MOXY Hotel Hits the Georgian Market
“Georgia is under the microscope because there are opportunities, and investors of course, are aware of these opportunities,” notes the General Manager of Marriott International, Courtyard by Marriott and MOXY Tbilisi, Cameron McNeillie. He also underscores that over the past few years, development aspirations in Georgia have visibly increased, as well as foreign investor interest in the Georgian market. Case in point, after a $20 million investment, The first MOXY hotel in Eastern Europe, that will be managed by Marriott International, will open its doors in Tbilisi the first quarter of 2018. Forbes Georgia had an opportunity to sit down and talk to Cameron McNeillie, the General Manager of the new MOXY Tbilisi.
Mr. McNeillie tell us a little bit more about the MOXY. What kind of hotel should we expect from Marriott international’s third brand here in Tbilisi?
Our third hotel is the MOXY brand Marriott, and it’s going to be located on Saarbrücken Square in Tbilisi. The hotel caters to people who we like to call “fun hunters”. It’s for people who want to explore the city, have a good time and have a functional space where they can have a great night’s sleep. With tech-enabled rooms, vibrant lobby spaces and warm, modern service, MOXY Tbilisi aims to surprise business and leisure travelers with a thoughtful, spirited and fun guest experience. It’s also about enjoying the local environment and neighborhood. There will also be a great bar area serving unique cocktails, a DJ and some fun competitions. It’s not a traditional hotel in any sense. I think it’s going to be very interesting to watch this brand enter the Georgian market because many people are used to traditional hotels and this is not a full service hotel, this is more for somebody coming with a bag , having good night’s rest and going out in the city. However, Moxy is above a hostel too. I mean the actual product is fantastic and it’s beautiful. The owners of the building “GMT Group” LLC have done a magnificent job and the quality is perfect.
How many rooms will the Moxy have and will the staff be comprised of Georgians?
There will be a totally local staff. In fact, in all three Marriott brand properties everybody is local except for me. You know, at the MOXY, we call our staff the ‘crew’ and the day-to-day operations director is called the ‘captain’. So we have the captain in place and she will take care of the day-to-day running of the property. As for the number of rooms, we have 130. We also provide a large communal space. In this place you can even dance on the bar! Of course if you try that in the Marriott Hotel, we would ask you to leave.
Despite the fact that it’s your first time in Georgia, can you summarize the positioning of Marriott brand hotels on the Georgian market and what provides the basis and motivation to further expand on the market?
I can’t tell you about the actual results in numbers, as that’s confidential commercial information. What I can say however, is that over the years Tbilisi Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi Hotels have been very successful in this market. Firstly because they are really thoughtfully operated hotels and also because they are part of the global Marriott brand. Marriott is currently the largest hotel company in the world. We have 30 different brands under one umbrella. The tourism sector, from what I’ve seen over the last several years is growing year-on-year. Although it is just about a month, since I have arrived, I have noticed, that tourism numbers are expected to further expand. After speaking to local businesses at networking events that I have attended, like the Silk Road Forum for example, it was fantastic to hear how many people are interested in investing in Georgia… I think it’s really encouraging. I think that the country is just going to grow, which gives you great hope from a business point of view, but also from a tourism perspective.
And what about the investment climate in Georgia?
From what I see in other businesses and from the customers that come to the hotel, the investment opportunities are growing in Georgia. China and India had shown significant investment into the region and we clearly see a potential, having said that with their hotel investment also a direct competition arrived. These investments together with the desire to explore new markets creates an opportunity what we currently exploring with our Global Sales Teams. The local government seems to be very open to welcoming people who are eager to invest in the country. It’s of course good for the Georgian economy because investors create jobs and increase GDP, so I think Georgia has a great future.
In your opinion, what fundamental changes have been made in Georgia over the last five years?
From what I understand and what I see, I think the appetite for growth is increasing. I think people want that growth, and the hunger to expand is developing in different areas, not only in the hospitality sector, but also in the financial sector among others. Georgians are exceptionally proud people, you’re proud of your country and want to do better for its development and growth. Tell us about the Marriott brand’s future plans in Georgia? Generally the Marriott brand is expanding a lot. We have a number of hotels around the region. We also have the Sheraton Hotel in Tbilisi, which is due to open in the future, but it’s difficult to provide an exact date right now. After the merger of Marriott and Starwood this brand is also under the Marriott umbrella. We have other hotels – even franchises – that are developing around the area. The brand is growing within Georgia and worldwide. Current statistics show that Marriott International is opening one hotel every 17 hours around the world, so that gives you a better idea of how rapidly our expansion is happening globally. Eastern Europe and Georgia are huge areas for us because the growth potential is so great. People are interested in our brands, because we can offer every price point to our customers.