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Kvevri, Khachapuri and the sea

The flow of foreign tourists to the country is growing annually, while the Georgians themselves hardly rest at home

Back in early April, more than 98% of hotels were booked during the May holidays in Tbilisi. “We expect an influx of tourists from the end of April, mainly tourists from Russia come to us due to the long May weekends,” says Maria Khokhlova, manager of the Tkemali Tour travel company. Despite the fact that thanks to the “elder brother”, Georgia lost Abkhazia in the early 1990s, and South Ossetia in 2008 and the fact that the Georgian special services called the occupation of Georgian territories the main danger for the country, tourists from the country with tricolor are accepted here with traditional Georgian hospitality. After all, every tourist is money.

Rest for foreigners

In the three months of 2018, tourism brought about $ 0.5 billion in revenue to the country – a third more than in the first quarter of last year. In 2017? the country received $ 2.8 billion from tourism in general, and this year experts predict that the figure will grow to $ 3 billion. The National Tourism Administration says: according to the national tourism development strategy, by 2025? Georgia will be known as a leading tourist country capable of providing world-class service at any time of the year. Experts are sure that tourism is the oil of Georgia. Here, like mushrooms after rain, hotels, tourist offices, cafes, wineries, souvenir shops grow.

Last year, 7.5 million foreigners arrived in the country, of which 3.4 million tourists, while 3.9 million live in Georgia itself. In the three months of 2018? 1.5 million international visitors visited Georgia, which is 196.5 thousand (15.5%) more than in the first quarter of 2017.

However, tourists from European countries are still in a noticeable minority – only about 9% of the total. Among them, most tourists from the UK, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and France. Ukraine, by the way, is in sixth place – last year 156 thousand of our compatriots visited Georgia.

Most often, residents of neighboring countries go to Georgia. So, in March of this year, the main tourist flows came from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Russia and Iran. The number of visitors from Israel, China, Iran, India and the USA is growing at a very active pace.

It is noteworthy that at the same time, domestic tourism in Georgia is almost not developing – in 2017? A little over 1 million Georgians rested in their country. The lion’s share of the country’s inhabitants either does not go on vacation at all, or prefers to relax abroad. Experts note: everything is to blame for the high cost of rest.

Halal tourism and Russians

Georgian prices are not scared of tourists from abroad, but rather attracted. So, despite the billions swelled into the development of Sochi and the Crimea solemnly squeezed from Ukraine, Russians are massively going to rest in Georgia. From the end of May, the low-cost Russian airline Pobeda will start flying from Rostov-on-Don to Batumi — flights are scheduled to be made twice a week. Victory has been flying to Georgia since November 2016 — it operates Moscow-Tbilisi flights with a landing in Rostov. From the end of May, sea links between the resort cities of Batumi and Sochi will be resumed.

Russian brands shoot commercials in Georgia, Russian showbiz stars come here to relax. If in 2008, after the start of the last Georgian-Russian military conflict, the Russian language was not held in high esteem, in recent years it can be heard everywhere. Patriotism wins the market – according to the National Bank of Georgia for 2017, each foreign tourist spends an average of $ 839 during his stay in the country.

Another unique phenomenon of the same order is the increase in the number of tourists from Muslim countries vacationing in traditionally Orthodox Georgia. This year, Georgia ranked 61st out of 130 in the Global Muslim Travel Index-2018. The rating assesses the conditions created for Muslims to relax: obtaining a visa, the availability of prayer, the possibility of a safe trip, the availability and quality of halal products, and hotel accommodation conditions. For example, the latter should not have alcohol, and the infrastructure (beaches, pools, spas) should be separate for men and women. There are no such hotels in Georgia yet, but tourists from Muslim countries prefer to rent apartments. But there is no problem with food – the number of halal restaurants is constantly growing in the country.

In addition to the inhabitants of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran, people also come here to rest from the UAE, Kuwait and Pakistan. Experts note: tourists from Muslim countries are attracted by the absence of visa problems, the presence of a large number of direct flights and a temperate Georgian climate. According to the Global Muslim Travel Index-2018, by 2020? Georgia will be among the ten most popular destinations for halal tourism among non-Muslim countries.

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