The FINANCIAL — The country’s first national tourism awards ceremony – “Welcome to Georgia” – is to be held on 20 November. The winners from 20 different categories will be revealed at the event. The awards, organized by a team from Ukraine, are to support further development of the tourism and hospitality industry of Georgia.
“Tourism and hospitality is one of the core developing sectors in Georgia. We view our project from a global perspective. We see huge potential for further progress of this industry in the country. Georgia has untouched nature. There are lots of places that are yet to be discovered, developed and promoted on a global level. As a result, the inflow of foreign guests will reach record numbers. There is room for development of destinations in Georgia, as well as of the service spheres. A lot of work needs to be done on improvement of the service sector in Georgia. Hospitality is deeply rooted in Georgians. However, there are global standards of service. So, these should be implemented in Georgia and combined with the Georgian touch. By combining international standards with deep-rooted hospitality we will arrive at something unique,” Maryna Chayka, Managing Partner at Welcome to Georgia, National Tourism Awards, told The FINANCIAL.
Welcome to Georgia! is a national tourism awards recognising the very best members of tourism in the country. The awards are a chance to celebrate the highest-achieving tourism businesses and brands that work towards creating a positive image of Georgia worldwide. In its first year winners will be revealed from twenty separate categories. “When we expressed our interest in launching this project we received big support from the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA). They are co-organizers of the award. Also we have received big support from the side of the Tbilisi Municipality City Hall. Our team has great experience of arranging similar ceremonies in various countries. The general rules of arranging such events are the same in every country. However, assistance of a local team is also crucial for integrating any project into a new country,” said Chayka.
Maryna’s first experience of the hospitality service started with the Intercontinental Hotels Group on the newly-opened Intercontinental Kiev from the pre-opening period. Then she became involved in the hospitality awards in Ukraine. Chayka was also a manager and launched the Russian Hospitality Awards. “Now I am managing the Georgian project. It is my and my two Partners own initiative and I feel an extra sense of responsibility and enthusiasm here,” she said.
The fact that the team of the award is relative outsider and is observing things from a wider perspective is better for the final results as it helps to get a more objective picture. “The first year is always difficult because we have to introduce ourselves. Ads are not effective for one’s introduction; direct communication is required. Therefore, I regularly meet in person with market participants, the representatives of small hotels or travel agencies, in order to tell them about ourselves. Only direct communication can help us to successfully deliver information about ourselves and achieve our goals. Our main goal at this stage is involving local market participants in this event. We have succeeded in that.”
“As for the country’s targets on developing the tourism industry, I see great importance in the existence of this project,” Managing Partner of the award, added.
The criteria that participants need to meet are very strict. Project team members are working with applicants individually on a daily basis in order to help them with their preparation. “We are working really hard not only with our partners but also with the participants. Companies should realize that this project is made for them. They should use this opportunity to motivate themselves more. The whole tourism and hospitality industry is built on these individual companies that are involved in this sector. So, we consider it important to be delivering a form of gratitude to them by this award. The contest is based on healthy competition. These private independent awards will be an additional stimulus for companies to improve their shortcomings and try to better themselves.”
The award, as its managing partner explained, is a form of recognition for its participants, and especially the winners, that they are superior. “The application process is a good opportunity for applicants to analyse themselves. The criteria are really strict. So, during this process the companies will find out which parts they have succeeded in developing better, and which less. It is a kind of test for them.”
“Another advantage of this competition is that the winners will be allowed to use the logo of the award for their branding. The brand name of the award can be used not only by the winners but also by all of the candidates nominated. On our side, we will prepare a guide of the candidates and winners of the awards and distribute it in both Georgia and Ukraine. All of the information gathered by the candidates about themselves will not be wasted. This information will be used by us for their further promotion,” she added.
The number of applicants per category is at least five. This is the number targeted by organizers for the first year of the competition. The application process is now closed. The judges are currently in the process of calculating the scores of the candidates. Organizers are not participating in this process. Independent observers, auditors of BDO Georgia, are involved in the counting process. They are fully responsible for the objective counting of scores. They receive this information solely from the judges. Organizers will not be aware of the winners until they are revealed at the ceremony. So, the results will be a surprise both for the winners and the team of organizers. This sincerity and objectivity is very important for the image of the organizers, to assure society that they are not selling awards in organizing the ceremony.
All the data provided by each applicant will be analysed in a further report in order to study the strong and weak areas of the participants. As Chayka said, such information will be very useful for understanding which sphere the country needs to work on to get better results in the tourism and hospitality industry.
The annual ceremony is just one part of the plans of organizers. “In order to improve the service sector we can attract hospitality and service schools to open offices in Georgia and arrange trainings. We will work hard to provide education schools for the hospitality sector in Georgia and allow students to get diplomas in this profession. All of these are our long-term perspectives. For the first year we are just focusing on getting the awards ceremony up and running. This award will be like a litmus test. As a ‘freshman’ we have to meet the expectations of participants and everyone else. Participants were initially wary about the awards. It is a big innovation for them,” Chayka explained.
“There are lots of advantages that Georgia has as a country. In terms of spheres that need to be improved, the service sector is the main focus. It cannot be achieved in the short term. However, it is achievable step by step, year by year. Practical knowledge is really important for students involved in the hospitality field. With the assistance of international professionals and local players that have already gained big experience in good quality service, this issue will be solved. We also plan to involve the Ministry of Education in this initiative,” Managing Partner at Welcome to Georgia, said.
Next year the Welcome to Georgia awards ceremony is planned to be held in a different city of Georgia. It will help us to promote other regions of the country. “We want to arrange to have it in the open air. We are partners with suppliers to the hospitality sector. In this regard we want to help them to have direct contact with their customers, the companies involved in this sector. To achieve this we are eager to arrange forums and B2B meetings for both sides”.
Chayka is optimistic that in the following year, more participants will be involved in the Welcome to Georgia awards. “We plan for the award to exist for a long time and become one of the most prestigious prizes for its holders. In the first stage we created 20 nominations integrated on the market. Currently we are seeing which nominations should still be added. We will actively cooperate with the Ministry of Culture, GNTA and participants in order to improve the categories and broaden the audience of participants. The expansion of nominees will help to attract more participants which will allow a wider segment to become involved in the competition,” Chayka told The FINANCIAL.