The FINANCIAL — A new project, implying classification of hotels in Georgia, headed by the local company Global-Star, has raised concern among tourism industry professionals.
The project is supported by the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia and some private hotels, but criticized by others, claiming that stars are not important for a country where almost 100 of the tourists are business oriented.
On March 5, 2010, a cooperation memorandum was signed between the Ministries of Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Monument Protection and company Global-Star, planning classification of small hotels. Local media speculated about an international origin of Global Star, but soon it became clear that the company is Georgian.
“The Government and companies representing the tourism sector are agreed on a common interest: service quality of hotels should be higher and adequate to the cost. Georgian hotels will have to satisfy European standards and 270 criterions,” project organizers said.
“There is a chaotic situation in the Georgian market. You can find hotels which have two or three stars, but without the suitable conditions and service those stars should guarantee. It’s very important that foreign tourists arriving in Georgia don’t have negative impressions of our country,” says the assistant of the chairman of the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia, Beqa Jakeli.
Participating in the classification of hotels is voluntary. Each hotel can join the system.
“You can’t make a business take part. There must be liberal approaches in the conditions of a marketable economy. Initially, only several hotels may be interested in this project, but this is not a problem at all. The most important thing for the country is for the system to be free-will and the methodology of estimation to be straightened out,” noted Jakeli.
Local media reported that the project is being headed by international organization Global-Star.
Beka Jakeli said in his interview with The FINANCIAL that the company has great experience in this field. But we failed to find any information supporting this on the internet. Even in Georgian sources, there is no background information about Global-Star.
“We are trying to set up European standards in various fields in Georgia. Over the last year we have been working on a new project which implies the classification of hotels. We have introduced European standards and criterions of estimation. We had consultations with Georgian hotels as well. This process was free of charge. A hotel which gets awarded with a star by “Global-Star” becomes a member of the company. The cost of membership is 2.5 – 6 EUR per room,” says head of the company, Mikheil Badiashvili.
“This project will contribute to regulation of prices as well. The level of service in the hotels will be corresponding to price,” noted Badiashvili.
The new initiation is being welcomed by 31 hotels from the existing 400.
“There have never been projects like this in Georgia and now Global-Star wants to set European standards. In my opinion it’s a very good project. As for our hotel, we have only 3 stars, and we want to be a mid level hotel. After participating in this project, our hotel’s service will be adequate to its prices. As for the company Global-star, I have eight years of experience and suitable education accepted in Great Britain in this field, and I think that initially the local association is leading the project very professionally,” said General Manager of Rcheuli hotel, Shalva Alaverdashvili.
Rcheuli is a chain of small hotels, associated with the family of Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, former Vice-Speaker of the Georgian parliament. The chain belongs to the Rcheulishvili family, according to the President’s office. In May 2007 the Rcheuli hotel in Batumi was visited by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. He said that he would do his utmost to facilitate the building of similar hotels and would assign special resort areas.
Global Star has already started working with several hotels.
Vere Palace, a small premium hotel in Tbilisi, was one of the first who wished to participate in this project.
George Kondratiev, front office manager of the hotel, said that classification of hotels is regulated diversely in various countries. “This process is regulated by law in most European countries. There are exceptions too. Sometimes classification and regulation are regulated by special unifications and associations. According to international standards, I think that our hotel’s service is corresponding to 5 star hotel levels. Thus we want the authority and professionalism of “Global Star” to be recognized as a 5 star hotel.”
The HOTREC (Hotels, Restaurants & Cafés in Europe) is an umbrella organization for 39 associations from 24 European countries. At the conference in Bergen, in 2004, the partners sketched a hotel classification system in order to harmonize the national standards. In 2007 HOTREC launched the European Hospitality Quality scheme (EHQ) which has since accredited the existing national inspection bodies for hotel rating.
Some members of the hospitality industry have claimed a self-given six star rating for their operation. Two examples are the Crown Macau, on Taipa Island in the Chinese territory of Macau and the St. Regis Shanghai Hotel in China.
There are only three hotels in the world that are seven star hotels; the Town House Galleria in Milan was the first, followed by the Burj Al Arab.
Under the patronage of HOTREC the hotels associations of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland have created the Hotelstars Union. On September 14, 2009, the Hotelstars Union classification system was decided and pronounced at a conference in Prague. Since January 2010 the system has been effective in most of these countries, Hungary will provide the legal provisions in 2010, Switzerland will switch to the new system in 2011 based on the regular 5 year cycle, and the Netherlands will switch in 2011 for similar reasons.
There is so far no international classification which has been adopted. There have been attempts at unifying the classification system so that it becomes an internationally recognized and reliable standard, but they have all failed.
Many consider that as has been the case in other areas (e.g. international accounting standards), hotel classification standards should result from a private and independent initiative.
The UK’s Culture Minister Kim Howells said that he was considering establishing a Government-endorsed standard to replace the many rating systems, which he said were “shambolic” and confused the consumer.
Owner of the hotel “Old Tbilisi”, Devi Dgebuadze, has an opposing stance on the subject.
“We can’t think seriously about tourism at a time when there is a worldwide economic crisis. Generally there are high prices, especially in Georgian hotels. The prices are higher than in Europe and accordingly tourists come less and less to our country,” he says.
“Awarding stars to hotels is not important when there are no “itinerant” tourists in Georgia. Old Tbilisi doesn’t have any stars, but its frequent customers know the level of the hotel’s service and, in my opinion, that is quite enough for bringing in clients,” Dgebuadze said.
According to data of the company “Global-Star”, there are at about 400 hotels in Georgia. Thirty of them have expressed desire to participate in the project at once. Work between the local association and 10 Georgian hotels has already begun.
Sheraton Metechi palace, Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, presenting the biggest international hotel chains in Georgia said their service quality and ratings are controlled by an internal system and international audits.
According to official data 1.5 million tourists visited Georgia in 2009.
The number of tourists fell by 50% since the August War in 2008.