"We Are The New Berlin." The Creators Of Rooms Hotels About Tbilisi And Modern Georgia

"We Are The New Berlin." The Creators Of Rooms Hotels About Tbilisi And Modern Georgia
"We Are The New Berlin." The Creators Of Rooms Hotels About Tbilisi And Modern Georgia

Video: "We Are The New Berlin." The Creators Of Rooms Hotels About Tbilisi And Modern Georgia

Video: "We Are The New Berlin." The Creators Of Rooms Hotels About Tbilisi And Modern Georgia
Video: Tbilisi’s architectural revival 2023, March

In the past few years, Georgia is, as they say, “on top”. Georgian fashion and contemporary art, trendy orange wines and techno-clubs - all this perfectly fell on our traditional ideas about Georgia as a country where most of all they like to receive guests and sing in chorus. Even American travelers have finally confirmed that Georgia is not only the southern state of the United States, but also a small mountainous country in Eastern Europe.

All this did not happen by itself, but through the efforts of a certain generation of Georgians - mainly those who found the difficult 1990s, managed to live and work abroad, and finally decided to return to Georgia - with new knowledge and a desire to do beautiful things.

This generation has its own leaders, its own stars, its own ideologists. Levan Berulava and Valeriy Chekheria are just one of them: doing their job, they are actually changing the country's image at the world level.

Levan and Valery are top managers of the Adjara Group hotel company: perhaps the lazy one has not heard about their project Rooms. The “author of the idea” Rooms and the owner of the company Temur Ugulava understood that the team should consist of people of an international format who know how to look at their country from the outside and quickly understand what is interesting for guests from other countries and what is missing. Levan and Valery clearly cope with this: the new, just opened hotel of the company was marked by the Time magazine itself.

But the main thing is that they managed to turn hotels into portals through which tourists enter the new Georgia - young, fashionable, energetic and talented.

We talked with Levan and Valery about how Georgia has changed in recent years.

- Tell us a few words about yourself, your biographies

- Levan Berulava: We are both 37 years old, so Valery and I are from the same generation. I was born in Sukhumi, where, as you know, there was a military conflict in the 1990s. The 1990s were generally a dark time for Georgia - corruption, lack of gas and electricity, plus all the other problems that were in the entire region. My family left for Kiev, I grew up there. In Tbilisi, I returned to enter the university, graduated with a degree in International Relations, then studied in Brussels and Istanbul. After the Rose Revolution, in 2003 he returned to Georgia because he wanted to participate in the development of the country. He worked first at the Ministry of European Integration, then at the Ministry of Finance. Two years later, he left for New York and entered Columbia University to receive a new specialty. We studied there together with Valery. He returned to Georgia in 2011, I - in 2014,when Rooms Tbilisi was opened.

- Valery Chekheria: I, like Levan, still found the Soviet Union. We grew up at a very interesting time. After the USSR collapsed, people were needed who would create a new government, a new infrastructure. I got a law degree, worked in the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Finance, and then went to study at Columbia University. But we always wanted to be part of the country's revival, we always wanted to return and work here. New York is a great place to find out what you want to do in life. And to begin to better understand your country. We always knew that we had to do something for Georgia.

- LB: In 2004, we both participated in the development of very important reforms. Modern Georgia was generally born in 2004.

Photo: roomshotels.com/kazbegi
Photo: roomshotels.com/kazbegi

1 of 7 Rooms Kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi © roomshotels.com/kazbegi

- How was Adjara Group and the Rooms brand created?

- V. Ch.: In New York, we met Temur Ugulava, a businessman and current owner of Adjara Group. This is a man with an outstanding brain. We wanted to create a company that would combine local flavor and international level of service. So that travelers can understand and feel the country, culture, food, discover Georgia. We created hotels "as for ourselves" - such as we like, in which we ourselves feel comfortable.

We consider ourselves cosmopolitan, but our roots, of course, are in Georgia. We have a good education, international experience - and we brought all this here. I thought I would return to the country of my childhood. But after New York, I looked at her with completely different eyes. I saw a lot of new possibilities.

In 2011, we opened Rooms Kazbegi, a hotel in the mountains, and it was a socially responsible project from the very beginning. When we first arrived in Stepantsminda, where Kazbek is located, there was no life there - people had no jobs, many left for Tbilisi. It was a remote province. But we saw the potential. Georgia has neither gas nor oil, our main capital is our way of life, wine, food, nature, and we can share this with travelers. In Georgia, after all, it is considered that every guest is a gift from God. This is how we treat our guests - as a gift from God, it is in our DNA. At the same time, we understood that people who come to Georgia are interested in seeing modern hospitality. Yes, we have a lot of beautiful things, but you need to be able to teach it. We dreamed of creating such a super Georgian brand. We didn't want to make a luxury five star hotel. It is important to feel the terrain on Kazbek. There are very beautiful mountains, nature - and no infrastructure.

The building currently occupied by Rooms is a former Soviet sanatorium. We were able to transform it into a cozy space with a modern design: for example, we used a lot of wood in the interior. But the main thing is that we have rethought public areas. For example, they created a lobby so that one would like to spend the whole day in it, so that each guest would feel like a host who meets new arrivals. In the restaurant we had a common table, in the American sense of the word - communal table. Post-Soviet people in those years wanted some kind of VIP-relationship - to isolate themselves, to sit separately. People were afraid to talk loudly about their lives. And we decided - we need a common table. It doesn't matter what religion you are, what your views are, whether you are gay or straight, we must sit down at the same table and share our stories. We don't have to hide anything.

Rooms Kazbegi also has a huge terrace overlooking the mountains. On this terrace you can sit at least all day, meet people, tell each other about your travels, exchange advice …

Georgia has neither gas nor oil, our main capital is our way of life, wine, food, nature, and we can share this with travelers.

- So you are actually changing the mentality of the country?

- V. Ch.: What we have already managed to change is the attitude of young people to work in the field of hospitality. Previously, young people did not want to go to work as waiters or maids. It was not prestigious. And we created a place where we all do something cool together. Levan is responsible for recruiting. We do not tell employees: "Come to work for us." We say: "Come, let's develop together, hang out together, develop a great business - and our country together."

- LB: We recruit young people from different Tbilisi universities, mainly from creative ones. We take those who have never worked in the hotel business before and train them from scratch. Adjara Group is now considered one of the best employers in Georgia. We inspire young employees to work and earn money. Georgia is a very traditional country. You can live with your parents as long as you want, and your parents will give you money until they run out of money. And we tell them: look how young people live in New York, London. You are young, you are a student, you can earn money, rent an apartment and at twenty you can already live independently. Or at least twenty-five. You not only can, you have to build your life, earn money in order to be able to invite your girlfriend or boyfriend on a date,and not ask my mother for money.

- V. Ch.: By the way, our project Fabrika, a hostel and an art space in the building of a former garment factory, was created with our partners precisely with this idea in mind. This is not just a hostel, it is a place where Georgian youth can hang out and meet. After all, when guys from other cities come to Tbilisi, they have no money for a hotel, they live with relatives. That is, they do not communicate with people of their own circle and age, they do not learn anything about the city. Many simply return home. In Fabrika, where there are rooms for four, six and ten people, these young Georgians have the opportunity to meet guys from other countries - from Europe, Russia, Ukraine, even from China. And they can invite their new friends to their city or village, tell them about Georgia. Now tourism is developing in all Georgian regions. Besides,such communication helps to better understand ourselves.

You know, I remember when I was 15, my parents sent me to a boarding school in Paris. My classmates from different countries talked about their travels, games, and their lives. And when my turn came, I told them how we stood in line all night for a piece of bread. For them it looked like a drama, but for us, Tbilisi people, it was our life, and we enjoyed it. One of the neighbors had a generator, and the whole house gathered in one apartment in the evenings, we sat and talked - and we felt good. Yes, we grew up in such an environment - and at the same time we were happy. And now young people have much more opportunities, and we want them to have access to them, so that they use these opportunities.

Fabrika project
Fabrika project

Fabrika project © press service

- What is modern Georgia for you?

- LB: We combine our Western education, the experience we got abroad, with the Georgian traditions of hospitality, with what is in us. You know, sometimes people who stay in Rooms or come to our Lolita restaurant tell me: I have a feeling that I am not in Georgia. But listen, this is Georgia! Modern Georgia. It was created by Georgians, Georgians work for us, products from Georgian farmers are on the table.

An important part of this modern Georgia is, of course, club culture and club life. We are friends with the creators of the most famous Tbilisi clubs. We work a lot - I, for example, at work every day from nine in the morning to one in the morning - but we also love to have a good rest and dance. Yes, we are already adults, but I think that you should hang out just when your brains are in place, when you are really cool. Communication, socialization is an important part of my work and one of the secrets of our success. We know many of our guests personally, we are friends with them.

Photo: roomshotels.com
Photo: roomshotels.com

1 of 4 Lolita Restaurant © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com

- That is, we can say about you that you got into the stream, into the get-together?

- V. Ch.: You know, we were lucky: we created Adjara Group at a very good time for Georgia. We then went into the hotel business, some of our friends opened clubs, others - cafes and restaurants. Of course, I cannot fail to mention Demna Gvasalia: he did a lot to make the world known about Georgia. He can say from the height of his position: I am a Georgian. Then the Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week was launched in Georgia, which became very prestigious. And, of course, the fact that we have a young government that supports such projects helps.

- LB: Everyone is doing everything possible in their field to ensure that Georgia develops. In our field, we see from the guests that it works: people return to Georgia again and again, looking forward to new meetings. Our friends from all over the world love to come to Georgia, we always have new friends from among the guests of our hotels. This helps us to develop our projects further. For example, our farming program.

- V. Ch.: Not so long ago we launched a program to support local farmers - we buy all the products for our restaurants only from them. Now we write the names of the suppliers on the menus of all our restaurants: you will know that a certain farmer has grown the tomatoes for you. And thus, the profession of a farmer in Georgia becomes prestigious.

- LB: Yes, and our farmers know that business is growing, that we already have six hotels, and there will be even more - for them this means a constant demand for their products. They work with pleasure. That is, we develop not only our hotels - we help develop the community. For example, in the village where Rooms Kazbegi is located, half of the residents work in our hotel, and the other half are employed in the tourism business.

Sometimes people say: "I have a feeling that I am not in Georgia." But listen, this is Georgia! Modern Georgia.

- V. Ch.: We believe in the concept of sharing is caring. We share our business with others. And ultimately this strengthens the country's economy, and we have the opportunity to do even more, our business becomes more stable.

- LB: By the way, this year Valery was named one of the young world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This means that he will represent Georgia on the world stage.

- V. Ch.: Yes, this is an excellent platform to tell about Georgia, attract tourists and investments to the country, tell that this is a country where guests are adored, tell about our company - who we are, what we do.

- Do you plan to open new hotels in other regions of Georgia?

- LB: Here I must say a few more words about the history of the company. In general, the history of Adjara Group Hospitality began with the current Holiday Inn hotel in Tbilisi, which we also manage. In Soviet times, this was the building of the "Adjara" hotel - hence the name. Holiday Inn is part of IHG, the InterContinental Hotel Group. At some point, we received a franchise to open InterContinental in Tbilisi. But by that time Rooms already existed and enjoyed great success. Therefore, instead of InterContinental, we decided to open another hotel under the Georgian brand. This is how the Stamba Hotel was born, which opened next to the Tbilisi Rooms. Our next hotel will open in Kokhta-Mitarbi, not far from Bakuriani. It is a family-run summer resort and skiing in the winter. There will probably also be a hotel on the Black Sea, in Adjara. Also very soon we are planning to open a small boutique hotel with a farm in Kakheti, in our wine region. There we have a large territory with plantations of almond trees and strawberry fields - just today the first batch of strawberries was brought from there to our Tbilisi restaurant.

Photo: roomshotels.com
Photo: roomshotels.com

1 of 9 © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com © roomshotels.com

- V. Ch.: In the future, we would like to open Rooms in Sukhumi. In general, ultimately, everything we do, we do for Georgia. Yes, we are patriots! We also plan to expand internationally.

- LB: Yes, we are already discussing these plans with friends and partners. We do not know yet where the foreign hotel will be - we spoke with Almaty, Kiev, Moscow, but this is still at the level of conversations.

- V. Ch.: We also talked with potential partners in New York, in Bushwick (a rapidly developing area in Brooklyn - ed.). Wherever Rooms open, it is important for us that it reflects the character of the place where it will be located. Of course, we dream of starting in New York, firstly, because it is a source of inspiration for us, and secondly, in order to be able to send our employees there for internships. Some of them have never been to America and we would like to give them this experience.

- LB: We have very friendly relations in our team - we all go dancing to clubs together. Yes, even though I am the managing director of all hotels, and Valery is the CEO of the company, but they are young and one day they can become anyone. No matter what positions we occupy, we all sit down at the same table at the end of the day. We are all people, we are all engaged in one common task, and we should enjoy this work.

- V. Ch.: As for new projects, we are ready to communicate with partners in our region. I always tell my Moscow friends - you have a bunch of great restaurants and clubs in Moscow, but very few good hotels. Why is that?

- What do you think will happen to Tbilisi in five years?

- V. Ch.: It seems to me that Tbilisi will become an even more important cultural and art center and become even more famous in the world. It will also be a very important area of gastronomic tourism!

- LB: The American Forbes recently published an article "Berlin is out, Tbilisi is in". So not even in five years, but now we are the new Berlin. And in five years the city will become even more modern and developed. But it will definitely retain its authenticity and character!>

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