The Georgian government announced that domestic tourism can resume from 15 June while borders could open to foreign tourists as early as 1 July.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated earlier this month that “Georgia will resume domestic tourism starting June 15 and will receive international tourists starting July 1”, while budget airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air will resume flights from select countries across the region, including the Baltics, Hungary, Israel and other destinations currently under negotiation.
The move to open the country’s borders has been welcomed by local tour companies, who saw bookings plummet from a high, literally overnight.
Georgia’s rapid lockdown could well have proven successful. So far, the small Caucasus nation has only officially recorded 731 cases of infection and 12 deaths in a population nearing four million people.
Economy Minister Natia Turnava hopes to brand Georgia as a safe destination on the back of the country’s apparent COVID-19 successes, announcing at a recent press conference that: “before the world knew us as a country with an ancient hospitality tradition, now the world will recognise us as a safe country destination. We need to use the new competitive advantage that our country has acquired in the fight against the pandemic”.
Travellers looking to escape the rest of the world could find ample opportunity for respite from the worldwide pandemic in Georgia’s already isolated mountains. Grigoli Paghava of Budget Georgia says positively that “social distancing is better in the remote areas and mountains, though the risk is still everywhere”. His tour company already have bookings locked in as early as 7 July, and he believes that all places in Georgia will be safe for travelling by July.
The Georgian mountains have emerged as a top hiking destination in summer, but remote communities in expanding tourism hubs such as Svaneti and Tusheti remain cut off from the world for much of the year, given their extreme altitude and fierce snowstorms.