The FINANCIAL -- Georgia hosted 1,381,000 international travellers during the first four months of 2015. The number was 1,403,532 (or 1.6%) more during the same period of the previous year. Neighbouring countries, such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and Ukraine, remain the countries that provide the most visitors to Georgia in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of travellers from the top countries continues to slump.
Residents of more than 160 countries have visited Georgia in 2015. However, the largest contingent is made up by those coming from neighbouring countries. With 373,350, or 27% of total travellers, Azerbaijan dominates out of the international visitors hosted by Georgia. It is followed by Turkey. 365,244 Turks visited the country during January-April 2015, which is 26% of total travellers. Armenia makes up 24%, with 325,517. The number of Russian travellers amounted to 181,587, or 13%. As for Ukrainians, with 32,897 visitors this nationality makes up just 2%.
Out of the top countries, Azerbaijan and Armenia were the only ones from which the number of travellers increased in January-April 2015, compared with the prior-year period. 23,096 more Azerbaijanis, or 6.59%, visited Georgia this year. 1,512 (0.47%) more Armenians visited their neighbouring Georgia. Annual data comparison has shown that the largest number of travellers has been reduced from Ukraine. Georgia attracted 5,287, or 13.85%, less Ukrainians this year. Due to the Ukrainian crisis and economic downturn in the Russian economy, a reduction of travellers from these countries is not unexpected. The slump from Turkey, by over 8% this year, seems to be far more important for officials to pay attention to. 30,219 less Turks travelled to Georgia this year than in 2014. The activity of Russians has dropped by 3.33%. 6,260 less Russians visited Georgia in 2015 than in 2014.
According to the latest data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the average expenditure of foreign travellers to Georgia per visit has amounted to GEL 600. It means that the average income received by the industry exceeded GEL 800 million.
Despite the crisis and instability in the region, tourism administration keeps promoting Georgia on its major markets: Ukraine and Russia. In addition, campaigns will be carried out this year in our neighbouring countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as Belarus, Israel, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Hungary. These countries will be selected in line with the number of tourists to Georgia and direct flights.
Despite the minor decrease of international travellers during the first four months of 2015, the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) is very optimistic about the current year.
“In 2015 Georgia is expecting a big flow of tourists. Several international events will be held in the country this year, including the European Youth Olympic Festival and UEFA Super Cup. In addition, for the first time in the history of the Caucasus, the EBRD annual meeting and business forum will take place in Tbilisi. We are awaiting high-ranking guests, businessman and government delegations. All of this will further increase people’s awareness of Georgia as a tourist destination,” said Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA).
In his words, since tourism revenue is directly related to the number of tourists, the revenue from tourism is also expected to grow.
Georgia will spend GEL 7,800,000 on the country’s advertising abroad in 2015, up from the GEL 4,400,000 of 2014. Despite political and economic instability, Ukraine and Russia remain the target countries for the administration.
Promotional activities are selected in accordance with the travel features of specific countries. The main focus will be placed on TV, internet, outdoor and printed commercials. “We are also actively using international social networks in order to enhance awareness of the country and demonstrate its touristic potential,” said Chogovadze.
According to the latest country report of Euromonitor, 2015 is expected to be a year of opportunities for the travel and tourism sector of Georgia.
“The Georgian capital Tbilisi has been chosen to be the host of an important global sporting event, the Youth Olympic Festival, in 2015. It is expected that the Festival will attract around 4,000 athletes from 49 European countries and bring in more than 10,000 visitors to see the event. Existing travel accommodation is estimated to be ready to house only 4,000-5,000 visitors, which is far short of the expected demand. The Government plans to make significant improvements to the infrastructure by 2015. The sporting infrastructure of the city will be renovated according to European standards and an Athletes Village will be built. Moreover, in 2015, Georgia will, for the first time, host a UEFA event, the UEFA Super Cup. For a country like Georgia, hosting popular sport events could become a powerful tool for destination marketing. The organisation of such events is a great opportunity to promote the country and to improve its image,” the report tells.
According to the report, “aiming to continue the positive development of the travel and tourism industry in Georgia, a number of actions have been undertaken. The Government announced its aim to prioritise the development of infrastructure in the country. Major reconstruction works related to tourism are already underway. In order to improve the travel accommodation category, the Government has developed a Hotel Investment initiative, which provides favourable conditions for investors to enter the Georgian market. Further steps have been taken to develop a skilled human resources pool, aiming to improve the quality of customer services in travel and tourism. The Georgian National Tourism Administration is developing large-scale marketing campaigns, targeting new markets and new tourist product development”.