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Tourism season in Georgia and Russia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 21
There is a very controversial situation in Georgia and Russia. After the military intervention of Russia into Georgia in 2008, 20% of Georgian territories are beyond Georgian control and are occupied by thousands of Russian military forces. In addition, Russian diplomatic services continue to pressure different states, bribing and making attempts at blackmail in an effort to get them to recognize the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as independent states. Russian leadership has stated many times that it is not going to cooperate with the current Saakashvili administration. There are different aspects of two country’s relations. There are broad segments of Georgia's economy where Russian business entities have serious financial interests. For instance, the Russian AES company owns an electricity distribution system of Tbilisi called Telasi. There is evidence that Russian capital is behind many enterprises working in Georgia including the Tkibuli mines, the Chiatura Manganese mines, Zestaponi Ferro Alloy, the golden mines in Bolnisi, and the water supply system in Tbilisi. Russia also owns the third largest mobile phone provider in the country (Beeline), as well as the Russian financial institution VTB (Vneshtorgbank).

Beginning in 2006, Russia banned Georgian products on its markets; most significantly Georgian wines and alcoholic beverages, as well as mineral waters. Russia also one-sidedly imposed a visa regime for Georgian citizens and deported in a brutal manner thousands of Georgian citizens from Russia.

Recently Georgia's leadership is actively trying to lure Russian tourists to Georgian resorts. Last year Georgia lifted their own visa regime for Russian citizens originating from the North Caucasus, and at the beginning of 2012 Georgia went even further and lifted visa requirements for all Russian citizens traveling to Georgia. Thus, the Saakashvili administration is increasing the inflow of tourists from Russia into Georgia and hoping that this year alone will see one million Russian tourists enter Georgia.

There are two goals here: the first has to do with increased cash flow into Georgia. On the other hand the Georgian authorities also want to break negative Georgian stereotypes that are popular in the Russian media recently and combat the so-called Georgia phobia in Russia (Georgia was named as Russia's number one enemy in polls recently). This is the optimistic vision of attracting Russian tourists to Georgia. However, this has not been the case thus far; it has become evident that Russian tourists traveling to Georgia expect world-standard level prices in Georgia. Many tourists- and not necessarily all Russians, have been complaining of Georgia's high prices and low quality of service in restaurants, hotels or other destinations. There are comparisons made by tourism agencies in Russia which suggest that Georgia's Black Sea coast resorts are the most expensive of all the tourist facilities on the Black Sea coastline. By building-up and decorating the Adjara region and Batumi in particular, Georgia hopes to target and attract more tourists. But apart from the official invitations and promotion campaigns, there exists verbal and personal experiences, which unfortunately is not in the favor of Georgian touristic attractions. Of course many Russians still remember Georgia as part of the Soviet Union attractive- hospitable and friendly. But what matters most is the high costs of the holidays and the prices tourists must pay relative to the service tourists are receiving.