Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze on Wednesday said the recent initiative of the Lelo for Georgia opposition party, which called on the Government to impose visa requirements for Russian and Belarusian citizens to prevent security threats on the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine, would have a negative impact on domestic tourism.
In his remarks, Kaladze rejected the opposition’s warnings that the “uncontrolled influx” of Russian and Belarus citizens could pose “serious threats” to the country and its security amid continuous occupation of Georgian lands by Russia, and suggested that the further development of the tourism sector was of “high importance”.
We welcome the arrival of tourists and will always promote the strengthening of the tourism sector. Of course, it is important that the Georgian economy is growing, and the development of tourism is one of the key components of the economy. Thus, the Georgian government will do its utmost to encourage the tourism sector development, which, in its turn, will create jobs”, Kaladze said.
Russia unilaterally introduced the visa regime with Georgia in December 2000 to “prevent terrorsim threats”, claiming that thousands of refugees and fighters had fled from Chechnya to Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge during the second Chechen war (1999-2000).
Georgia suspended diplomatic relations with Russia following the Russia-Georgia 2008 war and canceled visa-free movement with the neighboring country. However, Tbilisi lifted the restriction starting March 1, 2012, while Georgians still need a visa to visit Russia.