The FINANCIAL -- Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi will welcome guests with more facilities this year as the hotel is going to open a new sports bar, massage area and terrace in the recreation centre, park and a casino, all offered in Tbilisi Sea New City.
Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi is a 5-star hotel with a French touch located on the shorelines of the famous Tbilisi Sea, a perfect gateway to clean, fresh air, with a relaxing atmosphere and an exceptional panoramic view of the Tbilisi hills. Built in a modern, European, contemporary style the hotel features 246 guestrooms.
The hotel also contains the Be CHIC all-day dining restaurant that offers international gourmet cuisine, exquisite local cuisine as well as Asian specialties. Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi is the only hotel throughout Georgia with a unique Chinese Restaurant - Ensemble, where guests can enjoy authentic Chinese dishes from China.
The hotel’s extensive recreational facilities include an indoor swimming pool, gym, studio room, sauna and 3D golf simulator. The hotel offers perfect venues for holding conventions, seminars, workshops, incentives and other varieties of events.
Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi is now promising a more comfortable and elegant stay for visitors thanks to the number of projects that are in development this year.
“The nearest project that will be completed very soon is our sports bar, which will open next month. This will be an extra benefit for our guests, offering a very happy venue for sport enthusiasts,” said the General Manager of the hotel, Petter Lillvik.
“We have just finished renovating our indoor swimming pool and the next step is to include terrace, so that the guests will be able to enjoy sunbathing during summertime. We always respond to our guests needs, that is why we are planning to open a massage area in the recreation centre this summer.
“The hotel will comprise a beautiful recreation park, with an artificial lake, a waterfall and two huge amphitheatres, where we will be able to hold open air events. And finally, the biggest casino in Georgia will be open in the premises of our hotel that will add a new contingent to our segment - not only business travellers, but also gamblers, some very high standard guests. It will be a very big advantage for us,” Lillvik said.
Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi officially opened its doors to guests in October 2016 and since then has already seen big success. During this period the hotel has hosted various events, including business meetings; MICE events; luxurious weddings; corporate events; seminars; and the Golden Brand Award Ceremony for the first time this year.
The hotel has been involved in different activities in terms of donations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has won different, honouring awards and was announced as a proud member of the American and French Chamber of Commerce.
Q. Could you please summarize the year 2016. How have the hotel’s revenues increased and what was the main challenge that year? Also, what have been your impressions of the beginning of 2017?
A. 2016 was the first year of full operation for the hotel. Of course the main challenge for 2016 was to make the hotel recognized in Tbilisi. For the PR and Marketing department it was the first challenge - to make us known in the city. I think last year we achieved that target and also in terms of revenues and the occupancy rate of the hotel, we achieved our budget and our targets very well. People in Tbilisi finally know who we are.
This year business increased a lot and we are hosting very big events in the hotel.
It seems that 2017 will be a very fruitful year for us.
Q. There is an ongoing hotel boom in Tbilisi. As Georgia is a small marketplace, do you believe that there is still sufficient room for development?
A. If we look at the numbers from the Georgian National Tourism Administration, we will see that the number of tourists is increasing in Georgia. Last year the country hosted six million tourists and this year it is expected that nine million tourists will visit Georgia. So there is plenty of room for hotels in this country.
We would hope for the categories of the hotels to be a little bit more spread out. At the moment they are more focused on the 5-star segment. We hope that more 3-star and 4-star hotels will be opened in Georgia and that this will increase tourism also. The tourists who come here are not all 5-star tourists. The tourism industry in Georgia is still young. There is still room here which needs strong growth.
Q. Some people thought it would not be beneficial to operate a 5-star hotel in the suburbs of Tbilisi. Most international hotel brands prefer to open their hotels in the centre of the city. So what would you say about the location of Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi? Does it help to attract guests or on the contrary - is the location an obstacle?
A. Of course the location is a challenge. But that’s why we have focused on looking for market segments that would be suitable for this area. This hotel is very well-equipped with large meeting facilities for hosting big events and business or governmental meetings.
We are very close to the city centre. In Tbilisi people feel it is far away but if you go to any other country people are always commuting, for one or two hours, even if walking. This is normal. We have many international guests and for them it doesn’t feel far away.
It was risky to start operating a 5-star hotel in this area but it is also an opportunity, because nobody wanted to have this area and to invest here. But now everyone sees how attractive a place it has become and how our hotel has been developing.
Q. Let’s talk about the cooperation between Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi and Golden Brand. What is your impression of this year’s Business Brand Award ceremony? How did you enjoy being the host hotel of the ceremony? Do you agree with the experts in their choice of the specific companies?
A. We host and sponsor different events. We always look at these suppliers and if they meet our hotel image and philosophy. The Golden Brand is a very important event of Georgia’s and it was a good opportunity for us to be the host of the event and to be a part of it. Golden Brand has a very good reputation and we also have a good reputation. So it was a very good match. And the event was very successful, everybody was very happy, everything went without a glitch.
We had other companies at the event that did not get an award. But I think that all of them are very successful. I think the judges chose the winners very carefully and named the right winners for all the categories.
Q. Are you considering further expansion in Georgia? Is Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi going to open other hotels in Georgia?
A. First of all, our company is from France and our biggest development area at the moment is in China. There we are developing many different brands, not only Hotels & Preference. We have different brands in China which are growing very fast.
Georgia is an important market for us; not the main market, but an important one. Of course we are looking for new opportunities. We are in the process of observation and are in the middle of talks but I cannot go into detail on these. Hopefully we will have three or four hotels here. This is our target number to have in Georgia.
Q. What are the current trends in business and leisure tourism? How are Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi expected to change in the coming years?
A. In Tbilisi most of the hotels are trying to be either boutique or fashion-oriented hotels. So hotels will be built following certain trends. They will have fine designs, fine sculptures, and different room, maybe every floor will be different - you might have a women’s floor, you might have a men’s floor, you would have family rooms … so this is changing.
In terms of food and beverage in Georgia at the moment there is not so much development, but I can see that more and more Georgian cuisine is starting to be set up differently. There is not only a ‘Supra’ [feast] style any more, it is more about the individual plate.
Also, more and more ethnic cuisines are coming. You will see lot of different ethnicity in the hotels. We are one of the trendsetters in terms of Chinese cuisine and this is our strong point.
Q. Is there healthy competition in Georgia’s hospitality sector?
A. I call the competitors ‘my friends’. I think the competition at the moment is very healthy. We do a lot of collaboration and help each other. It looks more like a healthy friendship. Everyone needs to achieve their planned target but in a healthy way. No one is trying to go behind the other’s back.
In 2018-2019 when there will be many more hotels in Georgia, the rules of competition might change, unless the tourism keeps growing.
Q. In general, what would you say about Georgia’s business environment? How favourable is it for investors?
A. The infrastructure in Georgia has to improve and it is improving in terms of roads, public transportation and flights.
A visa waiver for Georgia is also very promising for the country.
We have seen that different countries have been signing different agreements on cooperation with the Georgian Government. China has signed a free trade agreement with Georgia and it will be a big one, because at the moment Chinese tourism to Georgia is very small. That will grow very fast and it will be helpful for all the hotels.
Q. How much is the guest satisfaction index of the hotel? Has it increased or not?
A. We can refer to the website Booking.com because it is the only one that gives such scores at the moment. Accordingly, we have a score of 8.5 and are happy with this result. Of course we are actively working for improvements all the time and to show more satisfied guests.