09:44, Monday, 06.07.2020
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Failed tourist season


Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

It is not known yet whether Georgia will receive foreign tourists from July 1 or not. A month ago, the Prime Minister stated that the government was negotiating with several countries to arrange safe, green corridors with them. Among those countries were: Israel, the Baltic States, the Czech Republic, Greek, Austria but nobody says from which of the listed countries Georgia will receive tourists. Considering the complicated situation and second wave of the Novel Coronavirus in some of the countries, the Government of Georgia is now focused on the internal tourism only. 

In Shida Kartli region, in the past few years, big part of small and medium business is connected with tourist season. People arranged family hostels and wine-cellars (marani). Although tourists mostly stayed only 24 hours in the region, it developed small and medium business in Shida Kartli. Wine tour starts from Khidistavi village and ends in Ateni Gorge. Foreign tourists could visit several places on the route. One of their destination spots was Nika Vacheishvili’s Marani in Ateni, who said that the COVID-19 pandemic completely ruined the tourist season and unlike the government, he does not hope for the internal tourism at all.

“Internal tourism is not a solution. There is economic crisis in the country and people do not have money and desire to go anywhere to rest. We are not in Switzerland to rely on the internal tourism. It is just a lightning rod. I wonder who will come here, impoverished people?! The internal tourism means that when you do not have income at all and suddenly somebody will spend 23 GEL in your cellar. It may be a little relief but it is not an opportunity to develop business,” said Nika Vacheishvili, who recommended the government to assist small and medium business through reduction of administrative expenses.

The owner of Chateau Ateni Ioseb Vanishvili also spoke about the loss he inflicted as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Mostly foreign tourists visited his family hostel. Although 600 bookings were cancelled in his hostel, Vanishvili believes the internal tourism may partly reduce the loss from the pandemic.

“In fact, we stopped working; over 600 bookings were cancelled this year. The state tries its best to maintain stability after the pandemic and I hope the situation will eventually improve. We see some perspectives in the internal tourism; Georgian tourists also used to visit us in the past years. They were coming to see our vine-yards, to taste our wine and family dishes. I have not visited many places in Georgia and we must take this chance and visit various parts of Georgia and taste their dishes and wine. I think, this year internal tourism will work,” Vanishvili said.

Nino Giorgadze from Gori said that the Black Sea and mountainous resorts will benefit from the internal tourism; she runs a family hostel in Gori. Giorgadze said that internal tourism cannot compensate the loss inflicted from the failed tourist season, particularly in Shida Kartli region.

“Our family has a hostel in Gori and we mostly received foreign tourists who used to stay in Gori only for one night. In the past years, we had many visitors. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all bookings were canceled in March and although on June 8 restrictions were lifted from hotels, we still do not have any room booked; we have not received a single tourist so far. The internal tourism will assist the Black Sea and mountainous resorts but Gori will less benefit from it. How many families can be found in Georgia, who will come to Shida Kartli region to see Uplistsikhe cave or Stalin museum again? According to the statistics, mostly foreign tourists used to visit Gori municipality,” said Nino Giorgadze, who recommends the government to assist the small and medium business, as they depend on tourist season because in 2020 the sector may not have income at all. 

“The anti-crisis plan does not envisage support for tourist sector. We belong to the category of self-employed people and can get allowance of only 300 GEL but like other fields, tourist sector was significantly harmed by the pandemic and it deserves particular attention from the government. We will need at least 18 months to recover to the situation we had last year,” Giorgadze said. 

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