The FINANCIAL — Difficult visa regimes and complicated bureaucratic processes to almost every foreign country overtook economical problems as one of the main reasons for Georgians’ passivity in tourism. To encourage Georgians, the leading airlines in Georgia have announced their Christmas rates on air tickets.
“We are planning to have big discounts starting from January 6,” Nino Giorgobiani, PR manager of Georgian Airways, informed The FINANCIAL.
“The prices will be divided. Ticket prices to Ukraine will consist of Euro 50. This will be a sort of present for our customers,” Giorgobiani said.
“We plan to offer discounts for Christmas, but we don’t know yet how big they will be,” Tamuna Kenkishvili, Euro Line said.
Turkey remains the most popular destination for Georgians because of its visa free regime, which is not the case with European countries like Spain.
“People who suddenly decide to leave for Spain can’t just leave Georgia for that destination on the spur of the moment. To get a Spanish visa you have to write to their consulate in Germany at least 2 months prior to the planned date of travel. If Germany’s consulate decides not to give a visa you’re not able to send a letter of complaint directly to them. Such a letter must be sent to the consulate in either Ankara or Kiev,” Nino Namgaladze, Director of Via Travel, told The FINANCIAL.
Namgaladze says that it is easier to arrange tours to Ukraine.
“In Ukraine, our tourism agency arranges things for customers around the week. There are lots of interesting and cheap destinations for tourists to visit. For example Thailand, which is a destination not offered in Georgia. Despite the politically strained situation there, Thailand has not lost its popularity with tourists. Thailand, whose main number of tourists come from Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, annulled its visa regime with these countries and removed all difficulties in the way of entering for their citizens. Travel companies from the companies of these countries have direct flies three or more times per week. The prices are also fairly reasonable,” Namgaladze says.
However, if a Georgian decides to spend their vacation in Thailand, their passport will have to travel first to Erevan, where the nearest consulate is located.
“We pay an extra fee for Erevan’s services. All these costs are added to the total fee,” Namgaladze added.
Georgia has no visa regime regarding Turkey, Egypt and Ukraine.
“The most popular tourist country for Georgians is Turkey. In summertime over 6,000 people leave for Turkey from our tour agency only. Other top destinations include Egypt, the Czech Republic, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, France, Israel, and Ukraine,” says Tinatin Kalandarishvili, Sales and Marketing Manager of InterTour.
“The popularity of the country depends on the season,” says Kalandarishvili.
“In summertime Turkey and Spain are very popular. In winter – Egypt, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. In Spring and Autumn – France, the Czech Republic. And at Christmas time – Israel.”
“But only Ukraine is consistently popular throughout all four seasons,” says Kalandarishvili.
“At present the most popular destinations for our clients are the Czech Republic and Egypt. 8 day Czech tours cost EUR 600. This price includes hotel, flights, excursions and insurance. Egypt costs EUR 800 for 12 days. This includes hotel, flights and insurance expenses.”
Kalandarishvili says that July and August are the hottest period of the tourist season.
“The number of tourists in the summer period increases by 50-70 percent.”
Namgaladze, Via Travel, thinks that the government should solve the problems with getting visas as soon as possible.
“In most developed countries travel agencies receive accreditation at embassies and consulates. Tourists then do not need to deal directly with the consulates. But in Georgia travel agencies are restricted to working in that way.”
Namgaladze says that the consulates of European countries don’t trust Georgian tourists.
“Many Georgians are living in Europe and the USA illegally. The majority are in Baltic countries, Israel and the USA.”
Namgaladze says that the USA is a restricted zone for Georgian tourists.
“The expensive rates of air tickets is one of the main reasons for why Georgians are passive tourists,” Kalandarishvili, Inter Tour, presumes.
“The shorter the flight distance, the lower the price. The lowest fares of Lufthansa from Georgia are to Germany and Central Europe. The highest fares we sell are First Class tickets to South America,” Stefan Schwarz, General Manager of Georgia Lufthansa German Airlines, told The FINANCIAL.
“Since Autumn 2007 according to the agreement of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) all airlines in Georgia quote their prices in EUR and issue their tickets according to the daily exchange rate,” Schwarz says.
Currency changes have influenced air ticket prices.
“The recent changes of the national currency have increased prices of air tickets by 15%,” Kenkishvili, Euro Line, stated.
Euro Line, which was established in June 2008, was planning its own flights to Russian cities, but after the August war between Georgia and Russia was forced to change its plans.
“At present we have flights to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Dubai and Turkey. The largest demand is for flights to Ukraine. One way to Alma-Ata costs GEL 625. A return flight to Ukraine costs GEL 623,” Kenkishvili added.
“Germany is the main destination for passengers flying with Lufthansa,” Schwarz, Lufthansa says. “Lufthansa offers competitive prices, which allow a profitable operation of our routes. Due to our success on the Georgian market we are able to provide special prices more often, to Europe, America and Asia. Our last price change in October was even a slight decrease, to forward the advantage of lower fuel prices to our valued customers,” said Schwarz.
“Lufthansa has currently introduced an Autumn Price Special till Christmas from Georgia to various European destinations with a round-trip price of only EUR 299, (plus taxes and fees). Let us take the example of a ticket to Prague: the Autumn Price Special means a discount of about 22 percent to the lowest fare in times without price promotion and even an unbelievable 74 percent discount to the applicable normal Economy Class roundtrip fare,” Schwarz says.
The main number of tickets sold by Georgian Airways in 2007 was to Ukraine, consisting of 35,157 (22%) and in a period of 10 months’ data – 28,524 (21%) to the same destination. In 2007 most tickets sold in the summertime were to Russia; 24,082 (23%), and in 2008 – 16,088 (18%) to Ukraine.
“In 2007 and 2008 there were no changes in ticket prices. Tickets to Ukraine cost EUR 110, which didn’t change. The lowest price is for flights to Kiev – EUR 110, and the highest – to European countries, where prices are around EUR 400,” Nino Giorgobiani, Georgian Airways, says.
Written By Madona Gasanova