The FINANCIAL — According to the major café/fast food spot owners interviewed by The FINANCIAL, free Wi-Fi has brought a 20% upsurge in sales following its installation. Tourists account for the majority of users as well as local citizens. Most of them spend 3-4 hours enjoying free access to the internet.
Iakob Qavtaradze, Bufalo Bill administrator, said that customers often choose them over the competition because of the internet access they supply. Bufalo Bill is quite frequently visited by tourists. (Address: 16 Akhvlediani St. Tbilisi Tel: +995 32 93 60 52)
“Our bar can serve 60 people at a time. Every day 20-30% of the visitors bring laptops with them due to Wi-Fi internet access.”
As Qavtaradze says Wi-Fi has largely contributed to the popularity of the Bufalo Bill bar as well as a significant increase in sales. Visitors numbers usually swell on Fridays and at weekends.
Ori Lula, one of the fast-food spots in Tbilisi, has 6 branches in the city. (Address: 7 Leselidze St. Tel: 18 07 81 / 154 Agmashenebeli ave., 95 06 20)
General Manager Soso Katsitadze says that Wi-Fi access has drastically increased the number of customers even though now it’s only available in two branches.
“Since February sales have increased by 10-15% in our Wi-Fi equipped fast food spots, also the time spent with us. Due to the popularity of Wi-Fi we plan to equip all our fast-food spots with Wi-Fi devices this summer,” said Katsitadze.
22 year old Maia who couldn’t manage to leave Tbilisi this summer often visits café primarily because of the free internet access.
As Maia told us she spends at least 2 hours enjoying free internet access as well as the comfortable atmosphere in most of the cafés.
“I hope that all of them will become equipped with Wi-Fi devices soon that could let any laptop/mobile owner have free access to the internet whilst on the premises,” she said.
American diner Elvis, which operates at two locations, on Meliqishvili Avenue and in Mtatsminda, is also equipped with Wi-Fi. (Address: Philharmonie, Melikishvili Str. 1. Tel: 24 11 55)
The Manager of Elvis Irakli Khachidze says that 20 out of every 100 people who visit Elvis come solely for internet access and then surf the internet, from checking their e-mails to writing projects.
“As for the sales I couldn’t say that it boosts them even though it does have certain advantages as we don’t have any limitation on using our Wi-Fi internet throughout the day,” she said.
Elvis employs 50 people overall including the newly opened branch in Mtatsminda which enjoys particular popularity amongst visitors to the centre.
McDonalds Kutaisi which was recently opened, has already got Wi-Fi internet access.
As Eka Apsnadze, Marketing Manager at McDonalds, says, Wi-Fi largely contributes to their whole McDonalds chain revenue indirectly in Tbilisi as well as in the regions. Users are mainly tourists visiting the historical sights in Tbilisi as well as in Kutaisi.
Cafés that don’t have Wi-Fi access are planning to do so by autumn.
Coffee Room which was recently opened on Vazha Phavela Avenue plans to make internet available for visitors as there have been several incidents of people demanding it.
Kala Group provides free internet access for its restaurants situated on Erekle Street.
As The FINANCIAL found out, internet access has become a major challenge for tourists, especially in the remote areas albeit the majority of regional municipalities are equipped with poor internet, although sometimes not at all.
Internet cafés are rarely found, especially in western Georgia, excluding Kutaisi, Adjara, Zugdidi, and several other locations although the majority of hotels supply it.
Magtifix can also be used with its modem costing 155 GEL and the additional 45 GEL payment for activation. The company provides free internet access in the main boulevards of Batumi, though the quality of connections is not always good.
Nino Giglemiani who uses a Magtifix modem in Svaneti, says the GPRS connection is very problematic because once a minute, or even more frequently, the internet access becomes damaged and needs to be reloaded. She is very dissatisfied with it even though 3.1 Mbit/s is available (which is absurd) and the uploading of files takes 1.8 Mbit/s speed, which takes too long and makes it practically impossible.
Tamuna Kuchuashvili who has taking a vacation in Sagarejo, surfs the internet via her mobile. She has bought 200 MB for 10 GEL with a period of 1month. As she affirms, it is impossible to spend all the 200 MB for the duration of one month. “Also it’s very uncomfortable to surf via mobile, even just going on to facebook. That’s why I wish there were an internet café here,” said Tamuna.