"The number of Russian tourists in Georgia has doubled, and this is good. I think, Georgia will soon become more attractive for tourists,” the prime minister said, without giving any exact figures.
According to Georgia’s National Tourism Administration, a total of 1.7 million foreigners, including some 200,000 Russians, visited Georgia in the first five months of 2013. In the same period last year, the country was visited by over 1.2 million people, over 100,000 of them Russians.
Russia introduced a visa regime with Georgia in December 2000, citing security threats. Since 2008, when the two countries severed diplomatic ties over a brief military conflict in the de-facto independent republic of South Ossetia, Georgians can apply for a Russian visa only to visit their close relatives or “in cases of humanitarian emergency.” Georgia unilaterally scrapped visas for Russians in February 29, 2012.
Relations between the two neighbors, which have been strained ever since Georgia gained independence from the USSR, began to improve after Georgia’s new government was elected in the October 1, 2012. Ivanishvili, who became prime minister after his coalition won the polls, said normalizing ties with Russia was among his top priorities.
Ivanishvili said earlier on Wednesday that even though Moscow and Tbilisi are unlikely to restore diplomatic ties by the time Russia holds the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in its southern Black Sea resort of Sochi, negotiations are ongoing on visa facilitation and resumption of direct regular flights.
© HTN (Hvino Tour News)