The FINANCIAL — The Radisson BLU Iveria is celebrating its first anniversary in Georgia with special offers for its guests.
In just the first year of its operation Radisson has already hosted 32,000 visitors. The majority of the guests, almost 80%, are business travellers. Most arrive from the United States, Europe and Georgia’s neighbouring countries.
In his interview with The FINANCIAL, Atakan Turhan, General Manager of Radisson BLU Iveria Hotel, spoke about the current hot offers to celebrate the anniversary and analyzed the first year of the hotel’s operation in Georgia.
Q. The Radisson in Georgia is already 1 year old, how will you be celebrating the hotel’s first anniversary in the country?
A. We plan to invite people who have helped us over the past year. This will mainly be the companies and travel agencies who are working with us, and the guests who stay with us.
Moreover, we have prepared special prices for people who have supported us and who are interested in seeing our hotel for the first time, a special event as well as special deals for people.
The price includes a standard room and breakfast, free internet is also included, free entrance to our Anne Semonin spa and fitness centre, the most prestigious hotel, as well as late checkout. For anyone who hasn’t yet stayed with us this is a good opportunity, the price is 150 USD plus tax for single occupancy and 170 USD + tax for double occupancy.
Q. How would you evaluate the Radisson’s operations on the Georgian market after a period of one year?
A. The number one target has been to come up with the best service. I believe we have achieved this, the results of our guest satisfaction service show that we have been doing really well.
We are a recommended hotel in trip advisors, people really appreciate the service we provide. For a young hotel I think this is an outstanding result. The biggest investment for us is the team we have.
Q. What were your expectations when opening the Radisson Iveria? What important factors would you distinguish from its one year of history?
A. Our expectations were of truly satisfied guests. I think we have achieved this as survey results are very high here, in between 2nd and 5th position since we opened, which out of the whole Radisson family, being in the top two to five position every month is quite a significant achievement I’d say.
One of our targets was to have satisfied staff. We are doing a survey with our staff to see how happy they are and the result is also quite high. This gives us the opportunity to provide the best service.
We also aim to be helpful to the community we are operating in, this is part of the concept we call Responsible Business. As a result we have helped a lot of charity projects so far, we are also supporting other foundations in doing charity. We have good relations with projects of the Red Cross and First Step Foundation. We are directly in touch with activities that care for disabled children and the elderly.
Moreover we are trying to save energy and pollute the environment in Georgia less which is also an important issue.
Q. What are the hottest current offers at the Radisson?
A. The hottest offer is a one year anniversary price, we have special rates for 2-3 night stays as well as a special offer for weekends, and besides this we have spa packages for honeymooners. We provide different packages for different purposes which are mostly for leisure visitors, for business people it’s more common to stay for 2-3 days/nights and get discounts.
Q. In your opinion, what is the Radisson’s success governed by?
A. We are a different, modern, young team and provide quite friendly service. People feel at home – that is the most frequent feedback I receive from guests. I think this is an achievement as they do not feel like they are at a hotel, rather at home with their close friends. This is our highest achievement.
Q. What is the strategy and direction of Radisson in Tbilisi? Have the plans and strategies as well as marketing directions changed since the start of Radisson’s operating in Georgia?
A. We brought competition to the market not just in terms of prices but also service. The strategy is the same – to provide the best service with value for money prices.
A ‘Yes I Can’ spirit is what makes us different from the competition. We choose staff who already have a positive attitude and personality and then give them the authority to make decisions. If there is a decision to be made regarding a guest’s comfort they know they are authorized and this gives them motivation, everybody is a sort of manager at Radisson.
Q. Radisson entered the Georgian market after hotels Sheraton and Marriott had already positioned themselves on the market, how difficult was it to compete with a new brand name?
A. Radisson quickly positioned itself on the market through providing both good product and service. It was the first Radisson in the country so naturally it took some time to explain and advertise ourselves and the property.
Hotel Iveria has a long history. The building is known by everyone, it has the best location in the middle of the city and the best view. The challenge was to bring the right people inside. The brand is well recognized by the international market, it is the biggest hotel chain in Europe. Most of our customers already know the brand, and recognition in Georgia was also fast.
Q. What kind of facilities do you offer business travellers as well as Georgians?
A. The Radisson is a hotel with different services for both business and leisure travellers.
For business travellers what comes first is a good room with a comfortable bed, they appreciate that. Businessmen need the internet like we need water. We provide both wireless and wired internet connection free of charge in the rooms and in all outlets, this is one of our unique selling points.
We also provide business services in the business centre. For those without computers they can use the business centre and also get support from our team if they need any secretarial services. Moreover, we have a big package of meeting and event services, with a separate conference centre where we host lots of events and teams.
Business travellers can spend time in the restaurants and bars we have, the terrace, the spa and even the casino. They have a full variety of services they can enjoy. When they need support for business we are there and when they have time for leisure we offer a good package of different services.
Q. How popular is the Italian concept of Filini with Georgians?
A. Filini is quite popular in Georgia, it is well known for its cuisine. Filini is quite contemporary and Georgians like it. We have a pizza oven, so you can watch your pizza being made. What’s more every six months the menu is updated and provided by the head office of all Filini restaurants. In the summer period we also provide a terrace menu and grill.
Q. How would you evaluate the popularity of the Anne Semonin spa in Georgia?
A. I can proudly say that it is popular among Georgians, as well as a lot of Georgian members we also have daily visitors. For many it’s a new experience after a stressful day and a great escape too, a kind of place to relax.
I am actually seeing a lot of small spas appearing in the city inspired by our product, but still the product we offer, the location, the brand Anne Semonin, and the massage services, are unique.
Q. Where are the majority of bookings at Radisson BLU Iveria made, online or at travel agencies?
A. The majority of bookings are made directly from companies. We have good electronic sales. Radisson has its own sales network but online sales are not as high in Georgia as they are in Europe. However, we invested a lot in internet and gds cells because the future of business lies there.
However, the biggest reservation source is still direct booking from companies. Moreover, we provide the opportunity for companies to use the online booking facilities on our website which is something new for the market. So if an individual wants he can book from his own computer and get immediate confirmation.
Q. How are you the promotion activities of Radisson conducted in foreign countries?
A. We have a big sales network in the Rezidor hotel chain with a head office based in Brussels, we have sales offices in different countries and besides that we also have sales teams in the regional offices.
Radisson BLU Iveria advertises in different international magazines, media, and the internet. As well as the advertising we do as a hotel, head office is promoting us in different booklets and fairs. Radisson Tbilisi like other Radisson hotels is part of this promotion. We do not need to attend the fair in Germany as head office is already representing us and promoting us. Besides our hotel, Georgia is also promoted as a new destination for Radisson.
Furthermore we have advertising in neighbouring countries too. We promote our hotel services and spa in different markets to different segments.
Q. How do you manage to motivate your staff?
A. We really give authority to our staff which is part of our Yes I Can policy. When they feel like they are authorized to take decisions they then further strive to satisfy the guest.
The main motivator is the guest as they give positive feedback to our staff which is the best way to make them feel happy. Moreover, we promote from in-house as much as we can, we develop people by trying to give them future possibilities and opportunities. This gives them a motivation factor.
We also recognize good examples, when they do something good we appreciate this and give positive feedback. People like to be observed as this gives them the feeling we are following what they are doing and will reward hard work with recognition. Employee of the month is based on these experiences.
Q. Would it be possible to name the famous guests and events that the Radisson has hosted?
A. Quite recently there was Roberto Cavalli, famous chess player Casparov, and a couple of guests from Hollywood like Val Kilmer, there was famous singer Thomas Nevergreen, as well as Ivana Trump. We had high level delegations from Poland, Latvia, the Latvian President, a high level group from the FBI, VIP events by Golden Brand also, as well as Tbilisi Fashion week. So there have been a string of important people and events hosted by the hotel.
Even Mayor Gigi Ugulava checked in a guest at our hotel, which was also a special thing for us to remember.
Q. What kind of loyalty programmes does Radisson offer?
A. Gold Points Plus is the name of the royalty programme. It’s quite a new programme in the hotel with 5-6 years of history and is made up of the best examples of programmes created so far.
What is good about our program is that you get points when you stay at the Radisson. You get points for the money you spend, it does not matter if you stay for a short or long while as points are accumulated nevertheless. You can spend these points in other Radisson hotels or in this one, you can also convert these points into airline points, so this is very convenient for both business and leisure travellers. Radisson has the biggest chain of hotels in Europe, you can find Radisson everywhere so it is quite easy to accumulate and then spend the points.
Q. What is your vision of Georgia developing as a tourist destination?
A. Georgia is definitely focusing on tourism at the moment. I have recently been seeing a lot of projects and efforts spent by the Government to this end. It is a developing country, we see lots of investors coming and staying with us, so every improvement in the country in turn helps us with our business.
We have another project opening next year in Batumi. A lot of effort is being spent on Batumi right now. Our number one target is to provide the best service in the country, at our hotel and future projects and keep the recognition of the Radisson brand as high as it is now, focus on the people who are looking for the best and retain this image.
The same owners are building the hotel in Batumi, but it is still under development and not under our management yet. When the hotel is ready we will take over the hotel and start running it, with the concept that it will be close to our hotel here in Tbilisi.