Georgia has announced it will be ready to receive international tourists from Wednesday, July 1, joining several other countries in reopening after months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement comes ahead of the peak summer season for the Caucasus country, and as European countries also prepare to welcome travellers once more.
Georgia will reopen local tourism services from Monday, June 15, and will be ready to welcome international tourists two weeks later, the country's National Tourism Administration said in a statement.
More than two months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold of Europe, Georgia will join the ranks of nations such as Germany, France, Italy and Spain, which are making plans to gradually welcome guests back.
However, other European nations are reopening their borders to travellers to a select few countries, with each country having its own set of rules for those planning to visit.
Georgia, on the other hand, has stated its intention is to welcome all travellers but it's not clear how this will work as there are still several caveats.
Firstly, there will be set "zones" that travellers may be permitted to visit, and land border crossings are still being negotiated.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia says the country is working on creating "safe corridors on land borders with our neighbouring countries and – based on bilateral negotiations – with countries that are of touristic interest to us".
"Talks have already begun. Georgia will be one of the first countries to open its borders and tourist infrastructure to receive guests from abroad," he says.
Georgia has reported just 623 cases of Covid-19 and nine deaths.
The country is a top destination for travellers from the UAE, due to its proximity and relative inexpensiveness. The flight from Dubai to Tbilisi is less than four hours.
In 2019, Georgia welcomed a record high of 9.3 million visitors. The country has set a goal of attracting 11 million tourists by 2025.
To get the tourism sector up and running again, Gakharia has promised to relieve businesses in the tourism sector from paying property taxes in 2020. He has also said the government will subsidise payments on loans of up to €1.3 million (Dh5.3m) for 80 per cent for hotels with a turnover of €5.7 million or less.
In its announcement, the tourism board also announced its intention to gather ministers of tourism from around the world for a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in September in Georgia.
How will the reopening work?
Georgia does not plan to reopen the entire country at once, it would seem.
It will first receive tourists in “Green Zones”, where "infection cases of coronavirus have not been confirmed". However, these zones have not yet been finalised, a spokesman said. They were likely to be announced next week.
National Administration of Tourism boss Mariam Kvrivishvili says this would mean introducing "zones all over the country which are completely protected from Covid-19".
“Safety will be the main condition for us. Georgia is one of the first countries in the world to announce that it will reopen its tourism industry in the context of the current pandemic crisis. It is important that all hotels, food catering facilities, guides, and travel agencies unfailingly comply to the established international criteria for safety,” Kvrivishvili says.
Mountain and sea resorts would be next to open, at an undisclosed date. These would first open for internal tourists, and then foreigners.