air traffic between Georgia and Russia. In 2019 Azerbaijan was in the lead in the number of tourists visiting Georgia - 1.5 million people, followed by Russia - 1.4 million, Armenia - 1.3 million, Turkey - 1.1 million. 

In 2019, the share of tourists from neighboring countries stood at 72.1% in the total tourist flow. This figure is decreasing but it is still very high (79.6% in 2015). In 2019, Georgia earned $ 3.3 billion in tourism revenue, in 2020 this figure was expected to increase to $ 3.5 billion but the plans were thwarted by a COVID-19 pandemic that caused losses in the amount of more than $ 3 billion. 

According to the Georgian National Tourism Administration, 82,519 foreign nationals arrived in the country in April that is 145% more than in April 2020. Compared with the pre-pandemic 2019 levels, a drop is drastic - in April 2019 Georgia was visited by 549,761 foreigners while in April - by 34,321. In April 2021, 21 106 people arrived from Turkey (48% more than in April 2020), from Israel 10 098 (+13 925%), from Russia 8518 (+ 125%), from Armenia 8 331 ( + 4%), from Ukraine 5922 (+ 404%), from Azerbaijan - 5287 (+ 293%), from Uzbekistan - 2711 (+ 293%), from Kazakhstan - 1639 (+ 285%), from Belarus - 1463 ( + 77%). 

The softening of the night curfew will also boost the growth of the tourist flow to Georgia - since May 17 movement restrictions are valid from 11 pm to 5 am. The recovery of the tourism industry depends not only on internal, but also on external factors such as the epidemiological situation in the partner countries, and in case of worsening, the borders might be closed again. A slow pace of vaccinations in Georgia can also hamper an increase in tourist arrivals. The Georgian government expects that in the coming months the number of foreign tourists will reach 50% of the 2019 levels, it’s forecasted that in June the country will be visited by 350,000 tourists, in July 440,000, in August, at the peak of the season – by 500,000 visitors.