Mikheil Saakashvili: “There were around seven million tourists during my time and later it increased to eight million due to inertia.”
Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement is a LIE.
Resume: In 2012, when the United National Movement lost the elections to the Georgian Dream, the number of visits made by international travellers was 4.7 million. Of these, there were 4.1 million international visitors. The number of visits of international travellers first came close to seven million in 2016 and the number of international visitors reached 7 million in 2018. Therefore, Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement is a LIE.
The ex-president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, stated the following whilst discussing tourism: “There were seven million tourists during my time and later it increased to eight million due to inertia.”
The Georgian National Tourism Administration publishes statistics about international travellers. An international traveller is a non-resident individual of any age who travels between different geographic area for any duration and purpose. The term encompasses tourists, people who used Georgia as a transit country and migrants (who stay in a country for more than six months for study, work, family reunion, etc.). International visitors are non-resident travellers of 15 years of age and older who accomplished visits from their usual place of residence to the Georgian territory whilst tourist is a visitor who spent a night on the Georgian territory. Of note is that using the aforementioned categories interchangeably is a common mistake. In addition, it was also wrong to refer to Jasper Black, a Dutch traveller, as six millionth tourist or visitor since the number of international visitors in 2016 was 5.4 million and the number of international travellers was 6.7 million. Therefore, Jasper Black was in fact the six millionth international traveller.
In 2012, when the United National Movement lost the elections to the Georgian Dream, the number of international travellers was 4.7 million. Of these, there were 4.1 million international visitors. The number of tourists per se was 2.5 million.
Table 1: International Travel and Tourism Statistics in 2011-2020, in millions
Source: Georgian National Tourism Administration
The number of international visitors and, by definition, the number of tourists has never reached eight million in the history of Georgia whilst the number of international travellers first reached seven million in 2017 with a total of 7.9 million travellers. However, as we saw provided earlier, referring to these people as tourists is wrong. Therefore, Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement is a lie vis-à-vis multiple parameters.
The tourism field broke records in all aspects in 2019 whilst the number of international visitors dropped from 7.7 million to 1.5 million in 2020 which naturally was stipulated by the pandemic-induced restrictions.