The FINANCIAL -- Georgia hosted 1,006,267 international travellers during the first three months of 2014, up from 935,358 during the first quarter of 2013. The number has shown growth of 70,909 travellers, or 8%, this year.
Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and Ukraine complete the list of the top 5 countries from which Georgia hosted the largest number of travellers. Despite the political tensions, travellers from Ukraine and Russia have increased by 51% and 41% respectively during the first quarter of 2014, in comparison with the same period of 2013.
With 87.7%, land is the main means of transport for international travellers visiting Georgia. It is followed by air, making up 10.5%. The rest is occupied by railway (9,578) and sea - 7,285. Despite its small share, a quarterly comparison has shown the largest growth to be in air passengers. 18,468, or 21%, more passengers travelled to Georgia during the first three months of 2014, compared with the same period of last year. Travellers entering Georgia by land have increased by 7%, and 3% more have travelled by railway. The only reduction was recorded in passengers crossing the sea border. 20% fewer travellers came to Georgia by sea than during the same three months of 2013.
Georgia expects to have 18% growth of international travellers during the current year, in comparison with 2013, according to the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA). Georgia hosted 5,392,303 international travellers in 2013. The results of the first quarter have already reflected this growth.
The number of international travellers in Georgia is expected to exceed 6 million during 2014. In 2013 the country had 26% growth of tourists and was named ‘star performer’ by the World Tourism Administration.
Out of the top 15 countries by arrivals the largest increase of visitors during the first three months of 2014 was from Poland (147%), followed by Iraq (69%), Ukraine (51%), Russia (41%), Armenia (30%) and Azerbaijan (28%). GNTA runs active campaigns on its target markets abroad: Germany, Azerbaijan, Austria, the Netherlands and Israel. As a result of its promotional activities GNTA expects visitors from Ukraine to double. Significant growth is expected from Poland, Azerbaijan and Armenia too.
A total of 9,887 Iranians travelled to Georgia in 2014, down from 15,683 from the figure of the first three months of 2013. With negative change of 5,796, or 37%, Iran is the leading country out of the top 15 by arrivals from which the number of travellers has decreased in 2014. It is followed by Turkey, out of which 22% less citizens travelled to Georgia, the UK - 14%, Israel - 11% and the USA - 10%.
With 977,734 Europe is the top region by arrivals to Georgia. It is followed by East Asia and the Pacific from which 16,513 arrived to Georgia in 2014. 5,454 Americans visited Georgia during the current year. 5,264 were from the Middle East and the number of Africans reached just 993.
Okace Canyon is one of the main sightseeing areas of Georgia that will host its first visitors in June 2014. According to the Agency of Protected Areas, the visitors’ centre, hiking trails and public toilets are all currently still under construction.
A 1,200 meter hanging trail is being built along the Canyon. The Okace Canyon project is being financed from the state budget and the cost is GEL 4,850 thousand. Entrance fees to the Canyon have not yet been set. The arrangement of Okace Canyon was announced by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili back in August 2012. The complex will include: cafeteria, educational amphitheatre, ethnographic playground and recreation areas.
The Georgian National Tourism Administration plans to participate in 20 international tourism fairs and exhibitions. Participation in such exhibitions will contribute to the enhancement of Georgia’s awareness as a tourist destination. Also, the project aims to support the private sector involved in the tourism industry, and acquire valuable contacts for future cooperation.
Development of rural tourism in the suburbs of Tbilisi is one of the upcoming projects initiated by GNTA. The Association has planned the research of the agro tourism potential of the suburbs of the capital. In line with it a new product will be created. The main objective of the project is the creation of a new agro tourist product near Tbilisi. Residents of Tbilisi are the primary target market for this product. It is the best option for planning holidays and weekends near Tbilisi. Residents living in local houses or hotels, who run their own smallholdings or farms, will host visitors. Guests will be offered various eco touristic activities and ecologically clean products. The project will contribute to the growth of travellers’ visits to the suburbs of Tbilisi. It will encourage the development of small family enterprises and the production of ecologically clean products. Local employment will increase as will residents’ incomes.
The average expenditure of foreign travellers to Georgia per visit amounts to GEL 626. Russian tourists on average are the most generous visitors while Armenians, who are the majority in terms of total number of tourists in the country, spend the smallest average amount of money when staying in Georgia. Food and beverage, accommodation, shopping and entertainment are the main outgoings of visitors to the country.
Citizens of Russia are in first place in terms of amount of expenditure in Georgia, according to GNTA. Per trip to Georgia they spend on average about GEL 1,180. The subsequent places are held by visitors from Central and Eastern European countries. Tourists from these countries spend GEL 943 on average. Next comes Turkey - GEL 533, Azerbaijan - GEL 467, and Armenia - GEL 301, according to data from the Georgian National Tourism Administration. This data is from 2013.