Georgia to become the first country to allow international tourism amidst Covid-19 pandemic 09/05/2020




 

On 7 May, the Georgian government announced its plan to open its borders to foreign tourists, starting from 1 July. The country’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that this would be possible through the creation of a safe corridor on land borders with Georgia’s neighboring countries, as well as by bilateral negotiations with countries that are labeled as “interesting” for Georgia in terms of tourism.

The plan of re-opening the tourism sector in Georgia envisages three stages. During stage one safety standards will be introduced at border crossings and airports. During stage two (starting on  15 June) there is a plan to create safe tourism zones and resume domestic tourism. Gakharia said that Tskaltubo, Gudauri, Sairme, Abastumani, and Borjomi resorts would be branded as the safe zones. During stage three Georgia will be open for international tourism and would include a gradual resumption of flights to the country. 

Gakharia also said that the tourism sector will be fully exempt from property taxes in 2020. “During 2020, the tourism sector will be fully exempt from property taxes, which is a very important step for the sector. In addition, the income taxes of companies operating in the tourism sector will be postponed for 9 months, until the end of the year. We cannot promise a complete write-off of anyone's income taxes, but it is possible to talk about the schemes of gradual payment,” he stated. In addition, the government of Georgia will finance 80% of interest rates on the hotel business bank loans, in amounts up to GEL 5 million, for the hotels with an annual turnover of up to 20 million lari, which according to Gakharia includes almost 95% of the hotel industry in the country.  

The decision to re-open the tourism sector in the country was motivated by the results achieved in Georgia in the fight against the spread Covid-19 virus, which also gained recognition by the World Health Organisation (WHO). “We see positive signs from many countries, including those most affected ones in the European region, as well as from other countries that have taken early measures, such as Georgia, where we see relatively low cases of the coronavirus infected people compared to other European countries,” said WHO's senior health emergency officer for Europe Catherine Smallwood. 

Although being the first country in the Caucasus to report the cases of Covid-19 infected persons, Georgia so far has the lowest number of infected persons in the Caucasus. The current tally stands at 623, with 10 reported deaths. 

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