The economic welfare of the Georgian population depends significantly on revenues from tourism. From a macroeconomic point of view, the growth of the country’s economy and the stability of the exchange rate of the lari are also primarily tied to tourism. In 2022, Georgia had a $5 billion deficit in foreign trade in goods, $3 billion of which was covered by income from tourists.
Let us look at the state of tourism this year. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has started publishing quarterly visitor statistics (before 2023, these figures were published monthly). We currently know the data for the first two quarters of 2023 (the period January-June), which includes statistics for one-day and transit visitors, as well as tourists. A visitor who stays at least 24 hours in Georgia is counted as a tourist.
In January-June 2023, Georgia welcomed 2.9 million foreign visitors, including 1.9 million tourists. The number of visitors increased by 76%, and the number of tourists by 60% year-on-year. However, compared to the pre-pandemic figures recorded in 2019, the number of visitors and tourists is still lower by 26% and 9%, respectively. One million more tourists came to Georgia in the first half of 2019 than in the first half of 2023.
Number of Visitors and Tourists to Georgia in January-June 2023 (Millions of People)
The figures show a year-on-year increase of 1.2 million visitors to Georgia in the period January-June 2023, of which 850,000 arrived from Russia, Turkey and Armenia.
Turkey accounted for the most visitors in Georgia in the first half of 2023 (583,000 visitors), followed by Russia (578,000) and Armenia (397,000). The number of visitors from Turkey grew by 122% compared to JanuaryJune 2022 and is even 17% higher than in 2019. The number of visitors from Russia was 134% higher than in the first half of 2022 but 17% lower than during the same period in 2019. Turkey and Russia accounted for 41% of visitors to Georgia.
Before the pandemic, Azerbaijan was one of the top three countries of origin of visitors to Georgia. However, despite the end of the pandemic, Azerbaijan has kept the land border with Georgia closed, officially still citing pandemic control as the reason. This has affected visitor numbers. There were 86,000 visitors from Azerbaijan in the first half of 2023, 29% more than in 2022 but 86% below the 2019 figure. It is estimated that around 500,000 more visitors would have entered Georgia from Azerbaijan between January and June this year if it were not for the closed land border.
In January-June 2023, there were 162,000 visitors from EU countries, 66% above the 2022 figure but 12% below the 2019 figure. Poland accounted for the majority of visitors from the EU (36,000), followed by Germany (25,000) and Latvia (9,500). The same countries also account for the highest increases. Although the number of visitors from each EU country in 2023 was higher than in 2022, compared to the first half of 2019, the figure was lower for 21 countries.
Top 10 Countries of Origin for Visitors to Georgia in the First Half of 2023
2023 (6 months)
Change from 2022 (6 months)
Share in Total Number of Visitors
Source: The Georgian National Tourism Administration
Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the EU account for 63% of visitors to Georgia. Russia accounts for the most significant increase in the share of visitors since 2015 (from 12% to 20.2%). The EU’s share increased from 3.4% to 5.7%. Turkey accounts for the largest increase in the share of visitors since 2019 (from 12.4% to 20.4%), with Russia’s share increasing by 4.5% and the EU’s by 0.5%. In contrast, Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s shares have decreased. Azerbaijan’s share decreased the most (from 18.3% to 3%).
The main attraction of tourism is the income. The more higher-spending tourists come to Georgia, the more the population’s revenues increase. It also has a positive macroeconomic effect, supporting economic growth and the stability of the national currency.
In the first half of 2023, tourists spent $1.8 billion in Georgia, which is $662 million (58%) more than during the same period in 2022. Although the number of visitors is still short of the pre-pandemic figure, the amount of money spent by tourists in the first half of 2023 exceeded the 2019 figure by 24%. This points to the arrival of higher-spending tourists and can be explained by the decrease in the number of Azerbaijani visitors, whose spending was traditionally relatively low.
The Share of Visitors From the Top Five Countries Out of the Total Number of Visitors
Russian citizens accounted for the largest share of revenues from tourism in the first half of 2023 (27%, which is $482 million in monetary terms). Turkish citizens spent $264 million, and citizens of EU countries spent $216 million. Russian citizens spent $263 million more than during the same period last year. Turkish citizens spent $155 million more, while EU citizens spent $95 million more. In percentage terms, the most significant increase (143%) was recorded in the spending of Turkish citizens, while the citizens of Belarus (-$74 million), Saudi Arabia (-$16 million) and Ukraine (-$6 million) spent less.
The average spend of a foreign visitor in Georgia in the first half of 2023 was $631. Of the major countries of origin for visitors to Georgia, citizens of Israel had the highest average spend ($1,392), followed by citizens of EU countries ($1,332) and Russia ($835). Nationals of Armenia spent the least ($170 on average), which points towards a high number of one or two-day visits.
Average Spend Per Tourist by Country, January-June 2023 (Million USD)
In 2023, tourism will again be Georgia’s leading source of foreign revenue, with the amount received from travelers set to exceed $4 billion. If Azerbaijan opens its land border with Georgia, the number of visitors will likely return to the 2019 figures by 2024. However, low-budget tourists have been replaced by relatively high-spending tourists, which has already increased the revenues from tourism above pre-pandemic levels.
Average Spend Per Tourist by Country, January-June 2023 (Million USD)Leave a comment