|Photo: The Financial|
“We are growing considerably and this means that tourism in general in Georgia is on the path of significant development,” Valeri Chekheria, CEO of Adjara+ Limited, the owner company of Holiday Inn Tbilisi, reported The Financial. “As well as the success of Holiday Inn Tbilisi, we have created the first Georgian hotel brand - Rooms. Our group has the burning ambition to make it a brand equal to international standards and operating with local concept. Today the first Rooms hotel, located in Kazbegi, the mountainous region of Georgia, is up and running and meeting all international standards. The hotel has already gained great popularity with both local and foreigner travellers. There is a Casino and various venues to host variety of events. A swimming pool and spa will be opened soon. All these facilities come with a great view over Mkinvari. This makes the place especially outstanding and stunning.”
Weekends at Rooms Kazbegi cost USD 110 per day minus VAT and breakfast. Meanwhile weekdays cost from USD 90 up to USD 100. The price of breakfast comes to USD 10, but this is optional.
The total amount invested in Rooms Kazbegi comes to GEL 14 million. They are now adding a swimming pool and spa and after this the number will almost certainly be more.
Q. When will Holiday Inn in Batumi open? How is this process developing?
A. Holiday Inn in Batumi is scheduled to open in May 2013. But we don’t rule out the possibility of postponing it slightly. We are working with InterContinental Hotels Group which is controlling the process. The contract is signed and we are bound to protect all standards. Therefore the building process may last longer. But I do hope that there won’t be any interruption and that the hotel will be opened in 2013.
Q. Holiday Inn Tbilisi operates very successfully. Are you planning any changes in the hotel next year?
A. We are working on some novelties for Holiday Inn. A completely new menu will soon be available. Our spa and pool as well as gym have already gained great success.
We are going to offer a packages throughout our properties around Georgia. It will be a whole tour. Visitors will arrive in Tbilisi , then go to Kazbegi, on to Borjomi and finish the trip in either Batumi or Tbilisi again.
“The ratings of Holiday Inn hotels are compiled according to region. This year we are sharing the top positions within InterContinental Hotels Group’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) ranking list and as a result we were presented on IHG’s Europe Hotel Awards. There were only four other 4 star hotels; the others all 5 star ones. This is a big success for us, that we are considered at the same level as 5 star hotels.”
Q. You planned to open a new hotel in Tbilisi , in the building of the previous publishing house Samshoblo. How is this project going?
A. Yes, we are planning to open another hotel in Tbilisi . We haven’t decided which hotel it will be. We are holding negotiations with several international brands. The successful operating of Holiday Inn has proved that we are very competitive in the market and can run a hotel business well. So we have won the trust of foreigners and now several international brands are interested in this property and in cooperation with us. Despite this we’d like to open a hotel of our own brand - Rooms. We want to offer traditional Georgian elements to visitors in Tbilisi . But I can’t say much more for sure now. If we were to receive an ideal offer from any brand, then we would agree on its entrance.
Q. You were going to open Rooms in Borjomi. So when will the hotel be opened?
A. We have decided to develop a hotel in Borjomi. We are currently building a Rooms there. The restaurant of the hotel is already operating. The hotel itself will be opened next year. Total investment in the project will be GEL 12 million.
Q. How would you assess the prices of hotels in the country? Are you expecting any changes?
A. Price is regulated by demand and seasons. Businesses try to have high prices if the market gives them the possibility. I think that the hotel market including our hotel will maintain these prices and even experience a little growth.
Q. How can a Georgian brand compete with international ones, especially in Tbilisi ?
A. I was recently at a conference in Baku where participants discussed how much in demand non-brand hotels could be. There is a new but fast-growing trend throughout the world that boutique style hotels offer better service in comparison to standard brand hotels. Brands are restricted by frames, whereas non-brand hotels have more flexibility. At the same time, they are important competitors in terms of price. We have a clear example of this.
The public and the business sector already know about the quality of our service. Rooms Kazbegi has proved that a Georgian brand can offer service of international standards. It has all it needs to compete with international hotels. Rooms Kazbegi has no star rating at the moment. But everything from the building to the service is on a par with 4 and 5 star hotels. It will be the same in Borjomi and Tbilisi . Our group shares the experience and talent with Rooms as the personnel undertake trainings in this hotel. A hotel business or being employed at a hotel is quite a good source of income for employees.
Q. How are you going to promote Rooms Kazbegi?
A. Kazbegi is very popular with foreigners as well as local people. The place is very popular among the diplomatic corps. Georgian guests mainly visit the hotel at weekends. Rooms Kazbegi has all necessary facilities to host international level conferences and meetings. We are planning to make a ropeway behind the terrace.
We have a very interesting design as well as furniture and soft furnishings, designed by Georgian Designers. Considering the design and the concept of our property we are planning to boost the marketing activities of Rooms Hotel Kazbegi to present it on international level.
Q. Do you plan to expand the Rooms chain abroad?
A. Yes, we do, but we don’t have firm plans for the moment. Armenian, Azerbaijani and even Russian guests have been amazed by Rooms Kazbegi and expressed interest in the opening of such a hotel in their countries. There are no good examples of local hotel brands operating in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and part of Russia. But demand for local hotels is evident. Therefore they are interested in us. We would like to start expanding our brand to our neighbour countries by 2014. After gaining popularity in the Caucasus region, we will then enter the European market as well.
Q. According to the recent survey made by Jones Lang LaSalle, Georgia has a deficit of 2 and 3 star hotels. How would you evaluate this? Do you plan to fill this gap?
A. The lack of 2 and 3 star hotels is clear, but no one wants the service of 2 star hotels. In this case price and service quality is irrelevant. Tourists coming to Georgia do not only want to spend an overnight at a hotel. The country has the capacity to have many 2 and 3 star hotels, but they have to offer higher quality service. Holiday Inn Tbilisi is a good example of this. Representatives of InterContinental Group often say that Holiday Inn offers the service of a 5 star hotel. But in reality it is a 4 star hotel. As a result we have gained success and a high occupancy rate.
Q. You had the strategy to employ Georgians at your hotels. How is this trend developing?
A. The strategy was not only to employ locals, but to develop the talents, that’s why we are eager to train our staff on regular basis and give them the opportunity to be promoted on higher positions and share their experiences within our properties. The majority of those employed in Kazbegi are local residents. We support the local population in their developing professionally and financially. In total 112 individuals are employed there. This number will grow to 150 when the swimming pool and spa open. Holiday Inn employs 213 individuals in total at present.
Q. How does gambling affect the business of the hotels?
A. Casinos and gambling actually help us to attract more tourists. Gambling is prohibited in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia, so many people really come to Rooms Kazbegi for its casino. Rooms Borjomi will be targeted at a slightly different segment, however. We are focusing more on spa and other healthy activities there, as Borjomi is known for its healing waters.
Q. State financing of tourism is being reduced from GEL 11 million to GEL 6 million. How will this influence your business?
A. We have to take care of our business and tourism development ourselves. I know that tourism financing is being reduced but we will be following the strategy of tourism development for next years and as we always did, try to contribute to the whole development process. We create and sell products ourselves. Tourism sector has great potential. The state’s support could be expressed by more liberal tax system.