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Georgian tourism sees slight improvement 3 weeks after Russian flight ban

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, August 2
The drop of Russian tourists has moderated further, and the total travelers' growth slightly increased to 3.7% in Georgia after three weeks of the ban on direct flights with Georgia, imposed by Russia.

The information was released by the TBC Research, which noted that dynamics took a more positive turn a week before.

"The arrivals from Russia by plane, directly hit by the sanctions, were down by 74.8% in week four of July, largely unchanged from the 75.9% decrease of the previous week. However, the total number of Russian travelers declined more moderately by 6.8% YoY vs. the 13.5% drop in the previous week and the 21.4% YoY drop in the first week of sanctions," the organization says.

TBC Research says there is 15.3% increase of land arrivals from Russia, as opposed to the 1.3% drop from a week before, as well as a continued growth +24.7% of land border crossings by Russian citizens from Armenia.

"Travelers from the EU posted a higher growth rate (+15.1% YoY) in the fourth week of July indicating that the acceleration of tourists and inflows likely was higher as compared to that of travelers," it added.

The organization says that overall, TBC Research earlier projections of up to 5% tourism growth over the next 12 months seems reasonable.

On June 21, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning Russian airlines from flying to Georgia from July 8 in response to anti-Moscow rallies in Tbilisi.

Following of the rallies in Georgia, Kremlin had said the inward ban was to "ensure Russia's national security and protect Russian nationals from criminal and other unlawful activities" after the large-scale rallies were launched in Georgia following the arrival of Duma MPs in Tbilisi Parliament on June 20.

As Russian tourists amount 25% of the Georgian tourism market, it is believed the country will suffer around $700 million loss as a result of the sanctions.

According to the earlier data of TBC Research, after the ban was activated on July 8, the number of Russian citizen arrivals fell by 21.4% in the 2nd week of July. The arrivals by air were hit harder with a reduction of 78.6% while the decline through other borders was more moderate at 1.7%.

The survey said that despite the complete abolition of direct flights, a significant part of Russian citizens still arrived by plane, suggesting the alternative routes are already active and are expected to substitute direct flights increasingly.