Preparations for tourist season in Abkhazia and their impact on the Gali district

Tourism accounts for a large part of Abkhazia’s own, non-subsidized revenues. In 2019, a few months before the pandemic, the fact that more than a million tourists visited Abkhazia for the first time since the 1992-1993 war was particularly marked.[1] According to the report of the de-facto Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Abkhazia, the volume of paid services during the tourist season in 2019 exceeded 2.4 billion Russian rubles,[2] which, according to current data, is more than 92 million 118 thousand GEL. The same data shows that the circulation of these services and revenues covered the entire territory of present-day Abkhazia, except for the Gali district. The latter has not been considered in Abkhazia's tourist routes or infrastructure since Raul Khajimba's presidency (2005-2009; 2014-2020).

According to a source of the Democracy Research Institute, preparations for the current tourist season will cover the Gali district as well. This, on the one hand, can be explained by a different view of the current de facto authorities towards Gali and the desire to integrate it into the de facto Republic of Abkhazia. On the other hand, the de facto authorities may be hoping for attracting more Russian tourists due to the limited travel opportunities in the context of the global pandemic. Consequently, they want to welcome the increased number of Russian tourists with larger and better tourist potential.

According to the source, Davit Kajaia, Abkhazia’s de facto Deputy Minister of Tourism, visited Gali last week to discuss the planned measures at a meeting with locals. He introduced a plan to the population of Gali, according to which, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia plan to build a new road in the village of Saberio and to integrate the Enguri HPP and the Gali Reservoir into tourist routes. However, it is doubtful whether the region will be able to host tourists from Russia without developing hotel infrastructure. It seems that the de-facto Ministry of Tourism of Abkhazia expects one-day visitors to arrive, which accounted for half of tourists in 2019 (517 000),[3] or those who stay at hotels in other parts of Abkhazia and visit the Gali district for one day only.

However, such preparations for the tourist season, which require the development of infrastructure, creates challenges apart from economic opportunities for the Gali residents.

Firstly, corruption is still an unresolved issue on the territory of Abkhazia, to which the residents of the Gali district are most vulnerable, due to the lack of de facto citizenship of Abkhazia, and secondly, due to discrimination on the ground of their ethnic identity. Ahead the tourist season, the de facto authorities’ priority is to curb corruption, especially in the structures with which Russian tourists have the most frequent contact. According to the source of the Democracy Research Institute, for example, the traffic police received a direct instruction not to stop cars with Russian number plates. However, Gali residents are not protected from corruption. They may become the main targets of extortion, especially if the flow of tourists enters Gali and brings income for the locals.

Secondly, the epidemic, despite the ongoing vaccination in Russia, still remains alarming. Consequently, the probability increases that the tourist season in Abkhazia will aggravate the situation. With this in mind, it is important to know how available the Georgian health care system will be to the residents of Gali and the rest of Abkhazia, if necessary. Unfortunately, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia may create more obstacles in this direction. According to the source, Alisa Ardzinba, de facto Deputy Minister of Health, told local doctors in Gali that patients should be referred to Krasnodar and Saratov clinics, instead of Georgian clinics, in order to avoid the "bad impact" that Georgia has on the people of Abkhazia and to prevent that the health care system of Abkhazia looks weaker than that of the “opposing party”.

The income from tourism will obviously be a great relief for the people of Abkhazia during the crisis caused by the pandemic, but the challenges that may arise in the Gali district for the reasons discussed above are also worth noting.



[1] More than a million: The number of tourists in Abkhazia increased compared to 2018. Sputnik (in Russian). Source:

[2]  Analysis of the tourism sector in Abkhazia in 2019. The de facto Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Abkhazia (in Russian). Source:

[3] More than a million: The number of tourists in Abkhazia increased compared to 2018. Sputnik (in Russian). Source: