“This whole country is changing, and all the changes are for the good” – Joseph A. McInerney, President & CEO of McInerney Hospitality International.
McInerney Hospitality International, a full-service hotel management company from the United States, will manage the Wyndham Grand hotel in Tbilisi. The company took up the job when Wyndham Grand replaced Rixos as the hotel’s operating brand. Kate Tabatadze, Managing Partner at Property Georgia, spoke to the President and CEO of McInerney Hospitality International Joseph McInerney, who sees big potential in Georgia’s hospitality sector.
The Wyndham Grand hotel, which will open in Tbilisi in January 2019, will be managed by McInerney Hospitality International Georgia. What are your expectations, and how promising is the Georgian market for the Wyndham Grand brand?
I had an opportunity to walk through the construction site, and I must say that Wyndham Grand has a local flavor of Georgia, and Tbilisi in particular. You don’t want it to be something that people can experience in Paris or someplace else. Everything that is felt in the hotel interior or the restaurant should form part of the local atmosphere. This hotel will have a tremendously local feeling to it. You will get to experience this for yourself when Wyndham Grand begins to take shape and opens at some point during the first quarter of 2019. Location is one of the most important parts of developing a hotel, and Wyndham Grand has a great location in the center of the downtown area, close to shopping centers and museums. It will also boast spectacular views. Wyndham Grand is going to be a very successful hotel, because it has an international name, experienced management, and committed owners.
Is a particular hotel brand name the main factor for you when you start working on a specific project?
We work for the owners. We have a responsibility to the owners and the brand. In most cases, we help the owners pick the right brand, as we have done with the Alliance Group, whom we assisted with their Marriott franchises. We are acting as advisors at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Batumi, which is located in the Alliance Palace multifunctional complex, and we are going to manage the Marriott hotel in the Alliance Privilege multifunctional complex, which is also in Batumi. Both projects have been developed by the Alliance Group. As for City M, they brought in the Wyndham brand themselves when Rixos left Georgia. We need to use the brand as widely as possible to ensure the hotels success.
McInerney Hospitality International Georgia will also manage the other luxury hotel in Georgia – the 5-star Marriott hotel in Batumi, which is part of the Alliance Privilege multifunctional complex. What can you tell us about Batumi, and what is special about Georgia in general? Why does your company, as well as other world-renowned international hotel brands, choose to be represented here?
Batumi is a different market than Tbilisi. The capital city has both a business and a leisure market, whereas in Batumi, the focus is on the leisure market. Batumi area is growing, just like Tbilisi. We see more and more apartments being built there. This whole country is changing, and all the changes are for the good. Developing the hospitality sector is important, as it brings in more business, more people, and creates more jobs for the community.I feel that Batumi and Tbilisi, as well as the rest of the country, have great times ahead of them over the next ten to fifteen years and beyond.
Does McInerney Hospitality International Georgia train local employees? How do you source the personnel for 5-star hotels in the first place?
Myself and Maia Tsereteli, the President of McInerney HospitalityInternational Georgia, were involved in running a capacity training programme for the World Bank and the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia in the Kakheti region. We were able to train 444 people, the majority of whom were women representing all age groups. We found that in Georgia you have an excellent choice of people who are willing to learn with a great attitude and work ethic, which arethe keys to the success of a hotel. The great thing about the hospitality industry is that you can take your skills anywhere in the world, but it is important to provide career opportunities to kept them in the country.
The Wyndham Grand hotel will employ 140-160 people. We will start hiring straight after the New Year. Hotels are a great career path for young people, as well as older people who are going through change.
You are the author of the book Change is the New Status Quo. What changes have you seen in Georgia over the years?
When we were writing the book, we initially intended that title to be a placeholder, but we later decided to go along with it, because change is the most important thing. If you do not change, it means that you are taking a step backwards. The world is changing so fast around us that you have to be thinking ahead and be willing to change. Change can be difficult sometimes, but it has to be implemented if you want to be successful. Georgia is changing dramatically. We see a multitude of new hotels entering the country.
When I first came here in 2014, there were the Marriott, Courtyard, Holiday Inn and Radisson brands operating on the local market, and now you see the Hyatt being constructed, the Biltmore is open, while the Rooms hotel, and numerous smaller hotels have been functioning for some time. We see the GNTA doing an excellent job outside the country, promoting Georgia. Every couple of weeks you can read an article in the travel section of one of the newspapers in the United States about Georgia and the things for people to see and do here – not only in Batumi and Tbilisi, but throughout the country. They are also getting the word out at international trade fairs and exhibitions.
You have over 50 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Which country does Georgia remind you of?
Looking back to Asia during the 1970s, it was quite similar to what is now happening here in Eastern Europe. New hotels started to open in Asia in the late 60s, and new airlines were coming in. I would say that Thailand is similar to Georgia. I lived there and I like the people there, as I do in Georgia. I saw growth opportunities and development there, and I see it here too. There are considerable similarities with the government helping business, which is an important factor. If the government is not on the side of business, then nothing will happen, but here the state is helping. In another parallel, the tourism sector in Thailand grew through the efforts of the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand), and you see it growing here with the help of the GNTA (Georgian National Tourism Administration). So, while I see a lot of similarities between the 1970s Thailand and today’s Georgia, I believe that Georgia can grow faster than Thailand did, as you have the ability to take advantage of new technology and your strong educated workforce to grow quickly.
How often do you visit Georgia and to what extent are you involved in McInerey Hospitality’s business activities here?
Maia Tsereteli is the President of McInerery Hospitality Georgia. I show up here every four or five months, while she does all the heavy work. If I did not have a strong partner, then I would not be here. Life has been good to me, and now I am helping Maia build the company in Georgia for her.
Source: Property Georgia