Georgia Eyes Russian Tourist Market
20 June, 2013
Georgia Eyes Russian Tourist Market
Inflow of Russian tourists to Georgia may increase if awareness of Georgia’s tourist potential will be promoted in Russia and transportation costs go down – this is the message sent by Russian tour operators visiting Georgia on June 7-11, 2013.
Russian tourist market that had been beyond reach to Georgia for many years of political tension between Tbilisi and Moscow, becomes one of the key targets for Georgian tourism as the torn diplomatic relations are expected to be restored on
the economic and cultural level first. Russian tourists miss Georgia, Russian tour operators say. As a matter of fact as soon as the political ice started melting in 2011 after Georgia gave its consent to Russia to enroll the World Trade Organization [that Tbilisi had been withholding since 2006 when Russia imposed a trade embargo on Georgian agriculture product and routed Georgia in a short-lived war of August 2008] and Georgian president announced unilateral visa-free regime to Russia early in 2012, the inflow of Russian tourists started immediately. According to Georgian National Tourism Administration (NTA), half million Russian tourists visited Georgia in 2012 and the figure increased by 77% in the first quarter of this year compared to the similar period of 2012. Girogi Sigua, a newly appointed Head of NTA, believes the tourist inflow from Russia may double this year. He considers Russian direction very important as far as it is not utilized as yet due to the anti-Georgian rhetoric dominated in Russia for years painting Georgia as something spooky and now an active advertising campaign is planned to make Georgia popular to Russian tourists. To this end around 20 Russian top tourist operators as well as 10 journalists visited Georgia on a five-day tour a week ago under initiative of Georgian Tour Marketing and supported by NTA. The accents fell on cultural, culinary and agro tourism in the frames of this informative tour and Russian delegation visited the Georgian antic cities Mtskheta, Signaghi, Telavi and Kutaisi, spa-resorts Borjomi and Tskaltubo, as well as famous Georgian wine appellation Tsinandali in Kakheti. The tour ended in Batumi, the Black Sea outlet of Georgia. Russian tour operators accentuated that their interest toward Georgia is huge. According to Dmitry Burakovsky, Director of Internal Tourism Department of NTK-Inturist, his colleagues just envied him when he said he was going to Georgia.
“If I have told them I fly to Italy, Spain or any other country they would not care, but Georgia stirred the envy,” he said during the press-conference held on June 7, 2013 at RIA Novosti new agency’s office. “Russian tourist must come up here and feel this aura. Georgia has fairly big perspectives and we will work on bringing the information to our clients.” However, apart of the envy Georgia stirs a wide range of questions varying from extremely positive such as “wow, everything is so classy there” to negative like “is not Georgia scary?” - some tour operators said for information about Georgia is very scanty in Russia by today due to several-year gap in contacts between countries. Therefore they think this informative gap should be filled now so as Russian people would know Georgia is a hospitable country not some dangerous venue of terrorists and all tourist directions offered by Georgia would be interesting to Russia. Another problem hindering Russian tourist inflow to Georgia is expensive aviation and other transportation means. The benchmark transportation price totals USD 500 at the moment while making two-way tickets available for USD 300-350 would be more adequate and attractive, Iulii Visokovanova, Sales Director at Multitour, said.
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