Courtyard By Marriott And The Alliance Group Present

Courtyard By Marriott And The Alliance Group Present

The coastline of Georgia’s southern sea resort of Batumi will once again change its appearance in 2019. The Alliance Group, an experienced local developer, is the very first franchise partner of Marriott Interna­tional. The contract between the two sides was signed last December in Zurich. According to the agree­ment, Courtyard by Marriott will occupy the first six floors (150 hotel rooms) of the 41-storey Alliance Palace complex distinguished by its exclusive architecture. The total investment budget of the project is $ 40 million. Having visited the construction site, Philip Andreopoulos, Vice President for Franchise Support Europe at Marriott International, told Forbes Georgia how Courtyard by Marriott intends to make a differ­ence in the country’s top sea resort, which is well-saturated with high-class hotel brands.

Marriott, a world-renowned hotel brand, is well known in Georgia. It was back in 2002 when an old building of Majestic hotel was renovated and launched as Tbilisi Marriott Hotel. Later, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel was opened in another old building, where hotel Kavkaz was once located. What’s the story of Marriott International in Batumi?

Here at Marriott we are extremely proud of the successful and long-standing relationship we have with Georgia through our two existing hotels in Tbilisi, and when the chance came to realize our ambitions and open a hotel in Batumi, we were very keen to make it happen. Batumi is such a great city. It is really unique, and a very fitting destination for our hotels. Back in 2002, the trend in Georgia was for hotels to open with management contracts. It is a testament to the evolution of the hospital­ity industry in Georgia that we are opening this hotel with a skilled franchise partner. Our early interactions with the Alliance Group were positive, and I think both sides saw the benefits of operating this Courtyard by Marriott hotel under license. Maintaining the integrity of our brands is important to us. Therefore, selecting the right partner was a key component of this deal. We need to ensure that our customers get the right brand experience in a safe and professional environment. Our Franchise partner needs to be sophisticated enough to run our hotels whilst realizing their economic aspirations. As for us, we like to make certain that we are working with people who share our values for hospitality, customer service, and investment in people. The Alliance Group meets all these requirements. Therefore, it has the makings of a very good partnership.

The building in Batumi, where Courtyard by Marriott will occupy the first six floors, is being constructed from scratch. This enables Mar­riott International to have full control over every aspect, such as qual­ity, design, and security. The brand itself stands for quality, and acts as a powerful ‘insurance’ for customers. To be clearer, what is Marriott International responsible for as a franchisor?

As a franchisor we make sure our franchisee understands and delivers our brand promises. This touches every aspect of the business, from the design of the building to service delivery, and from the bedding and the comfy beds to the welcoming smiles at check-in. While the franchisee is ultimately responsible for running the hotel, we make sure that they are doing so in accordance with our standards. Our customers cannot normally tell if they are in a managed or a franchised hotel.

What are the must-have features that any franchise project – in this case, the Alliance Palace – should possess, that sends the message: This is Marriott!

Well, this is an area which comes naturally to Georgians – hospitality! A hotel’s tangible features are easy enough to install, but the intangibles of great service and warm hospitality are more difficult to get right.

Therefore, I am very reassured that this hotel, being located in one of the most hospitable countries on earth, will deliver great guest experiences and many memorable moments of happiness to our customers.

Marriott has always been at the forefront of technology. Workplace on Demand, Great Room Lobby, Next Genera­tion Meeting Spaces, and Meetings Imagined – will the Courtyard by Marriott hotel offer cutting-edge technolo­gies at the Alliance Palace?

I don’t want to give away too many of our secrets just yet, but what I will say is that our customers can expect to see a truly state-of-the-art product when they come to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott in Batumi. Table stakes such as super­fast wireless are a given; it’s some of the extra touches that will really delight and inspire our guest. Watch this space!

“Marriott puts people first. “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers” was the daily mantra that my brother, Dick, and I heard from our father while we were growing up,” J. W. Marriott Jr., Chairman of Marriott International, told Forbes magazine in an inter­view earlier. Moreover, in his book Without Reservations, the former CEO tells the story of Marriott turning from a family restaurant business to a global lodging company thanks to this very focus on people.  How does the human resource policy work in case of a franchise agreement?

Through our franchise partnerships we hope to spread the philosophy of our founder, and that of our current Chairman, that it’s people who come first. Whilst our franchisees are in business for themselves, they are not in business by themselves; Marriott is there to support them. This is one of the reasons why we are so selective about the companies we partner with. It’s important to us that we share these important values around putting people first. A franchisee will always retain control of their own workforce and make their own HR decisions; however, their actions must always support our brand standards and deliver our brand promise. To help our franchise partners do this, we offer a wide range of training courses which all associates of our franchise partners are encouraged to take part in.

In mid-February you visited the Alliance Palace construction field. How would you assess the initial works?

The site is coming along nicely and it’s in a great location, right on the seafront, so I’m very optimistic about this project. Given its location near the shore, the ground works have been extensive, with piling reaching down to nearly 50 meters below the ground level. Getting these works completed is a major milestone. Whilst you cannot see much from the surface, a great deal of work is now complete, which is good news. We look forward to seeing the construction above ground move on at speed now and, given the professionalism of our partners at Alliance, I am sure we’ll see exciting progress over the coming months.

Was this your first visit to Batumi, and do you plan to come back anytime soon?

Yes, this was my first trip to Batumi, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the modern and striking city I saw when I arrived. I particularly liked the award-winning architecture – who would have thought that a fast food restaurant and a gas station could be so beautiful! It’s also great to see a city with substance, as well as style, what with all the cultural activities taking place. I’m hoping to come back on a personal trip for the jazz festival later this year. Oh, and I’ll definitely be back to enjoy the excellent food and wine. I made some great new friends while I was in town and I am already incorporating the concept of the Georgian toastmaster into my regular business lunches!

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