By Emil Danielyan
Armenia confirmed on Tuesday plans to open a consulate in the Georgian Black Sea resort of Batumi, which reflect the city’s and nearby areas’ growing popularity among Armenian holidaymakers.
The Foreign Ministry in Yerevan said the issue was discussed at a meeting on Monday between Hrach Silvanian, the Armenian ambassador to Georgia, and Levan Varshalomidze, the prime minister of the autonomous republic of Ajaria, of which Batumi is the capital.
A ministry statement quoted Varshalomidze as saying that the opening of an Armenian diplomatic mission there is becoming a “necessity” because of an ongoing influx of Armenian tourists to the Georgian Black Sea coast. “The Armenian ambassador said that the issue is being considered by the Foreign Ministry of Armenia and will receive a positive solution in the near future,” the statement said.
Batumi and other Ajarian resorts have become in recent years one of the most popular travel destinations of Armenian vacationers attracted by their proximity and relatively low cost. Staying in many of Armenia’s traditional holiday spots may well be more expensive nowadays. The influx of Armenian visitors has also been facilitated by improved security and a crackdown on Georgia’s formerly corrupt traffic police that was launched by the administration of President Mikhail Saakashvili more than two years ago.
According to Varshalomidze, as many as 35,000 Armenians have already visited Ajaria this summer and another 10,000 are expected to do so this month. The official was also quoted as urging Armenian entrepreneurs to invest more in the local tourism and agribusiness sectors. Saakashvili has made similar calls in the past.
Batumi is also one of Georgia’s two Black Sea ports that handle the bulk of landlocked Armenia’s external trade. Incidentally, the last meeting of a Georgian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation was held in the Ajarian capital, underscoring its economic significance for Yerevan.