Russia and Georgia have not yet begun negotiations on the opening of the land border, in August the country is unlikely to open to the Russians. Zurab Abashidze, the special representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia for relations with the Russian Federation, told Izvestia about this. According to him, Tbilisi is looking closely at the epidemiological situation in the neighboring country, but there are no talks about starting receiving tourists from the Russian Federation yet. The Russian Union of Travel Industry (PCT) believes that Georgia can open for our travelers not earlier than September. However without the launch of direct flights between the two countries, there will be no mass flow of Russians to this Transcaucasian republic, specified in the PCT.
Georgia was one of the first to announce the resumption of flights with five EU states: Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
It was planned to launch flights to Israel, but due to a sharp increase in the incidence in the Jewish state in early July, Tbilisi decided to postpone this issue.
Georgia was also among the first 15 states for which the external borders of the Schengen zone were opened.
Before the cutoff of flights between Russia and this country last summer, Russians accounted for a fifth of all tourists in Georgia (19.5%) – more came only from Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, this year they are in no hurry to meet our fellow citizens in Tbilisi: Russia is not on the list of countries with which Georgia is ready to open borders in August.
Moscow and Tbilisi have not yet begun negotiations on the possible opening of the land border, Zurab Abashidze told Izvestia. Earlier, in an interview with Izvestia, he expressed the hope that it will open to tourists in August. However, there are no prerequisites for this yet, the diplomat said.
Photo: TASS / EPA / ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE
– While we are looking closely at the situation in Russia, we are at the stage of observation. As soon as the pandemic subsides, we will move on to discuss opening borders and resuming passenger traffic between our countries. While there are no negotiations with the Russian side on this issue, – he stressed.
Zurab Abashidze noted that Georgia is similarly looking at the situation in Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The land part of the Russian-Georgian border was closed on March 16 – Zurab Abashidze and his Russian colleague Grigory Karasin agreed to temporarily suspend the operation of the Verkhniy Lars and Daryali checkpoints. This decision does not apply to those citizens of Georgia and the Russian Federation who want to return to their homeland, as well as to cargo transportation.
Winter is not a hindrance
Despite the lack of certainty in the negotiations, the Russian travel industry expresses weak optimism and hopes that the border with Georgia can be opened by September.
– Perhaps the borders will be opened in September, but there are no exact dates yet. Georgia will remain a popular destination both in October and in winter, when the ski season begins, – Yury Barzykin, vice-president of the PCT, told Izvestia.
Irina Tyurina, press secretary of the PCT, however, believes that without the resumption of air traffic, a massive flow of Russian tourists to Georgia should not be expected.
– In any case, only residents of border regions will travel to the country by land. Even if the land border is opened, there will be no significant tourist flow from Russia, ”the expert told Izvestia.
Photo: TASS / EPA / ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE
Air traffic between Russia and Georgia was interrupted in July 2019 after the corresponding decree of President Vladimir Putin banning Russian airlines from flying to Georgia.
The measure was introduced in response to massive anti-Russian demonstrations in Tbilisi. Tour operators were advised to stop selling vouchers to the republic, Georgian airlines were also closed the road to the Russian Federation.
On April 21, 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during a round table with representatives of the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, expressed the hope that the issue of resuming flights to Georgia would be resolved in the near future.
However, as Zurab Abashidze specified to Izvestia, the parties have not returned to this issue due to the pandemic.
The Georgian National Tourism Administration told Izvestia that they do not have data on the opening of the border with Russia in August or September. Other countries are next in line, the ministry said.
– While only five EU countries are open, we are monitoring how this decision affected the development of the pandemic in Georgia. We have no expectations about the Russian Federation, – said the management.
Earlier, the head of the Georgian Federation of Hotels and Restaurants, Shalva Alaverdashvili, said that Tbilisi was negotiating the opening of borders with Thailand and South Korea, but tourists from these countries are expected no earlier than mid-September. He also noted that many Russians who booked hotels in Georgia for the summer-autumn season have already postponed their bookings for the next year.
Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze
So far, the situation with COVID-19 in Georgia is the best in the entire post-Soviet territory. The pandemic, according to official statistics, was brought under control early. From March 21 to May 23, a curfew was in force in the country, forbidding to appear on the street from nine in the evening until six in the morning.
This made it possible to restrain the growth of cases at around 1.1 thousand cases (with a population of 3.7 million people), of which 989 recovered. As of July 29, about a dozen new infections were recorded in the country.
Over the entire period of the pandemic in Georgia, 16 people died from COVID-19 – less than in any other post-Soviet republic. For comparison: in neighboring Armenia, where 2.9 million people live, the number of coronavirus cases exceeded 37.9 thousand people, and 723 died due to the epidemic.
Back in May, the Washington Post recognized Georgia as a “safe haven in the new reality of a pandemic” and invited local authorities to promote the country under a new brand – as a place where you can safely and safely take a break from the virus.