15 May 2023 18:38

Restoration of air travel with Russia could add $400 mln in revenue to Georgia's tourism sector in 2023 - Deputy PM Davitashvili

TBILISI. May 15 (Interfax) - Restoring flights between Georgia and Russia in 2023 could bring $300 to $400 million in additional revenue for the Georgian tourism sector, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Levan Davitashvili said at a briefing after a government meeting on Monday.

Davitashvili noted the successes achieved in the tourism sector in the post-pandemic period and expressed hope that this year the flow of travelers from Russia will increase even more, as well as from other countries, in particular from neighboring Azerbaijan.

The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that it would not be "pragmatic" to turn down direct flights between Russia and Georgia.

The Deputy Prime Minister expressed hope that the country's population would positively assess the efforts that the authorities are making to improve the country's economy.

At the same time, Davitashvili stressed that the country's course towards joining the EU remains unchanged.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 10 canceled the visa regime for Georgian citizens by decree starting May 15, 2023, with the exception of persons entering Russian for work. According to the document, "from May 15, 2023, citizens of Georgia may enter the Russian Federation and leave the Russian Federation without visas, on the basis of valid identity documents."

In addition, a decree was issued to lift restrictions on flights to and from Georgia, which have been in force since July 2019.

The Russian Transport Ministry said that after the restrictions are lifted, Russian airlines will fly between Moscow and Tbilisi 7 times a week, and domestic aircraft will be used. Red Wings, whose fleet is comprised mainly of Russian SSJ100s, soon announced they were ready to start flights to Georgia if they could get permits. According to Davitashvili, three Russian airlines have applied for direct regular flights to three Georgian airports, Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi.

The United States and the European Union have warned Tbilisi about the risks of sanctions in the event of the resumption of air traffic with Russia.