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Government presents anti-crisis plan for tourism

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, May 8
The meeting of the economic group within the framework of the interagency coordination council was held on 7th of May. At the meeting the main topic of discussion was the reopening of tourism.

The Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated that Georgia will consider the separation of Tskaltubo, Gudauri, Sairme, Abastumani, Borjomi and other resorts as safe tourist zones from COVID-19. As Gakharia says, they have historically been positioned as zones necessary for the rehabilitation of the respiratory organs.

He also spoke of the several critical points of control that are necessary for the restoration of tourism, first of them being both land and air border. According to the PM, the Ministry of Health has already been instructed to strengthen the control of each entrant at the border. If earlier 14-day or 24-hour Quarantine was necessary, now this procedure should be completed within 1 hour. Gakharia assures there are required opportunities and technologies for this, and the Ministry of Health will address this issue in the near future.

A further issue is the management of hotels and the consideration of all the standards related to the prevention of Covid-19, same goes for the transport, he said, explaining that these are the main points where risks have to be managed for tourism restoration.

According to Gakharia, from 15th of June, Georgia will be open to local tourists, and in 2 weeks, and from 1st of July, for foreign tourists.

Natia Turnava, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia announced that the anti-crisis plan for tourism development requires a budget of GEL200 million for tourism. According to the Minister, the largest share of this amount will be spent on tax benefits. In particular, the deferral of tax and income taxes in the tourism sector weighs GEL135 million.

A serious resource of at least GEL60 million is earmarked for hotel loan subsidies, and we estimate that at least 3,000 companies will benefit from this assistance, and a support package of GEL5 million for tourism companies and guides, Turnava said.

According to the anti-crisis plan, the tourism sector will be fully exempt from the 2020 property tax, and the deferral of income tax will continue until the end of 2020.

"Taxes on companies operating in the tourism sector will be postponed until the end of the year. We will see there, we cannot promise a complete write-off of anyone's income, but it is possible to talk about delays and subsequent gradual payment schemes," Gakharia said.

According to the plan, the state will help all hotels with an annual turnover of up to GEL20 million by subsidizing 80 %of the first GEL5 million loan for 6 months.

The government also offers to involve the restaurant business in the credit guarantee scheme. In particular, in the process of restructuring existing bank loans, the state will provide them with 30 %co-payment, and when attracting new loans, it will receive 90 %co-payment.

It is planned to subsidize the bank guarantee interest for travel companies. A separate program is being developed for the guides.

According to Turnava, this program will be aimed at resolving the issue of identification and registration of guides, as well as in the process of restoring the tourism industry, towards their alternative employment.

While talking about the anti-crisis plan, the PM also announced that Tbilisi, which was closed on 15th of April, will be opened in a few days. It will be possible to enter and leave Tbilisi from 11th of May, in Rustavi and Gardabani from 14th of May and in Marneuli from 18th of May. He also explained that the curfew remains in force.

According to Gakharia, all shops with independent entrances from the street will be opened from 11th of May. This list does not include clothing and footwear stores. As explained, this decision is made due to the epidemiological situation in the country.

Shops in Georgia have been closed since 31st of March. Commercial activity was allowed only in exceptional cases, and the permission of the government was required.

Georgia has been closed to foreign nationals since 18st of March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Flights have also been banned in the country since this time. Airlines from other countries can arrive in Georgia only on an empty plane.