Tourism in Georgia During Covid-19 Times: What to Know
The coronavirus pandemic brought many losses, upon which the biggest one is undoubtedly human life. With the number of diagnosed cases surpassing the ten million, it’d be hard to argue otherwise.
But in second place, far away from the incalculable value of human life, rests the tourism and hospitality industries, the section of the economy that was hit the hardest by this unforeseen pandemic.
COVID-19, for sure, kept you from visiting Georgia.
Georgia, as a rising star considered pre-COVID19 as one of the world’s trendiest destinations, is undoubtedly one of the countries most affected by the lockdown and traveling restrictions. To put things into perspective, in 2015, tourism made up 6.7% of Georgia’s GDP, with $1.94 billion in revenue, while in 2018, it reached $3.2 billion and made up for 7.6% of the country’s GDP.
These are not small numbers. For comparison, the world’s most popular tourist destination, France, owes 9.7% of its GDP to the industry.
The conclusion is easy to make: Georgia is a significant tourist destination and has a booming hospitality industry. If you’re here, odds are you want to visit the land of the Golden Fleece as soon as possible.
And while the outlook is bright and positive as of now, optimism shouldn’t overshadow the harsh reality of the world post-COVID. Georgia is not the exception.
Georgia, during COVID-19, continues being a display of excellence.
I already wrote an article explaining the Georgian experience with COVID-19. Regarding that, I’m happy to announce the progression of time has not changed the overall trend of Georgia’s coronavirus success story.
As of July 3, Georgia counts with 946 cases, of which 15 resulted in death, and 825 achieved a complete recovery. These numbers mean only 0.02% of Georgia’s population has acquired the disease, and there are only four deaths per million inhabitants.
Georgia remains, by far, one of the countries whose policies against the pandemic have proven most successful, and careful studies of the data provided guarantees the authenticity of these facts.
In fact, such is Georgia’s success story that the European Union included the country on the list of only fifteen countries deemed as safe amidst the global crisis. This selective list includes, alongside Georgia, locations such as Australia, Canada, South Korea, amongst others. Countries that through the year have shown exceptional management of the health crisis and managed to keep new cases and deaths to enviable lows.
It’s evident the European Union statement constitutes fantastic news for Georgian citizens wishing to visit any of the member countries for different motivations. However, the projection of this statement goes far beyond its direct influence upon the traveling population.
It creates a new standard for tourists post-crisis.
Georgia’s success in handling the pandemic, and the European Union’s recognition of the country as a green, safe destination for its citizens, open a brand-new realm of possibilities for tourism. Such reputation proves to be essential in a world that won’t be the same after the new normality settles in.
Georgia’s coronavirus success story—a magnet for tourists?
This evident coronavirus success story is something to be proud of.
On May 19, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia proclaimed the country’s effectiveness while dealing with the coronavirus outbreak should be added to Georgia’s ever-growing list of tourism attractions. Bold as it is, his statement is not wrong.
In a post-COVID world, trust in a government’s swift response to the epidemiological threat is almost as important as fun attractions and historical landmarks. Once worldwide tourism reassumes its natural course, most folks will study health measures when picking a destination with the same enthusiasm they analyze Instagram-worthy shots.
A country with effective anti-COVID measures is, then, a country worth visiting.
Under this new perspective, Georgia stands out as, potentially, one of the hottest spots for tourism after the new normality settles in, and evidence piles up towards this conclusion.
For starters, both the European Best Destinations organization and the Forbes Magazine listed Tbilisi as the best city to visit in Europe this summer, partially because of its exceptional answer to the crisis. At the same time, Batumi rests on the 7th spot for the same reason. Likewise, The Washington Post published an articlepraising Georgia’s safety measures as an undoubted appeal for tourism and vacations in the Caucasus.
It seems, then that Georgia is a trendy destination for visitors seeking to explore the world as soon as it is safe to do so. And the Georgian government, facing an unprecedented economic crisis, is eager to capitalize on this newfound brand of popularity.
Keeping this in mind, Georgia started developing a “safe corridor” strategy in May. In theory, Georgia would be opening borders selectively to tourists and visitors coming from countries deemed “safe,” through their management and handling of COVID-19. In return, these countries would allow Georgian citizens to visit and engage in tourism safely. Nominally, these discussions involved deals with Israel, Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, amongst others.
It seemed a fool-proof way to reactivate the tourist industry, starting July 1 with selected international flights.
But the plan fell apart shortly after. The reason behind this premature collapse is the same one explaining why Georgia won’t open up to tourism just yet, despite being a model country for the handling of COVID-19.
And it is also the same reason why Georgia, so far, has failed to reciprocate the EU’s statement, keeping its borders strictly closed until, at least, August.
The isolation of Georgia’s coronavirus success story.
Statistics are up there in the list of things that don’t lie when backed by data. And it turns out, statistics point towards a disturbing trend within the Caucasus region.
As of July 3, the Caucasus has a worrisome number of cases. Tragically enough, the curve doesn’t seem to flatten as of yet. The worst example of the region is Armenia. The country has 27,900 cases—which accounts for 0.94% of its population—and 477 fatalities, while Azerbaijan has 19,267 cases and 235 deaths.
Even more alarming—nearby countries and frequent visitors, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, are at the moment the 3rd, 11th and 13th countries with most cases worldwide, respectively.
These worrying statistics prove Georgia’s hopeful progress against the disease is nothing short of an isolated bubble within the region. An accelerated normalization process in the tourist industry could spell doom for Georgia and any tourist looking forward to exploring the Caucasus range within its frontiers.
Visiting Georgia is, then, a risk. Most tourists, after all, come from these profoundly affected countries.
As it may become evident now, second waves are no longer a far-away possibility. They have become a grim reality in some countries that failed to contain the expansion of the virus. As such, Georgia postponed the opening of borders and international flights until August 1, according to the Georgian Civil Aviation Agency.
Of course, that is subject to an extension, always in response to how the situation continues to unfold.
But if everything seems like tragic news so far, worry not. After the storm comes the calm, and the sun always shines brighter after the clouds pass by—Georgia is, nonetheless, preparing for the tourist season.
Visiting Georgia after COVID-19: How is your arrival going to be?
It’s clear, then, that visiting Georgia—as soon as viable, of course—is one of your best bets for tourism post-COVID-19.
However, the world has changed, and so will the tourism industry once it reactivates. Tourism in Georgia, subsequently, won’t be exempt from this new reality, and the government has started preparing to guarantee future visitors the same safety that has made the country a haven against the virus.
The first step is, obviously, to monitor arrivals. After all, the best way to guarantee the visitors arriving from abroad is not bringing COVID-19 on the plane to Georgia. And while the country is developing a strategy, not much of it has been revealed to the public.
Said strategy is on the works, with contributions from experts in the National Tourism Administration and the Ministry of Health, alongside valuable input from diverse companies associated to the tourism, hospitality, and health industries.
While information is scarce at the moment, we can make up the strategy by piecing together the data revealed. Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia manifested that tourists seeking to visit Georgia may have to prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 in the past 72 hours, but that measure may be insufficient. Subsequently, Georgia has two options: a 72-hour quarantine for tourists, or test them upon arrival.
Regardless of the chosen option, it’ll influence tourism as you know it. If quarantined upon arrival, the strict measure and lack of control over time in the country may discourage tourists from choosing Georgia as a destination. In the latter, the cost of the COVID-19 test will be reflected in the expenses for the new arrivals, making Georgia a more expensive location than it was pre-Corona.
But strict measures should not discourage travel. They, after all, guarantee your safety upon visiting Georgia. And considering this, the hospitality industry has shifted as well.
Tourism in Georgia post-COVID-19: How Georgia will keep you safe.
Once you arrive in Georgia, the main concern is keeping you safe from COVID-19, and guaranteeing the Georgian experience won’t be tainted by the risk of illness.
Most safety measures are nothing new—they match the requirements set forward by the World Health Organization and coincide with the choices made by many governments. Face masks are mandatory on public spaces, drivers and tourist guides must measure everyone’s temperature before each journey, social distancing is a requirement and, naturally, hand-washing remains a must.
But recommendations go beyond that. It has been suggested that a transparent, protective layer should separate public transport drivers from passengers to minimize social contact. Likewise, air conditioning within cars should be turned off at all times since air recycling and circulation increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Such is Georgia’s dedication, that each Minister has released safety guidelines tailor-made specifically for different situations and activities, including cultural institutions such as museums and theaters.
Hotels, restaurants, and other services frequented by tourists also follow strict hygiene routines, including the disinfection of elevator buttons, handles, and railings every two hours. Surfaces will be wiped clean with customized disinfectants tailor-made for the fight against COVID-19, and floor mats will be sprayed with disinfectant to clean shoes upon arrival to establishments.
Skiing in Georgia has become one of the most popular activities within the country, and resorts have understood the responsibility of guaranteeing safety for the would-be tourists arriving for the next winter season. They closed very early into the Eurasian coronavirus outbreak, and have been working on performing the required modifications to meet safety standards, should the season open as expected.
In short, what Georgia has done to keep its population safe, is what it will keep doing to keep potential tourists from contracting the disease. In a perfect blend of safety and enjoyment, the country is doing what it must to guarantee you can experience relative freedom while enjoying its cultural delights, without sacrificing anyone’s wellbeing.
But that coronavirus success story comes at a high cost. Financially speaking, of course.
Conclusions: What should you expect when visiting Georgia after coronavirus?
Georgia’s miracle wasn’t cheap.
While it is true that human lives are priceless, the cost of taking the right measures to preserve public safety will affect Georgia’s economy in the foreseeable future, even risking a potential contraction of 4% of the country’s GDP growth for the year.
Additionally, the tourism industry’s expenses will increase to unforeseen levels, as the country needs to modify most businesses to fit safety standards. Transforming installations, welcoming fewer clients to guarantee social distance, and additional expenses in equipment for sterilization and safety are bound to make tourism a more expensive activity than it was beforehand. While this is true for every country, it may cause a bigger shock for tourism in Georgia, since our country is renowned for being a high quality yet affordable destination.
But in a world still recovering from its most devastating pandemic in a century, these measures seem like minor inconveniences when considered amidst the big picture. Increased costs, three days of quarantine, facial masks, and regular disinfecting standards are manageable annoyances when you are guaranteed wellbeing, safety, and high-quality tourist destinations.
Georgia’s coronavirus success story reflects how the country is facing the pandemic with pride and keenly accurate precision. Subsequently, this allows you the possibility of kickstarting your post-COVID wanderlust within a safe environment.
We do not know for sure if August 1 will be the day when the borders will reopen. However, you can be sure Tour Guide Georgia will be there for you, should you decide to have a taste of the new normalcy amidst the Caucasus.