#propertypeople “The process of development of international real estate projects in Batumi is irreversible” – Akaki Songulia.
Akaki Songulia became involved in real estate development in 2010. The company that he represents has been among the leaders in the Georgian development market for the past 15 years. A financier by profession, Mr. Songulia took up the challenge of working in a sector that showed a lot of initial promise in the Adjara region. The success enjoyed since then is reflected in the figures. In cooperation with different companies, the Alliance Group has built more than twenty residential complexes and aparthotels, incorporating around 5000 apartments and over one million square metres of living space. The company name is associated with modern Batumi. The Alliance Group implemented the aparthotel concept in Batumi at a time when the Black Sea resort was still taking its first steps towards international recognition. Thereafter, the company introduced numerous renowned hotel brands to Batumi, including Marriott, Wyndham, Hilton, and now Hyatt
It was recently revealed that the Hyatt Centric brand will be coming to Georgia. Hyatt Centric Boulevard Batumi will be the first international hotel brand to be introduced to Georgia since the start of the pandemic. Hyatt officially signed a management agreement with Alliance City Ltd in January 2021. Property Georgia spoke to the Alliance Group co-founder and CEO Akaki Songulia.
Photo Credits: FORBES Georgia
- Let us start with the news that represents the first positive international signal for the hotel business in Georgia since the start of the pandemic – the construction of Hyatt Centric Boulevard Batumi in partnership with the Alliance Group. What does this mean for the city of Batumi, and the Georgian hospitality sector as a whole?
- The process of development of international real estate projects in Batumi is irreversible, as demonstrated by Hyatt’s entry. It is even more remarkable that this is happening during the pandemic, which shows that international hotel brands trust our country. If we follow the logic and look through history, there have been numerous global pandemics in the past. Naturally, they had an immediate effect on many sectors of the economy, but they passed without forcing any dramatic long-term changes, including in the real estate sector. Based on these experiences, we can hope that as the vaccines get rolled out, we will gradually return to normal life in the near future, while adapting to certain new regulations. People will start travelling again. The trust shown by Hyatt towards Batumi is particularly important now, as people are looking for a safe holidaying environment. Tourists can view Hyatt’s actions as a recommendation from which not only Batumi, but Georgia as a whole will profit. It is also worth noting that several international hotel brands came to Georgia in the last few years before the pandemic. Batumi has long become an international seaside resort.
- Alliance Centropolis will be also be known for another international brand in the shape of the first World Trade Centre in the region. According to the Alliance Group, this will be the first premium-class business tourism project in Georgia, as well as the wider region. How do you see the prospects for the development of MICE tourism in Batumi?
-The Batumi World Trade Centre will be more than an international brand. We are talking about a global communications ecosystem. World Trade Centres are currently found in megalopolises such as New York, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney, and now Batumi will join that list. It is worth noting that the World Trade Centers Association plans its annual activities in advance, ensuring high activity level throughout the year.
Alliance Centropolis is a unique investment project. It includes the first WTC business and exhibition centre in the region, investment apartments, Hyatt hotel and casino, Class A shopping mall and international five-star apartments.
The introduction of the World Trade Centre brand in Batumi will be incredibly valuable for the city and the country as a whole. We are creating the first business tourism hub in the region.
- Batumi also managed to retain the prestigious World Travel Awards prize. The Black Sea resort was recognised as Europe’s leading emerging tourism destination for the second year in a row. What does this mean for the real estate sector in Batumi?
- Each case of international recognition represents a step forward in the process of encouraging foreign investment. Batumi is truly exemplary in terms of its growth and development rate. It is a great honour to receive this award, and it constitutes excellent PR work for the city. Georgian resorts had a clearly defined niche during the Soviet era, which worked well in the existing environment. Today Batumi is an example of a post-Soviet resort that has become a desirable tourist destination for visitors from all over the world.
- Based on international studies, global tourism will start to recover this summer and reach pre-pandemic figures by 2024. How do you see the prospects for Batumi?
- The world will continue to hear about Batumi. In 2019 we had ten times more international visitors than the city’s population, and we will achieve significantly larger figures in the years ahead. More importantly, we will attract more high-spending tourists to Batumi. We will therefore need even more high-end hotels and accommodation facilities. At the same time, we will need to address both the challenges caused by the pandemic and those that existed before the crisis. These include flight frequency, addition of new flight routes and general improvement of the infrastructure. Visitors coming to Georgia must be met with more than just international hotel brands – they must find an international-class environment and services here, from the moment they step off the plane until their departure, and at all times in-between. We are not concerned about hospitality – this has always been the Georgians’ strong features. Emotional memories are a prerequisite for tourists returning to our country on multiple occasions.
- How will 2021 be different for Batumi compared to previous years?
- The city’s development strategy remains relatively unchanged with regards to real estate. However, the approaches and implementation methods will change. Like in 2020, digital solutions will be an important resource this year. We will be unable to return to the 2019 figures right away. This will take several years, and the need for online services is clear. This process has already begun, and will become a fixed part of the agenda in 2021. We will rely on domestic tourism in Batumi this summer. We also expect international visitors, but there are no ambitious calculations. Due to the existing challenges, the sector has acquired many new skills since previous years. Therefore, 2021 will definitely be better than 2020, and we will be better prepared for the times ahead. When tourism recovers in 2024, Batumi will boast the newly opened Alliance Centropolis, World Trade Centre and Hyatt hotel with its full infrastructure, which is certain to meet the needs of visitors from any country in the world.