On September 11, 2019, Sputnik Abkhazia released comments by political analyst, Armen Gasparyan on the perspectives of Georgia’s NATO membership. Gasparyan skeptically evaluated Georgia’s chances of becoming a member of the alliance, noting that there is no time for systemic economic and political reforms, because Georgia’s economy has suffered serious damage after losing Russian tourists.
Armen Gasparyan: “I am not ready to evaluate, whether Georgian troops are compatible with NATO standards, but let me remind you that in 2008, they set systemic economic and political changes as a goal, but as far as I know, if any such changes are being implemented, they are not successful enough and now, considering the serious damage caused to Georgia’s economy as a result of losing Russian tourists, there is no favorable time for it.”
The remarks made by Sputnik’s political analyst are manipulative, because according to TBC Research, in July 2019, number of tourists in Georgia increased by 3.7% year-on-year and in August, tourism dynamics improved by 7.4%. The narrative as if Georgia’s tourism and economy are declining amid Russia’s ban on direct flights aims at exaggerating Georgian economy’s dependence on Russia. In fact, the contribution of Russian tourists to Georgia’s economy, as well as of those Russian tourists who arrived by plane is 1.8% and 0.5%, respectively.
1. Tourism dynamics improved in July-August 2019
According to the research conducted by TBC Research in July 2019, in the second week of July, right after Russia imposed ban on direct flights, number of Russian visitors dropped by 21.4% year-on-year; however, next week the decline was only 13.5%. As a whole, during the first two weeks of July 2019, number of Russian tourists in Georgia increased by 3.2% year-on-year.
According to the research conducted by TBC Research in September, in a period between August 4 and September 1, the dynamics of international visitors improved after increasing by 7.2% compared to July.
Meanwhile, according to the 2019 data of Georgian National Tourism Administration, Russia maintains leading positions among international visitors.
Narrative as if Georgia’s economy has suffered a serious damage due to Russia’s ban on flights is actively promoted recently by Georgian media outlets spreading Russian, as well as pro-Kremlin messages.
2. Contribution of Russian tourists to Georgia’s economy – 1.8%; contribution of Russian tourists who arrived by plane – 0.5%
On June 24, International School of Economics (ISET) released data, representing a macro picture; according to these data, a share of tourism in Georgia’s economy is 7.6%; contribution of Russian tourists to Georgia’s economy – 1.8% and contribution of Russian tourists who arrived by plane – 0.5%.
It is also worth noting that according to the 2018 report of Georgian National Tourism Administration, Russian citizens spend much less than those from European, American and Asian countries. Spanish tourists spent an estimated GEL 3,541 on tourism trips, followed by the United Kingdom – GEL 3,189; the United States – GEL 3,047; Qatar – GEL 2,868; United Arab Emirates – GEL 2,719; Italy – 2,504; Saudi Arabia – GEL 2,500; France – GEL 2,459; Israel – GEL 2,407, etc. Russian citizens spent GEL 1,326 on average.
Although total expenditure of Russian tourists was GEL 1.9 billion in 2018 by group of countries, total expenditure of tourists from other countries exceeded GEL 5.3 billion, meaning that Georgia does not depend on Russian tourists only and in case of further market diversification, this figure may further improve that will make Georgia’s economy less vulnerable to Kremlin’s political decisions.
About Armen Gasparyan
Armen Gasparyan works for a Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik since 2014 and, at the same time, is a member of Russia Today’s board. In parallel, he is a member of Russian State Duma’s Youth Council and a holder of the prize of the Ministry of Communications of the Russian Federation for his contribution to the development of radio broadcasting. In December 2018, Russian opposition included Gasparyan in the list of “Putin’s propagandists”.
Prepared by Ana Ebanoidze
Myth Detector Lab