The Chart you see below is taken from the base of the World Ban (WB) and shows number of tourists per year for Armenia and Georgia.
The indices are called: International tourism, number of arrivals. Based on those data Georgia has 6 million 351 thousand tourists in 2016, and Armenia—1 million 260 thousand. The difference is big if not taking into account a crucial “nuance”—there is an error in the Chart. Yes, mistakes can be found on WB website as well. The point is data of Armenia and Georgia are incompatible—they are different indices. In case of Armenia number of tourists is given, and in case of Georgia—of visitors. These are different things. Let’s clarify.
Based on International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 (Compilation Guide, UN WTO, Madrid, November 2010) international tourist is considered any person travelling beyond his/her main residence for recreation, treatment, visiting relatives, practical, religious or other purposes, to another place for not less than 24 hours, and not more than for one year incessant.
Thus, his/her main purpose is travelling and not working, in case of which travel costs will be covered by financial means received from the working activity. In short, not all visitors are tourists. Armenia’s statistics gives the number of tourists by this very methodology.
And in case of Georgia WB has taken the number of visitors. To be clear how these figures differ, exact data should be brought. In 2016 total 2.9 million visits to Armenia have been recorded (source: volumes of RA border crossing per RA border checkpoint), from which 1.26 million comprised tourist visits. In 2016 Georgia recorded 6.3 million visits, from which tourist visits comprised 2.7 million.
Thus, in drawing comparison either Armenia’s 2.9 million should have been compared to 6.3 million, or Armenia’s 1.26 million to Georgia’s 2.7 million.
In short, our small index was compared to Georgia’s big one, and that incorrect comparison was to our detriment. This “nuance” misleads many people, including former and incumbent officials, e.g. last week at NA session former PMs Aram Sargsyan and Khosrov Harutyunyan were arguing around this very number.
Aram Sargsyan was comparing Georgia’s 6.3 to Armenia’s 1.26. In reply Khosrov Harutyunyan said there is methodological difference.
However, the point isn’t that. Before introducing it a few crucial circumstances should be brought. The issue is that Georgia’s statistics clearly distinguishes which part of visitors is a tourist. You won’t find in Georgia’s statistics that they had 6.3 million tourists. It’s clearly mentioned there—6.3 million visitors and 2.7 million tourists.
Simply Georgians do a small manipulation here. Compared to us they highlight not the number of tourists (like we do), but of visitors. And in non-official materials, without any formalities, they obviously distort the reality.
For instance, this March the footage, where Georgia welcomes its 6 millionth tourist caused a stir (threshold of 6 million was overcome in 2016).
In the footage tourist is mentioned and not a visitor. Surprise was waiting for the young man from the airport, he was transported by a limousine accompanied by the police cars, like presidents. Georgia’s PM welcomed him, they had a dinner and etc. Then we started to discuss it in a sense that Georgians work well, they develop tourism.
That we should take an example. However, in that admiration atmosphere a crucial truth was lost—Georgia doesn’t have 6 million tourists. Last year Georgia didn’t even have 3 million.
By the same logic this year Armenia may celebrate the visit of the 3 millionth tourist by organizing a festive reception for the 3 millionth tourist (we’ll reach that threshold this year, as already stated in 2016 we had 2.9 million visitors).
In short, Georgians disorientate. Why? It isn’t a simple “frolic”. It’s a result of exact calculation. The footage (which is in English) is meant for external audience—potential tourists. And when a foreigner hears that every year Georgia receives 6 million tourists and Armenia 1.26, he/she thinks Georgia is more worthy to visit. Not accidentally that many people visit there, right?
Of course, a foreigner doesn’t know that in that 6 million Armenia’s citizens reaching to Georgia for purpose to fly to Spain or Bulgaria, or those intending to buy cheaper washing powder and diapers are involved. In this number also Georgia’s citizens working abroad, who are back to their houses for the New Year for a couple of days are included as well.
Are Georgians doing anything wrong by giving a different number? No. As it’s beneficial and by that they boost tourist flow.
As mentioned above the issue is that Georgians can introduce the non-existent for existent, and we don’t even introduce normally what exists. Georgians can pack everything nicely, and instead of packing ours, we admire Georgian packages very often not going deep what is inside.
And in contemporary world marketing isn’t less important, than the product and its quality. Maybe more important.
By Babken Tunyan