Giorgi Bitsadze’s Alliance Group, in partnership with global hotel giants, is making history in Georgia’s hospitality sector.
At Alliance Group, we’re developing Georgia’s richest zip codes,” says Giorgi Bitsadze, the co-founder of the country’s leading construction-development company, as we stop in front of anarch-shaped skyscraper in the beautiful seaside city of Batumi. The morning breeze blown in from the sea feels refreshing. It’s 8am and the weather app on my phone screen shows 25°C and sunshine. For holiday-makers it’s a perfect start to a leisurely day. For Bitsadze, it’s another weekday. In this city of modern structures, business hours start early. Batumi looks like the renovated Dubai of early 2000s, a real-life SimCity. Alliance Group represents one big chapter of Batumi’s story of it evolving into an international destination.
“This is the Alliance Palace, the first franchise project my company developed together with the world’s leading hotel chain Marriott International,” Giorgi Bitsadze says, as he points to the recently completed multifunctional complex we’ve come to see. The skyscraper has the Courtyard by Marriott brand name emblazoned on the 41th floor. In partnership with this global hospitality giant, operating 6,500 hotels in 127countries and territories, the Alliance Group has already started building its other major-league franchise project – the Alliance Privilege, representing the first five-star Marriott hotel in Batumi.
“By developing modern-standard properties, we’re putting the city on the global investor’s map,” says Bitsadze.
For the last 13 years, Alliance Group has built more than 20 large-scale projects in Batumi, including classy aparthotels across the coastline boulevard, which, in fact, is the longest in Europe. Bitsadze, 53, a serial entrepreneur since the late 80s, sees Georgia’s construction-development sector as one of the most promising in the country. The highest destination Alliance Group has entered is the new ski resort in Goderdzi. “
We’re the first construction-developers here, 2,000 meters above sea level,” notes Bitsadze. Bitsadze’s company is developing the project, which is a Ramada Hotel franchise, with another prominent international hospitality chain – the Wyndham Hotel Group, which operates 8,000 hotels in 78 countries. After Adjara’s select seaside and highland resorts, Alliance Group has expanded its development activities to Georgia’s capital. In Tbilisi, the company is building the Alliance Highline, a privileged multifunctional complex featuring the Wyndham Garden Hotel. Along with the hotel sector, the apart-hotel business plays a significant role in Georgia’s hospitality market and the Alliance Group is the leading upscale developer of aparthotels. The company’s premium apartments are included in the international network of the world’s leading vacation exchange company, – RCI.
“Starting this summer, our apartment owners will receive the gift of luxury travel opportunities abroad,” states Bitsadze.
The tourism industry in Georgia is one of the best performing. Between 2006 and 2017, Georgia recorded the world’s third-highest growth rate in visitor numbers. With 4 million member families included in the RCI network, the local vacation industry is enjoying an historical opportunity to achieve global exposure. Currently, the RCI network in Georgia includes the Alliance Palace with more than 1,000 apartments. Once completed, the Alliance Highline with up to 700 apartments will also be joining the network.
With $210 million investment in the four ongoing internationally acknowledged projects (The Alliance Palace, the Alliance Privilege, the Alliance Resort and the Alliance Highline), the Alliance Group remains the main Georgian brand in the construction- development and hospitality sector on the local market. Since 2005 the company has invested $200 million in already-completed projects. To get a closer look at the company and its insight, FORBES Georgia conducted a short interviewed with Giorgi Bitsadze himself.
The modern architecture catches the eye in the first place. What’s unique about the Alliance Group skyscrapers in regards to exterior and interior design?
Exclusive architecture is our signature. The Alliance Highline and Alliance Palace projects have won awards within the Mixed-Use Architecture and Residential Architecture High Rise categories at the European Property Awards 2017-2018, one of the most prestigious industry events in the world. We are strongly focused on developing cutting-edge design. This commitment is obvious in our most recent project, the Alliance Privilege, a foam-white beach skyscraper. To say a property is special you must feel at home there. At the Alliance Group resorts we bring exclusive architecture inside. In terms of interior design, we’re working with an Italian studio called D73. Recently we’ve had the designer himself, Andrea Vigano visiting the Alliance Highline construction field and the already completed Alliance Palace complex. He’s doing a tremendous job. The Alliance Group property owners and tenants will soon have an opportunity to experience what it feels like to live in the apartments designed by this world-famous Italian architect.
What was it about Batumi that attracted Marriott and which has been the new destination for the world’s top hotel market player?
Marriott International has worldwide experience and you cannot surprise them with a quality project only, unless it’s located in an internationally attractive destination. Batumi is one of those. While starting work with an international company, we present a complex deal, a quality project and its opportunities as a part of the destination. This small port city with a population of only 180,000 people is visited by up to 2 million international tourists annually. Because of the well-developed gambling business, Batumi is called the ‘Las Vegas of the Black Sea’. We have a lot of entertainment facilities here – night clubs, restaurants, cafés and bars, as well as international brand hotels. The Alliance Group has contributed a lot in the development of Batumi. In 2005, we built the very first modern residential building in the city. Later, we sawwe had to think of some broader business model which would bring foreign investors to our local projects. In 2008, and for the first time in Georgia, the Alliance Group launched an aparthotel concept and it worked. Batumi was undergoing a renaissance, there were lots of new buildings appearing in the city. Marked on the international map of tourism and regional business, Batumi was ready to accept the challenge of world hotel brands. Part of this challenge we took into our own hands. In 2015, in partnership with Marriott International, we started building a multifunctional complex that combined premium apartments with an international brand hotel (Courtyard by Marriott).The Alliance Palace will be completed this summer while the hotel will be exploited in April, 2019. This year we have already announced the new project in Batumi – the Alliance Privilege, which can accommodate the 160- room Marriott hotel. This 54-story, state-of-the-art, multifunctional complex will be completed in 2020. High-end construction-developments like these that have sprouted-up along the beachfront, make Batumi a city of the future.
One of the main attractions about the Alliance Palace and other properties developed by your company, is the apartment hotel concept. How does this work?
Today, Batumi is a regional hub for the leisure property business. Up to 80% of the Alliance Group apartment owners are foreign citizens. International investors find Georgia the most attractive market for real estate acquisition. Local liberal policy makes it possible to obtain a temporary residency permit on the basis of buying property with a value of over $35,000. Compared to big metropolises, real estate in Georgia is cheap. For investors of all sizes, both international and local, the local aparthotel market is a good business and the most explosive of the cities in this regard is Batumi. The commercial benefit is also one of the most significant benefits our apartment owners receive. For instance, the starting price for a premium apartment at the Alliance Palace has increased by 210%. In addition to this, by letting an international management company rent their properties, apartment owners get rent income. The philosophy here is that you see not only fast investment return within 4-5 years, but you also have real estate in possession with a constantly increasing price.
The Ramada Hotel brand within the Alliance Resort complex, is the first to enter Goderdzi. What key features did Europe’s fastest developing hotel brand owners find in Georgia’s ski-mountain resort, which is still under development?
Goderdzi resort has a unique location – 2,000 meters above sea level tucked away in Adjara’s highlands and is only 100 kilometers from the Black Sea coast. The mountains in this year-round resort are snow-covered from November to April. It’s also known as the snowiest resort in Georgia (three times more snow depth then the Bakuriani and Gudauri ski resorts).This is what Wyndham Hotel Group loves about Goderdzi, its intact beauty, splendid views and four seasons, which is quite rare in mountain ski resorts. When it opens this year, the six-story future trend Alliance Resort will have the capacity to host 250 visitors at any one time.
We see Alliance Highline banners all around central Tbilisi. Expanding business activities to the capital Alliance Group has started with the most prestigious Vake district. Tell us the story of the three skyscrapers you’re developing in partnership with the Wyndham Hotel Group.
0179, under this most famous zip code, we’re developing the Alliance Highline multifunctional complex at 49 Chavchavadze Avenue. This premium class complex is impressive with its sheer scale and trendy architecture. The three-tower landmark project consists of 40 and 33 story apartment buildings and a 26 story mixed-type tower where Wyndham Garden Hotel and apartments will be situated. The entrance of an international hotel brand will turn the district of Vake into the capital’s new tourist center. Tbilisi, according to TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website, is a ‘Destinations on the Rise’. So, we need to reshape the city’s hospitality sector and create new routes for tourists. Rustaveli Avenue, which has been the main hub for tourism, will maintain its position, being a central street in close proximity to many of the city’s famous sights. Taking into consideration that up to 20 international brand hotels are being built and planned to be developed in Tbilisi, new locations have to be explored. We did look for the next best alternative and established it on Chavchavadze Avenue, a quiet and green area close to Tskneti forests. The Alliance Highline, because of its universal planning of residential, aparthotel and hotel concept, is best-suited for families, business people and tourists. This elite complex is planned with consideration of every detail, meeting the requirements of a modern citizen: cards instead of keys to access rooms, concierge service, technical personnel, spa center, swimming pool, fitness, as well as a four-story underground car park – all the facilities you will find in top European multifunctional complexes. all the properties with ultramodern standards. Our flagship project in Tbilisi will be completed in 2019. Wyndham Garden Hotel will open in the complex a year later.
The Alliance Group recently announced an exclusive offer for its apartment owners – a vacation exchange to the world’s quality resorts. What does your unprecedented deal with the global leader of property exchange RCI mean for the country, your clients and your company?
Georgia entering the RCI network of around 10 million potential tourists from all over the world is breaking news for the country. We’re setting new standards for innovation in the local vacation industry. This comes as a fabulous surprise for our apartment owners, who have been gifted a vacation exchange opportunity to more than 4,300international- class resorts in over 110 countries across the world. Properties developed by the Alliance Group enjoy Gold Crown Resort status, meaning an additional 200 elite holiday locations. What is new for Georgia is a 40-plus years of success story for the big part of the world. For Alliance Group, our partnership with RCI is a new challenge, which we’re confidently carrying out. An advertising campaign for the Alliance Group resorts and our country has already begun on various RCI platforms, and the first vacationers from Georgia will be able to benefit from this global network during the summer of 2018.
What’s the next step for the Alliance Group?
There are several development ideas that the Alliance Group is planning to offer both existing and future customers. Apartment owners will receive Privilege Cards from the newly established Alliance Vacation Club, which will open the door to global travel for them. In addition, they will receive discounts and other benefits from a number of companies providing the best services or creating luxury products all over Georgia. This will include the best restaurants, clinics, entertainment centers, beauty salons, fashion shops, car centers and many others. Regarding the future projects, we have the same concept projects on a timeline, but we also plan to create a new concept for different kinds of investors, so follow us for the update. Therefore, upgrade, innovation and development, as always, are the next steps for Alliance Group.