Armenia to help Georgia not lose Russian tourists
Armenia plans to help Georgia not lose Russian tourists – Yerevan International Airport Zvartnots has been offered as a transit point for those who want to go on holiday to Georgia, after Putin’s recent ban on Russian airliners flying to the country.
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Three Armenian airlines at once: Armenia, Taron Avia and Atlantis European, expressed their readiness to help resolve the Georgian-Russian crisis.
The adviser to the Prime Minister of Armenia on Aviation Hakob Chagaryan said on his Facebook page:
“Immediately after the publication of the decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin concerning the termination of direct flights to Georgia from July 8, I appealed to all Armenian airlines to clarify their willingness and opportunities to participate in a single Armenian front in passenger transportation from the Russian Federation to Georgia and the opposite direction due to Russian-Georgian tensions” .
As a result, with the help of five airliners, the number of which, by the way, may increase to seven, the Armenian side is ready to help Georgia not lose Russian tourists this summer, and Yerevan may become a transit point in the direction of the Russian Federation – Georgia.
Why can’t Russian airliners fly to Georgia?
It all started on June 20, when a political scandal occurred in Georgia.
During the meeting of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy being held in Tbilisi, Russian MP and Communist Party member Sergei Gavrilov took the chair of the speaker Georgian parliament, and opened the assembly.
This caused dissatisfaction amongst the parliamentary opposition of Georgia and the civil sector which accused the authorities of treason. The meeting was disrupted, and in the evening tens of thousands of people gathered in protest in downtown Tbilisi.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, commenting on what is happening in the center of Georgia, called Russia an “enemy and occupier.”
On June 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree prohibiting Russian airlines from flying to Georgia starting July 8 and tour operators were advised not to sell vouchers in this direction.
What are Russian and Georgian airlines offering?
Six Russian airlines fly to Georgia from Russia: Aeroflot, Pobeda, S7, Ural Airlines, Red Wings and Nord Avia. All of them stopped selling tickets for flights after July 8.
At the moment, Aeroflot is offering its customers tickets for flights to Tbilisi without changing the costs to change their destination to Yerevan, Vladikavkaz or Baku.
To circumvent the ban on flights to Russia, the Georgian airline Georgian Airways has also offered its passengers transit through Yerevan.
“If the ban will be in effect from July 8, Georgian Airways will offer its passengers a transit flight Tbilisi-Yerevan-Moscow,” the airline said in a message on its official Facebook page.
The transit time through the Armenian capital will be exactly one hour. However, Georgian Airways has not yet provided information on how this will affect the cost of the ticket.
Expert opinion: the Russian government has a goal to fill the resorts of Crimea
Armenian political scientist and economist Grant Mikayelyan says that transit flights will not affect the pricing policy of the airlines, but the effect of spoiled relations will still reduce the flow of tourists:
“The decline in tourist inflow will likely be around two-thirds of the total flow of Russian tourists. If flights are organized through Yerevan, then most likely a third. This will not be a critical recession, but it will still be tangible.”
Mikayelyan also noted that one of the reasons for this behavior of Russia may be the insufficient number of tourists in the Crimea. In other words, the Russian authorities are trying to fill their own recreation areas by limiting the flow of tourists to other countries.
“They have invested serious money in the infrastructure of Crimea, but due to the fact that there is no balance there: the quality of services is not very high, and the prices are high – as a result, the number of tourists are low there. Less than it was when Crimea was part of Ukraine. Therefore, the Russian authorities have tried in different ways over the past five years to increase the number of tourists in the Crimea”, Mikayelyan believes.