2024 February-March Analysis

Sectoral spotlight: Georgia’s tourism sector sees ‘record revenues’ in 2023, sets out plans for 2024

2023 was a banner year for tourism, according to statistics published by the Georgian National Tourism Administration in early February. Georgia brought in a record-breaking $4.1 billion in tourism revenue, which is 17% more than 2022 and a 26% increase compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Tourist-type visits exceeded 4.6 million, an almost 100% recovery compared to 2019, Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) head Maia Omiadze recently told the media.

Deputy Minister of Economy Mariam Kvrivishvili attributes this success in the tourism sector to various “successful activities,” including Georgia’s hosting of the 2023 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Bakuriani and the country’s host position for ITB Berlin, a major international tourism fair.

The Deputy Minister also highlighted the government’s efforts to establish more direct airline traffic with “strategically important target countries.” She noted the introduction of several European airlines and airlines from India to the Georgian air market in 2023, contributing to the diversification of the tourist market and resulting in increased tourist flows and revenues.

Plans for 2024

Looking ahead to 2024, the Ministry of Economy and tourism administration has outlined plans to enhance the country’s visibility as a visitor destination, host more significant events, and establish additional direct air access to “strategically important” countries.

Further to this, the government offered two other major aviation-related announcements in 2023: plans to construct a new airport in Telavi that could receive its first guests as early as May 2024 and plans to begin constructing a new international airport in Tbilisi, which former Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili lauded as a move that would turn Georgia into an “aviation hub.”

The Deputy Minister of Economy has also announced several major international events coming to Georgia in 2024. As Georgia looks to solidify its position as a winter ski destination, its ski resorts have attracted the attention of the International Ski and Snowboard Federation following a successful hosting of the 2023 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Bakuriani. Bakuriani kicked off the 2023-2024 ski season with a successful hosting of the Moguls World Cup in December 2023, which brought 90 athletes from 16 countries to participate in the competition.

Also notable was ski town Gudauri’s first-ever hosting gig for the Snowboard Cross World Cup in February. In preparation for the international competition, which Director of Mountain Trails Agency Irakli Burchuladze said would “mark the resort on the world map,” an estimated GEL 70 million ($26 million) was invested into updating the resort’s infrastructure. Visitors to Gudauri can now enjoy two new ropeway systems and an additional six-kilometer track. A new snow blower is also now operating for the infrastructure, with contactless check-in points updated on all cable cars, new information monitors installed, and new road and ski signs added, according to the Ministry of Economy. In March, Svaneti’s Tetnuldi resort will also host the qualifiers for the Freeride World Tour.

Beyond winter-focused events, Georgia is also set to host World Tourism Day this September – an event supported by the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization that GNTA’s Omiadze told reporters will bring “a lot of high-level guests to Georgia…and we will have the opportunity to introduce them to our country and the investment potential of our country, as well as the potential of tourism.”

In addition to these major events, Omiadze recently told reporters that “active campaigns” would be implemented in 2024 to promote the country in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Persian Gulf countries, India, and China.