TBILISI, DFWatch – The number of visitors to Georgia in the first quarter of 2012 was 680 000. This is a 40 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

The new statistics were released by the Interior Ministry on April 2 and is based on data from custom’s check points, which in Georgia are under the ministry’s  jurisdiction.

Most of the visitors to Georgia from January to March in 2012 came from Turkey (14, 7 per cent), Azerbaijan (10, 7 per cent), Armenia (6, 8 per cent) and Russia (2, 6 per cent).

In the end of February, Georgia unilaterally canceled visa requirements for Russian citizens. According to the Interior Ministry, this resulted in an increase in Russian visitors. 2 163 Russian citizen visited Georgia in 2011. Only in the first quarter of 2012 this number almost tripled to 6 192.

The number of Iranian visitors also doubled in the first quarter (more than 9 000). Iranians have since January 2011 not needed a visa to visit Georgia.

When it comes to EU citizens, the number of visitors has grown 15 per cent compared to last year, totalling 8 343. Notably, Austrians have been coming in greater numbers; a 103 per cent increase. There was a 35 per cent growth in visits by U.S. citizens.

Ukraine is next on the list with 4 358 visitors; an 11.7 per cent compared to 2011.

The total number of visitors in 2011 was 2 822 363.