Roman Gotsiridze: “Twice as few Russian tourists came to Georgia this year as compared to 2019. The problem is how many plan to stay.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Roman Gotsiridze’s statement is TRUE.

Resume: Recently, there have been more and more comparisons of the visits from Russia in the second quarter of 2022 to those made in 2021 and conclusions are made that the number of Russian visitors has increased unprecedentedly. However, travel statistics in 2020-2021 both from Russia and across the world did indeed sharply decrease.

As compared to the pre-pandemic period, statistical data do not show a sharp growth of visitors from Russia. There were 175,300 visits in the second quarter of 2022 which is 2.5 times less as compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 figure and that is a substantial difference. Therefore, Roman Gotsiridze’s statement is true. It is also rational to point out that the reason of the visits of people coming from Russia in this period may be different from reasons of the visits (tourism) of people who came in the previous periods. It is expected that the share of people who in fact come to Georgia to live here and are going to stay longer than before is higher among the recently arrived visitors. One of the indicators of this is the increased demand for rental accommodation and the ensuing rising rental prices.

Analysis

MP from the United National Movement, Roman Gotsiridze, stated in his Facebook publication: “Twice as few Russian tourists came to Georgia this year as compared to 2019. The problem is how many plan to stay.”

It is a well-known fact that people are coming to Georgia from Russia and are staying here as their numbers are increasing every day. They come to Georgia for numerous political, social and economic reasons, including the desire to escape the problems related with the sanctions. In this regard, there are many comparisons made among the Georgian public vis-à-vis 2021 data and conclusions are made that an unprecedentedly high number of Russian travellers/tourists are coming to Georgia. However, in line with Roman Gotsiridze’s statement, this is not true.

The Georgian National Tourism Administration publishes information about visits from Russia. International visitors are travellers over 15 years of age and non-residents [1] of Georgia who made a visit from their natural habitat to the territory of Georgia. Therefore, it should be clarified that the number of visits does not necessarily reflect the visits of Russian nationals.

Although there were 90,239 visits from Russia in June 2022, which is a 500.2% growth as compared to June 2021 and a 2,500% growth as compared to June 2020, the number of visits actually decreased by 40% when compared to 2019. Given the pandemic situation, travel statistics in 2020-2021 decreased sharply both from Russia and from the rest of the world. As of June 2021, a number of COVID-19 related restrictions were still in place, in particular a curfew was imposed from 23:00 to 05:00, wearing face masks was mandatory, presenting a negative PCR test at the border was obligatory as well as having another PCR test in three days if unvaccinated and social events were banned, etc. As a result, the number of international visitors both from Russia and other parts of the word was sharply reduced.

Table 1: Number of International Visits from Russia in the First Halves of 2018-2022

Source: Georgian National Tourism Administration

In 2022, a sharp growth of international visitors from Russia was registered in June. In the second quarter of 2022 there were 175,300 visits which is 2.5 times fewer as compared to 2019 figure and that constitutes a significant difference. The statistics do not show a sharp growth of visitors from Russia as compared to the pre-pandemic period. Therefore, Roman Gotsiridze’s statement is true. It is also reasonable to assume that people coming from Russia in this period are in fact coming to live here and are going to stay longer than before which, together with other economic effects, was also reflected in sharp growth of rent expenses.

[1] An individual who actually resided on the territory of Georgia for more than 182 days in any 12-month period at the end of a tax year or if he has been in the public service of Georgia abroad during the course of a tax year.


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