This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Tourism accounted for 7.5 percent of GDP growth from 2018-2019. Georgia received a record number of 9.3 million international visitors (tourists, transit, other) in 2019, a 7 percent increase over 2018. This figure included 4.8 million tourists, which was 16 percent higher than the previous year. Georgia has substantial potential for tourism development because of its great natural beauty, varied topography, a pleasant climate, and rich culture and history. To facilitate tourism, the Government of Georgia eased its visa regime, began widespread rehabilitation of roads, privatized infrastructure and hotels, and established limited tax incentives for tour operators. New development is taking place in Batumi; at ski resorts in Gudauri, Bakuriani, Goderdzi, and Mestia; the winegrowing region of Kakheti; and other areas are turning Georgia again into an attractive tourism destination.
Citizens from Georgia’s neighboring countries made up the largest share of international visitors in 2019. The top five source countries were Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia, Turkey, and Iran. The number of visitors from Europe increased by 12 percent and from the United States by 25 percent from 2017 to 2018. The government has made it a priority to turn Georgia into a four-season tourist destination and is supporting and promoting medical, entertainment, sports, wine, and other kinds of tourism. ‘Check In Georgia’ is an example of a government project that supports turning Georgia into a regional cultural and entertainment center.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and regulations to curb the spread of the virus caused a reduction in tourism revenue and overall economic growth in 2020. To help spur economic recovery, the Georgian government teamed up with commercial banks to develop a stimulus package for the hospitality industry, which endured an economic shock due to flight cancellations, border closures, and public health safety measures. International tourism increased in 2020 but at a much lower rate than in 2019. For example, in July 2021 the number of international visits increased 403.7 percent year-on-year, however decreased 73.8 percent compared to July 2019. The government and private sector remain hopeful that Georgia’s tourism sector will rebound after the global epidemiological situation normalizes.
Leading Sub-Sector: Tour Operators, Hotels, Infrastructure
Georgian tour operators report an increase in tourists in both summer and winter, particularly in adventure and cultural tourism. Despite this interest in travel to Georgia, suitable accommodations outside of the capital and the major resort areas are still scarce because facilities have not been maintained or do not exist. The seaside resorts of Batumi and Kobuleti are undergoing rapid development. Foreign investments have supported construction of high-end hotels throughout the country, such as Sheraton, Radisson, Biltmore, Marriott, Hilton, Millennium, and Rixos, with more in development. To develop new tourism destinations, the government is promoting the seaside areas of Anaklia and Kobuleti (north of Batumi), and the mountainous town of Mestia, by building the needed infrastructure and offering concessionary terms to potential investors.
Development of tourism infrastructure will require significant investment and rehabilitation of assets such as hotels, restaurants, sports facilities, and ski resorts. Rehabilitation of several recently privatized hotels is underway in Tbilisi and Adjara and additional opportunities may be found in the ski resorts of Gudauri, Bakuriani, and Mestia.
The World Bank’s roads rehabilitation and construction project aims to promote tourism by decreasing travel time, increasing auto safety, and facilitating the transport of goods across the country. The World Bank is implementing a long‐term program aimed at nature conservation, cultural heritage preservation and sustainable tourism development.
The state-owned Partnership Fund and privately held Georgian Co-Investment Fund (GCF) are looking at investment opportunities in tourism infrastructure in Tskaltubo (Imereti region), Kakheti, and have new or ongoing projects such as Best Western Kutaisi and Radisson Tsinandali. These funds are interested in partnering with investors on these projects.