The FINANCIAL — “My appointment in the position of the General Manager of TAV Georgia implies double responsibility for me as aside from the fact that I am the first Georgian General Manager who is a woman at the same time, I represent a global brand in the field of aviation in Georgia, managing two main, strategically important airports of the country together with my professional team,“Tea Zakaradze, first Georgian General Manager of TAV Georgia.
Q. Mrs. Tea it has been a few months since you started managing TAV Georgia in the position of its General Manager. Over the 16 years of is operation in Georgia the company is having its first Georgian General Manager and you are the first lady who has been promoted to this position too. How does TAV Airports see the importance of the role a woman can play in the company management and what does it do to ensure gender equality in the airports operated by it?
Despite the many important changes that we have witnessed throughout the world over the recent years ensuring gender equality still remains to greatly challenge both the private and state sectors as well as provision of a working atmosphere facilitating their economic strengthening. I can say it firmly that the policy TAV Airports implements provides for employment and further development of its employees observing the gender balance.
44% of the present TAV Airports Top Managers in the airports operated by it are women and this fact, considering that we are speaking about aviation – the sphere which is dominantly masculine is giving a great stimulus.
My appointment in the position of the General Manager of TAV Georgia implies double responsibility for me as aside from the fact that I am the first Georgian General Manager who is a woman at the same time, I represent a global brand in the field of aviation in Georgia, managing two main, strategically important airports of the country together with my professional team.
Since 2005, starting from the day TAV stepped into the country, I have been occupying various leading positions and the way I made to my present position of the General Manager of the company has not been an easy one but the stereotype that aviation is a field meant for men has played a role of an additional motivator to me in striving toward achievement of my goals and made the challenges I was encountered with more attractive.
Q. The time you came to the present position coincides with the hardest for aviation period globally. What alterations has the pandemic caused in the company plans and as the manager, do you have any long-term post-pandemic prospects developed at this stage?
An airport is a live organism with all its vital elements being functional in a simultaneous mode for 24/7. I personally found it very hard to daily come to see the terminals without passengers, the aerodrome without aircraft and the operation that was stopped at that time.
The pandemic is not the first crisis that the company has faced over the 16 years of its operation in Georgia: we had to manage the airports in the hardest for the country period of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 having ensued very hard economic outcomes due to which we practically had to start everything anew then.
Later, in 2019 the Russian airlines left the Georgian market which was a hard economic blow as well to be shortly followed by the pandemic that we are still struggling with. This time exactly as in the previous occasions, our team managed to give timely evaluation to the crisis and the outcomes thereof and due classification of priorities.
Within the shortest time after the pandemic had been declared the airports operated by us were meeting the highest standards of epidemiological safety set by the global health organizations. Even in these days, besides regaining the pre-pandemic state of the Georgian aviation market, the main priority to us is to create a safe and comfortable environment for our passengers and employees.
As for the long-term plans, we are ready to present a three-stage plan of Tbilisi international airport development to the government and we will start negotiation with the state concerning these plans as soon as the pandemic is over. We are always ready to support the country’s development both in view of its economy and tourism through making additional investments. TAV Georgia is indeed one of the most respectful and reliable partners of Georgia which has been clearly demonstrated in the credit and support that the public and air companies have been giving to us over so many years.
Q. How has the second year of the pandemic expressed itself in the figures of the company in view of the passenger flow and incomes?
As you know, the pandemic has taken its toll mostly on aviation and the related fields financially. Against the picture of the completely shut down Batumi airport and limited Tbilisi international airport operations, in 2020 TAV Georgia’s incomes decreased with 85% and this year we are expecting a 57% decrease in them too. As for the passenger flow, we have actually returned to the figures we had back in 2005-2006. Since countries started opening their borders and relieving regulations, we have been actively striding toward the Georgian aviation market revival and gaining back the pre-pandemic figures.
According to the data generated for the 9 months of the present year 2021 Tbilisi international airport has regained 67% of its airlines and 38% of its passengers while Batumi international airport has returned to 63% of its previous airlines and 79% of passenger numbers.
While striving toward encouraging tourism in the country we actively continue our daily collaboration with airlines and notwithstanding the unprecedented crisis, we offer them – both the presently operating and new ones – propitious conditions for their operation here.
Q. Against the background of the airports closed due to pandemics, TAV Georgia made 17 million USD worth investment in Batumi International Airport extension/renewal in 2020. With hindsight, as a manager now, do you believe that it was a right decision to make an investment or moreso, increase investment amount given the existing global crisis?
In the summer of 2021 year the figures in Batumi International airport were rather positive serving as a proof that our team once again properly measured future risks and made timely and right decision of making an investment against the background of crisis. While regular flights were cancelled due to pandemics, TAV Georgia not only continued fulfillment of Batumi International Airport Extension Project, but increased investment sum from 14 to 17 million USD. In consequence, Batumi International Airport made its solid contribution to the process of preparedness of Adjara region for accepting tourists.
Q. In 2017 year, TAV Georgia was named as one of the largest investor company of the country. What role does the company play in the development of aviation in Georgia?
Since 2005 year TAV Georgia has made 220 million USD worth investment. Improving airports’ infrastructure requires additional investments, hence the invested sum grows respectively each year. As an example, this year we spent 2.5 million USD on construction of a new taxiway in Tbilisi International Airport. By exercising effective and innovative airport management practices we have set high quality service standards and have become one of the most reliable partners for the country. In the result of number of infrastructural projects, we have brought new air-companies, which require high standard of services.
For the time being, TAV Georgia is one of the largest employers for aviation university students and graduates. We employ tens of students in Tbilisi and Batumi International Airports, and we provide professional trainings to them. In addition, our training center caters for thousands of employees engaged on work in the field of aviation in the state and private sectors, to say nothing about measures taken towards creating propitious operational conditions for air-companies based in Tbilisi International Airport. For the course of many years operation, TAV as one of the largest investor of Georgia have met the expectations of the country.