“Marriott was entering into an unfamiliar environment when it arrived in Georgia,” George Togonidze, General Manager of the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel and Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi, told The Financial. It was the first Marriott hotel not just in Georgia, but in the whole Caucasus region. It was at a time when global awareness of Georgia was still very low. But nevertheless the Marriott brand was here. I have personally met lots of tourists who back then knew very little about Georgia, but knew much more about Marriott. The Marriott brand is associated with the highest standards within the hospitality industry, therefore those people who know Marriott, perceive the country in which the brand operates as politically and economically stable. I must take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to our every associate at both hotels, who helped create such an environment that guests named Tbilisi Marriott and Courtyard Tbilisi as some of the very best Marriott hotels in Europe. People leave our hotels with a good impression and with the desire to return to Tbilisi,” he added.
Q. How is Tbilisi Marriott Hotel going to celebrate its ten year anniversary?
A. We plan to have a very special evening attended by our dear guests, who have been working with us over the last ten years. We would like to thank all of our partners for all the support we have had from their side. We could not manage an international brand hotel without their partnership and without the support of our clients.
In 2015 the building of the hotel is going to celebrate its 100 year anniversary. We have this beautiful old building which represents the city’s history. It is a kind of reflection of the last 100 years of Tbilisi and Rustaveli Avenue, which has always been a centre of political activities.
For these ten years that we have been on the market, we have seen increases in every division. There was a slow year after the war, in 2009, because of the global crisis. But almost every year since the crisis and before then was successful for the hotel.
At the very beginning, there were twenty foreigners working as a director, supervisors and heads of departments at Marriott in Tbilisi . But today we have grown and developed our own management. Now we have 21 managers working at the Hotel and only one of them is foreign, everybody else is Georgian. These are people who started working with us and shared the success of the company of the last ten years.
Q. What is your outlook for 2013?
A. We are as optimistic as we were last year and we hope that the year 2013 will be even more successful than previous years.
We see growth year after year. Since I have been here (from 2009) every year has been better than the previous one. When I say better I mean financially better and better for the country itself. When we host more and more guests it is good for tourism development in the country.
Q. How would you assess tourism development in Georgia this year?
A. What has been most successful and important for tourism development in Georgia is that a lot of areas and resorts in Georgia have recently become accessible. I am referring to the rehabilitated roads, hotels and restaurants that have been built in different resorts. This development has lead to demand for Georgian resorts. For example there was a focus on Mestia, which has become a very good ski resort and very popular as a result, especially with Poles and Ukrainian s. Mestia in the past was simply not ready to welcome guests. Wine tourism in Kakheti is also very attractive for guests. Wine tourism has big potential not only in Kakheti but in Racha and Imereti as well. Visitors have more options now which were not possible before. Because of the rehabilitated roads less time is needed to get to Stepantsimnda, Racha, Svaneti, Borjomi and Gudauri; this is crucial for the development of tourism in the regions of the country.
Q. Is the Marriott going to expand further and open another hotel in Georgia?
A. Marriott has a very aggressive development growth plan, not only for the European continent but worldwide. People who are looking for opportunities, always evaluate all the options. Investors, real estate developers and owners have to come to us and offer development plans, and I guarantee that we will then carry these offers to our development team and every proposal will be evaluated in very short time periods. So if any investor has a good project connected to a sea resort or ski resort, I encourage them to bring it to us and our development team will consider it.
Q. Is Georgia a profitable country for the Marriott hotel brand? How does Georgia compete with other countries where Marriott hotels are represented?
A. We are ranked in terms of house profit margins; we are ranked with 13-15 competing markets like London, Paris, Moscow, Amsterdam and other European cities. In terms of financial profit we do much better than these cities, and at the least the same as they do. This is due to our proper management. We are lucky that more and more people are coming in Georgia and visiting Marriott in Tbilisi .