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Marriott Business in Tbilisi Proving Successful Despite Tough Competition

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The FINANCIAL — The increase of supply on the local hotel market is making Marriott have to compete with hotels not only in the capital but also in the Black Sea resort of Adjara, recently entered by two international brands.

 

“2011 was quiet successful for us,” said Mr. George Togonidze, General Manager of the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel and Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi. “At the beginning of the year there were a few concerns relating to the appearance of two new hotels on the market, namely the Radisson and Holiday Inn. Because of this, supply in the market more than doubled; referring to the 4 and 5 star hotel segment specifically. We were not sure that the demand would grow in sufficient proportion to the growth of supply. Fortunately the year proved quiet successful despite the increased competition and we are very happy with our achievements. We were the leaders on the market and that has made us very happy. This means that our customers are very loyal to the Marriott brand. They tried different hotels but in the end they came back to us.”

 

Q. What was achieved by the Marriott Hotels in 2011 compared to in previous years?

A. We can divide this question in to different parts. First is demand. The year 2011 was quiet important in our industry because supply changed so significantly with the opening of more hotels. Secondly, Batumi became one of the main international destinations in Georgia. We are not only competing with the existing hotels in Tbilisi anymore, but also competing with Batumi. In the summertime especially a lot of summits, conferences and meetings are held in Batumi. These are the main criteria we have to compete with and I am happy that we have managed to be successful despite both challenges; that despite those factors we are still managing to increase our market share. 

In terms of services we are continuing to improve year on year. The improvement involves staff trainings, available facilities, and the hotel services we provide. Improvement means whatever we can do for our guests to make them more comfortable. In all three areas we try to invest more because the number one investment for us is our people and our employees. If employers are happy that translates to the customers; the customers feel it. And when the customers are happy they come back. When customers come back then our shareholders are happy. So it is one big circle. But the circle starts with our people. That is why we are investing a lot in trainings and in simply creating an environment where everybody feels they are part of one big family.

Q. It is said that your Sunday Brunch menu has increased the number of guests at the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, is that so?

A. Sunday Brunch has proved very successful as a top venue not only for local families but also for the expat community in town. This is thanks to our entire kitchen staff, our chefs and local people who are working together to offer something really different to what is available on the market. One Sunday we might offer a Mexican menu, the next Sunday could be Asian, another could be traditionally Georgian and so on. We alternate so that every Sunday when our guests come they are here for a different type of culinary experience, specific to a certain part of the world and its cuisine. Sometimes we combine that with live music as well. It is not the music nor the overall atmosphere, but the food that makes people come to us because this is the only place where you can enjoy this level and diversity of international cuisine under one roof. For example we are the only restaurant in Georgia which can offer venison and crab. We offer all sorts of cuisine from different parts of the world, including African and Asian countries. This variety is combined in one place so customers do not need to hop to different restaurants to taste all these different menus. We also promote our native Georgian food and have a combined Georgian taste as well. For that reason many people come here every Sunday simply for the surprise. They know from the previous week what to expect, what menu is planned. It has proved to be quite successful as we see not only small families but groups of ten or sixteen coming to socialize on Sundays and combine their socializing with the great food and taste on offer, different every week.

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Q. How popular is this new taste among Georgians?

A. From what we can see, it is in high demand. Popularity has grown to such an extent that we have to take reservations, otherwise there is simply not enough space for our Sunday brunches. We are fortunate that we are in a position to be able to offer affordable prices to our guests. There are a lot of restaurants in the city where if you want to taste good quality food you have to expect to pay over GEL 100.

As for Georgian cuisine, the most popular dish is Khachapuri. Our guests like Chkmeruli, salads and Mtsvadi a lot. We added Georgian food to our Sunday Brunch menu because we felt a request for it from our customers. About 99 percent of them want to experience Georgian food. When we see clear demand from our guests we want to provide them with it, especially on a Sunday when people are tired after the working week and want to relax and enjoy the weekend. That is why we came up with the idea of creating a Sunday brunch menu with Georgian dishes as well. When we are serving a Georgian menu we play Georgian music to add to the overall national feel of the meal.

We have already covered the most popular foreign countries’ cuisines but we are going to add more unusual food to our menu as well. So far we have not served food of Northern countries or the US either. It is likely that we will add dishes from these countries to our menu in the near future.

Our head chef is from Georgia and we also have one from Mexico. This tandem truly creates wonders.

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Q. What is your outlook for 2012?

A. We are very optimistic about 2012. We think that the hotel’s projects will grow in terms of incoming tourists and business, plus it is an election year. That might draw extra attention from foreign observers. Also the country is maintaining growth in tourism like last year. So in 2012 we think that there will be slight growth in terms of demand. Our angle is to improve in every possible way and whatever we have to offer our guests. That is why we are also grateful for the competition. The newly opened hotels and increased competition keeps us on our toes and keeps us motivated to improve on what we did in the past.

Demand on the market in the capital has increased by more than 10 percent. But again while the growth was 10 percent the supply has also grown by more than almost 100 percent. Despite this however our Marriott Hotels hold first and second positions.

Q. What are the CSR projects that Tbilisi Marriott Hotel implements?

A. We have a project called Marriott’s Spirit to Preserve, Green Meetings. The Green Meeting Standard is divided into a few sections. From the preservation point it refers to paper, packaging, proposition and pens, products, pollution by CO2, detergent and waste. Marriott is trying to create a paperless process. For example whereas all proposals used to be sent by Fax before, now everything runs on web based proposals. We have digital menu proposals, custom web pages with reservation links, digital meeting room signage. Every item we use for our conference facilities has to be recyclable and environment friendly such as notepads, flipcharts, stationary items and marketing folders.

We serve water from large and recyclable bottles, not from plastic bottles. We have filtered water in the hotel. Our water here is similar to any bottle of water sold in the shops because of all the filtration the water in the Marriott Hotels goes through.
 
Our pens are made from recycled and biodegradable material. We have linen-free tables, tables and chairs made of recyclable materials. We try to have less CO2 by saving energy. We use energy saving lighting, and motion sensors to preserve electricity.

Q. And finally, how did Tbilisi Marriott greet the New Year?

A. On New Year’s night we actually couldn’t fit in all the people who wanted to join us for our New Year event. Demand was much higher than we expected. We invited the group Banderol for a two hour programme. Then they were replaced by another band that we often have play at our Sunday brunches. I think it was not just our hotels but most 4 and 5 star hotels, that over New Year’s Eve and the couple of weeks on either side of it, all the hotels were full of visitors from our neighbouring countries. There were especially high numbers of visitors from Azerbaijan and Armenia, people who came just to have a good time in Tbilisi.

 

 

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