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Georgia saw 500% increase in tourists from Middle East in 2021

January 12, 2022 at 3:57 pm

Georgian flags can be seen in Tbilisi, Georgia on 21 December 2021 [Aziz Karimov/Getty Images]

Last year, the country Georgia welcomed over 103,500 tourists from the Middle East, representing a 511 per cent year-on-year increase in November, according to statistics released by the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GTNA).

The surge in tourists from the region are now closer to pre-pandemic levels, with the former Soviet republic receiving more than 150,000 visitors from the Middle East in 2019.

A report yesterday by Salaam Gateway suggests that the destination, situated in the Caucasus, is popular for Middle Eastern holidaymakers not only due to its scenic landscapes, affordable hotels and relative proximity, but also due to “an increasing availability of halal food and Arabic speaking guides”.

The uptick in Middle Eastern visitors is primarily driven by tourists from the Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, which was among the top 10 countries by international visitor to Georgia and saw a 1079.8 per cent increase compared to the previous 11 months at 58,520 visitors. Although tourists from Israel and Turkey still outnumber those from Arab speaking countries.

Some tourists from the Gulf are even spending entire months on the Black Sea and in the capital, Tbilisi, which now boasts a bustling Arab Quarter.

A report last year by the Middle East Institute on Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) tourism to Georgia, found that the country has become popular over the past decade due to promising business opportunities and as an alternative holiday destination, especially as entry to Georgia is visa-free, allowing many to GCC tourists to repeat visit within the same year.

Money from the GCC, chiefly the UAE, has also poured into and redeveloped Georgia’s hospitality sector and, late last month, the UAE and Georgia entered into talks to establish a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement to boost trade and investment ties between the two countries.

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