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Nearly a million tourists visited Georgia in 2007, government says

By Eter Tsotniashvili and Diana Dundua

Friday, December 21
The Tourism Department claims that just shy of a million tourists visited Georgia from January through November this year, a nine percent jump over the year before.

The department also says the ranks of European visitors, the market they most want to see expanded, swelled by ten percent over 2006 numbers.

Developing tourism is one of Georgia’s foremost economic priorities, and by the government’s measurements, there has been solid success: visitor numbers are up 30 percent from 2005.

The Tourism Department hasn’t made clear how they count tourists, and there are few estimates of how November’s unrest could affect foreign tourists’ itineraries.

Government statistics also show foreign tourists generally spend about two weeks in Georgia. Officials interpret that to mean that visitors aren’t getting enough time in the country, and are bound to return to see more.

Advisors think Georgia has potential. Small guesthouses are rapidly opening up in the country’s more picturesque villages, though not all of them are full.

“I can’t say that the business of guesthouses is very profitable,” said one guesthouse owner in Kevsureti to the newspaper 24 Saati. “But it gives locals an opportunity to get some income.”