Business Week had an opportunity to exchange a couple of words with Darren Blanchard, representative of Radisson, at the signing of the Park Inn Radisson Tbilisi agreement on April 16, 2015.
Mr Blanchard currently lives in Russia where he works as the Business Development Director at Rezidor Hotel Group, managing company of Radisson. He is very much in love with Georgia, saying he visits the country not only for business, but also for holiday vacations. He is especially enamored with the country’s hospitality culture and says it puts Georgia ahead of the game in the tourist business.
According to him, the Georgian government is doing a great job in terms of tourism, but the lack of direct flight to and from Western Europe as well as erratic late night schedule of the existing flights hinders Georgia’s tourism potential.
Q: How successful do you think Radisson chain is in Georgia?
Well, we have the two hotels now. The Radisson Iveria in Tbilisi is extremely successful. It’s one of the most successful hotels in the region. During crisis times and during the political issues elsewhere in this region that was the only hotel that was actually making positive gains. Now we consider it being one the strongest and important hotels we have and it’s a beautiful hotel.
Q: So this new project Park Inn by Radisson Tbilisi is going to be a mid-market hotel. Do you think that factor will improve overall Radisson’s performance in the country?
Yeah, Radisson is upscale or upper-scale and Park Inn Radisson is a mid-scale, and we do hope to reach a broader consumer range by opening this hotel.
Q: What would you say the Georgian government can do to improve the tourist activity in the country and the tourism-related FDI specifically?
I think they’re doing a fantastic job and I mean it very much. I’ve been coming to Georgia for fifteen years. I’ve seen the changes, I’ve seen the infrastructure growth and it’s almost like another planet. I think Georgia has stepped up from being down the bottom. Now it’s really at the top in terms of tourism infrastructure and tourism welcome. There was a huge campaign some years ago to promote Georgia and I think that’s had a good impact. So, I would just say keep going on the same course.
I think one of the challenges Georgia has is access. Having no requirement for visas for most countries is fantastic – that really puts Georgia ahead of the game. However, getting flights into the country, particularly, flights arriving at midnight or whatever the awkward timing is [4 a.m. – Ed.] – I think the government has to look into this. They have to try and work with the airport or the airlines to improve the amount of direct flights. It’s particularly problematic if you’re flying from Western Europe. I live in Moscow, so I don’t have to face the problem that much when traveling to Georgia. But the current lack of flights is quite punishing and you have to really want to come to Georgia to make it. If it was much easier, I think it would change a great deal in terms of tourism for the country.