Tourist attractiveness of Abkhazia
Today, tourism plays one of the main roles in the world economy and is one of the fastest growing types of international business. The tourism industry is a significant source of income for the treasury of any state and plays the role of a stimulant for domestic and world trade.
The potential of Abkhazia in the tourism sector is enormous: the country has a rich cultural and historical heritage and natural resources. But, unfortunately, the development of tourism in Abkhazia is severely hampered by underdeveloped infrastructure and a lack of appropriate level of service in the areas. All this, in turn, affects the tourist flow of foreigners into the country.
Today many Russian citizens prefer Abkhazia to foreign places of rest. Of course, all this is due to instability in currency markets and the global geopolitical situation, but at the same time this trend gives the strongest impetus to the development of inbound tourism.
According to TourStat, Abkhazia was included in the top five resort destinations of summer 2019 for Russians, along with the Krasnodar Territory (10.5 million tourists), the Crimea (5 million tourists), Turkey (4.4 million tourists) and Italy (600,000 tourists). Abkhazia took 4th place with 850,000 tourists, up 6% from 2018.
The Gagra region and Sukhum are the most popular resorts for Russian tourists. Tour operators Alean, Intourist, ICS TravelGroup, Russcom Express and Dolphin note that Abkhazia is among the top three resorts for summer 2019. Early booking for 2019 on Abkhazia started in mid-December: tours were booked 40% more actively than 2018, and hotel occupancy for May-June was 60%-70%.
At the beginning of the season Russian statistics confidently testified about the growing popularity of the Abkhazian destination among tourists. For the May holidays tourists actively booked rooms, bought vouchers, but the current political situation in the country scared tourists and influenced the cancellation of bookings.
On May 20, 2019 there was an open-ended protest by the opposition in front of the Abkhaz Parliament building, in connection with the decision not to postpone the presidential elections, which are to be held in July, to the autumn of this year. Accordingly, this situation has had a negative impact on the flow of tourists.
In this regard, chairman of Abkhazian Tourism Union established with the support of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Abkhazia, commenting on the situation in the country stressed that no matter how the situation develops, tourists are not in danger, any events in the republic aimed at resolving internal problems should not affect tourists in any way. That is why the negative background has lasted for some time.
As for fake vouchers, the number of deceived tourists in 2019 is much lower than in previous years. As noted by the State Committee on Resorts and Tourism on this was influenced by the opening of the hotline where, called tourists received reliable information, including about holiday homes, hotels and boarding houses in Abkhazia.
According to the State Committee, 426 accommodations for 25 thousand places were prepared for the 2019 season in the republic. During the season 19-20 thousand people were involved in tourism. These are tour guides, attendants of hotels and resorts, drivers, employees of catering facilities, etc. In the private sector, 11 thousand families rent lodging to holidaymakers.
Also, the State Committee has been certified guides and created handouts with the necessary instructions and phone numbers, including for emergencies. These handouts were handed out for free at the Psou checkpoint.
Representatives of the tourism business in Abkhazia, as in 2018 to successfully compete with neighboring resorts, reduced prices for early booking, which had a positive impact on the growth of the flow of tourists.
According to the State Committee on Resorts and Tourism of Abkhazia, 1,000,050 tourists had visited Abkhazia by November 2019, an increase of 50,000 over last year. Of these, 517 thousand tourists visited the country with a one-day visit as part of excursions.
The occupancy rate in accommodations in high season was 100%. This year and last year are similar in terms of occupancy and income. Consequently, the situation is much better compared to 2017. Mostly guests come to Abkhazia – guests, which is 30%, who return to the republic every year. There are also foreign tourists – Chinese, Germans, French and others.
From the consolidated report of the Department of State Statistics of RA on the main indicators of institutions of the resort sphere in January-September 2019, it is clear that the volume of paid services throughout Abkhazia amounted to 2 004 827.0 thousand rubles. Of these, 1,646,673.0 thousand rubles accounted for the health resort sphere – 130,726 serviced tourists, and 358,153.4 thousand rubles, or 913,386 serviced tourists – for the tourist and excursion sphere.
Compared to 2018, the volume of paid services provided increased by 1.08%, the growth rate is 107.5%, including 157.8% for Sukhum, 108.1% for the Gagra district, 93.9% for the Gudauta district, 132.5% for the Gulrypsh district and 110.4% for the Ochamchire district.
Prices in Abkhazia for 2019: monitoring the cost of holidays.
The resort season in Abkhazia begins in May and ends in late October, with the cost of recreation differing markedly by month. July and August are the peak of the bathing season, so accommodation prices are higher than in June and during the velvet season.
Approximate cost of residing for 1 person in hotels with an “all inclusive” system for 7 nights, in June is from – 15 to 30 thousand rubles, in July and August from – 30 to 50 thousand rubles, in the “velvet season” from 25 thousand rubles.
If the system “all inclusive” is not a prerequisite for recreation, the prices will be much lower. Approximate cost of living per person in hotels with meals “breakfasts”, at:
The price for a room in a guest house starts at 1000 rubles per day. One-bedroom apartment can be rented from 1000 rubles, two-bedroom will cost from 1500 rubles. The price depends on the conditions, the proximity to the sea, the season. You should book the accommodation in advance because as a rule the offers are much more expensive in high season.
The cost of accommodation in the private sector:
The most popular places to visit traditionally remain the Ritza National Relict Park and the New Athos Cave. To see Lake Ritza in 2019 in Abkhazia came 391 thousand people, which is three thousand less than last year. In New Athos cave visited 274 thousand tourists, which is six thousand less than last year. The total amount of revenue from the facilities was 263 million rubles.
The budget of the Ritza National Relict Park was replenished by 127 million rubles, and of the New Athos Cave by 136 million rubles. Eastern Abkhazia with its natural sights (Akarmar waterfalls, radon springs) is getting more and more popular among tourists. According to the chairman of GK Avtandil Gartskia, up to 65% of tourists come to the republic not for the first time and their average age is from 30 to 40 years old. He reported that the “busiest” was September, as in the last days of August there was bad weather in Abkhazia. Mostly people from Krasnodar, Stavropol Krai and Rostov region, as well as central regions of Russia yearn to see Abkhazia.
As for winter tourism, many sites have prepared special offers for the winter vacations and the new year with an interesting entertainment program. About 50 objects are ready to receive tourists, mainly in Gagra and Sukhum: “Alex Resort & Spa Hotel”, “Amra Park Hotel & Spa”, “Sun Palace Gagra”, “Sunrise Garden Hotel”, “Inter Sukhum”, “Samshitovaya Roscha”, “San Marina”, “Chelyuskintsev” and others.
Speaking about summer season 2020 hoteliers have defined the prices and the early booking has already started. Leading tour operators of Russia have placed early booking to Abkhazia. As of mid-November from 20 to 50% of accommodation was put on sale.
Leading tour operators estimated demand for resorts of Abkhazia 2020:
– According to the tour operator TUI Russia, now 40% of offers for Abkhazian resorts are available for booking. The full amount of offers will appear in January 2020. Hotels of Novy Afon and other resorts of Abkhazia are more in demand in sales of TUI Russia in Russia.
– According to information of tour-operator “Russian Express” there is no more than 20% of offerings in Abkhazia for summer 2020. Agents mostly ask for tours to Sochi and Abkhazia.
– Abkhazia is also at the top of demand of ALEAN tour operator.
– According to “Intourist” data Sochi and then Abkhazia are the absolute leaders in domestic sales for 2020 season.
According to data from tour operators demand for Abkhazian resorts in early booking generally corresponds to the sales volume in November last year. In general, experts emphasize that by buying tours to resorts in advance you can save up to 20-25% depending on the date of arrival and the object of accommodation.
One of the main events of 2019 for Abkhazia was the call of the cruise liner “Prince Vladimir” at Sukhumi sea port on December 2. The last time such a ship entered Abkhazia was 26 years ago, and all that time the port has only hosted barges and dry cargo ships. The cruise liner is a full-fledged floating hotel, where there is everything for the safe and comfortable rest. There are 300 cabins of different classes for 800 passengers. Next year six voyages to Sukhum are planned. The first cruise of the ship in 2020 is scheduled for March 1. The average cost of a six-day tour is around 22 thousand rubles. If the number of tourists wishing to travel to Abkhazia increases, we will consider increasing the number of voyages. Current visit to Abkhazia was held in test mode. It will contribute to increasing the flow of tourists to our republic.
In 2019, work began on the reconstruction of Sukhumi airport, which will take from one and a half to two years. After the opening of the airport, it is planned to receive from three to five thousand passengers a day and use it for air freight.
The opening of the Sukhumi airport will attract tourists not only from Russia and other post-Soviet countries but also from far abroad.
Tourist resources of the Republic of Abkhazia are inexhaustible, every tourist can find a place and environment to his liking. Modern tourism industry is based on unique tourist and recreational potential of the Republic, but the development of the tourism industry is hampered by a number of problems, typical for almost every region: lack of quality hotel and entertainment infrastructure, low level of service, transport inaccessibility of tourist sites, litter coastal areas and natural areas, lack of qualified personnel, poorly organized marketing, unfavorable business environment, imperfection of the tourist industry.
During a routine visit to the facilities, specialists of the Department of Tourism of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry conducted a survey, made a SWOT-analysis and the following picture was revealed:
1. Favorable geographical location. The availability of unique and diverse natural landscape conditions and resources allows the development of almost all types of tourism (recreational, cultural, business, medical, environmental, rural tourism, sea cruises, etc.).
2. transport availability: availability of several kinds of transport at once – water, automobile and railway. Gradual solution of transport accessibility problems (in the future opening of the airport), opening of regular sea communication between the ports of Abkhazia and Russia, reconstruction of Sukhumi railway station building.
3. the presence of unique tourist attractions: cultural and natural monuments.
4. Favorable natural and climatic conditions, with mild winters and hot summers.
5. Availability of the developed tourist-recreational infrastructure in seaside territories and cities.
1. Highly seasonal nature of tourism.
2. Outdated material and technical base of collective means of accommodation, low level of service in hotels, as well as inconsistency of transport companies’ services with the quality of services provided to consumers.
3. low marketing activities to promote Abkhazia as a tourist product on the international market.
4. Lack of qualified specialists and professional staff.
5. Difficulty in obtaining visas.
6. Unattractive tourist atmosphere (not well-maintained cities, lack of entertainment centers, the navigation for tourists is poorly thought out and does not have enough information or not available at all, modern communications and mobile technology provides a lot of opportunities to use GPS navigation, I would like to have navigation areas combined with sightseeing services).
7. Negative attitude to tourists.
8. Small amounts of local fruits and vegetables sold in the markets.
1. Opportunity for the development of various types of tourism.
2. Opportunity to combine several kinds of tourism.
3. Possibility of development of tourist infrastructure at the expense of attraction of investments.
4. Creation of new qualitative and competitive tourist routes.
5. Formation of positive image of the country and increase of tourist flows at the expense of expansion of types of tourism.
6. Creation of favorable investment climate.
1. Competition with other countries, as well as directly with its neighbors (resorts of Krasnodar region).
2. economic sanctions will reduce the flow of tourists into the country.
3. Current political situation in the country.
Economic problems reduce the consumer buying power. 4.
Based on the SWOT-analysis, we can identify the main factors hindering the development of tourism in the republic. These are:
– tourism infrastructure (unsatisfactory condition of tourism facilities, deterioration of the material base of sanatorium-resort sphere, insufficient level of development of the sphere of additional services, many means of accommodation need renovation);
– lack of marketing policy, aimed at advertising and promotion of the tourist potential of Abkhazia in the world market;
– transportation problem. There is no infrastructure for travel by car: there are few roadside cafes, hotels, parking lots, etc. And those that do exist, provide a low level of service, but at the same time set high prices. Lack of air service;
– Lack of qualified personnel (lack of specialized training centers for service personnel);
– Lack of funding for the tourism industry;
– Weak interest of investors in the tourism industry. This is due to the low return on investment in the tourism industry. Investors are more profitable to invest in the construction of a residential complex than a hotel, recouping the cost much faster. Low level of service. The problem of low level of service to a greater extent with the lack of qualified personnel.
Among the factors increasing the attractiveness of the tourist potential of Abkhazia should be noted:
– Unique natural and resource potential, cultural and historical heritage;
– Presence of an airport, seaport and railway station.
According to the “Strategy of Social-Economic Development of the Republic of Abkhazia till 2025” one of the important conditions for transition to the optimal scenario of the Republic development is working out and realization of active innovative policy. Tourist and recreational complex is one of the priority and promising directions of the republic’s economic development. Based on the analysis conducted by the Department of Tourism of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Abkhazia, the development of tourism in Abkhazia requires constant study of preferences of modern tourists, providing the opportunity to choose a tourist route of interest and types of tourism, development of fashionable new types of tourism, non-traditional extreme ones.
It is necessary to expand tourist destinations (programs) using the innovative experience of leading foreign countries, which have progressively influenced their economies and will give impetus to the further improvement of the tourism industry in Abkhazia. It is important to popularize holidays in Abkhazia in the world, and then it will be possible to attract new tourist flow. When forming a tourist product to use new methods, taking into account many factors that have not been previously considered. At present, tour operators make little use of market research in the development of tours, there is almost no feedback from the client, the proposals are not built on the preferences of the tourist, so they are not always in demand. A person should be able to choose a tourist itinerary in advance, to get a full range of services in the face of a single travel company.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working hard in the field of tourism development, including through regular participation in international trade fairs to familiarize and attract tourists from abroad. There is also work on forming positive image of the country in the sphere of tourism.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working together with the government of Abkhazia. For example, in 2019 it appealed to the Cabinet of Ministers with proposals to introduce mandatory general requirements for determining the typology of the object of accommodation with its further voluntary classification, and the revision of the RA Law “On the resort fee”. All this work is being done to develop tourism and improve the legislative and regulatory framework.
CCI believes it necessary to: introduce a system of mandatory certification of accommodation, develop a program to support entrepreneurs involved in tourism business, opening a school for tourism training, conducting a campaign to promote the resorts of Abkhazia at the state level. All this will help to create and strengthen the republic’s image, make the country attractive to foreign investors and promote Abkhazia to the world tourism market.
Tourism in Abkhazia is seen as a separate sector of the economy. The tourism industry will influence the state economy only if it is comprehensively developed. The economic efficiency of the industry assumes that the tourism industry will develop in parallel with other branches of the socio-economic complex of the country. The development of tourism directly depends on the economic infrastructure.
Abkhazia has a favorable location with a high degree of tourist and recreational potential, a unique combination of mountains and the Black Sea, the location of many cultural and historical sites, the presence of a large number of sanatorium and resort complexes, all this creates the attractiveness of the tourist market.