2022 August-September Analysis Featured

Getting there: how three women forged successful careers in Georgia’s hospitality industry

The program, which is being implemented by AmCham and Georgia’s international brand hotels (GMT Group [Marriott Hotels], Silk Road Hospitality [Radisson Hotels], and the Sheraton Grand Metechi Palace) with the support of the USAID Economic Security Program, welcomed its first cohort of 52 participants in early June. For the next five months, trainees will receive more than 800 hours of on-the-job instruction from internationally certified trainers, with a focus on topics like hospitality basics, housekeeping, food and beverage service, human resources, health and safety, and sales and PR. The training program is part of a wider effort to introduce international standards of service to the hospitality sector and revitalize the industry’s workforce as it emerges from the pandemic.

If you’ve visited one of Georgia’s international brand hotels in recent weeks, you may have exchanged pleasantries at the check-in desk or been ushered to your table by one of the inaugural trainees of a new hospitality skills training program.

To better understand the appeal of a career in hospitality, Investor.ge recently sat down with a few of the sector’s most accomplished women. These women, who all hold senior management positions at international brand hotels in Georgia and have more than 40 years of combined experience in the industry, shared their career journeys and offered up some advice for those looking to enter the sector.

Ana Chechelashvili
Cluster Director of Sales and Marketing, Tbilisi Marriott, Courtyard Tbilisi, Moxy Tbilisi
Years of experience in hospitality: 10

On how she got her start: “When I was 19 and just finishing my studies in finance, I went to a job fair being held at the Courtyard Tbilisi Hotel. I had never considered a career in hospitality, but luckily for me, I met the Director of Food & Beverage, who was looking for candidates for several positions in his department. I remember him being so enthusiastic about the industry – I had never seen anyone so excited about their job before. I was instantly convinced I needed to work for this industry.”

On the journey: “I started working at the most entry level position you can imagine, as part of the banquet service staff. From there, I was promoted to the position of Food & Beverage Assistant. While working in F&B, I showed initiative and an eagerness to learn different aspects and areas of hospitality. It was this initiative that attracted the attention of the Director of Sales and Marketing at the time, who was looking for a new sales executive and recruited me to join his team. From there, I continued to show initiative and worked my way up, moving from EBC Sales Executive to Sales Manager, to Senior Sales Manager, and finally Director of Sales and Marketing. I actually left Marriott for three years to explore a career in the development industry. However, from the day I left, I was 100% convinced that I would come back. As soon as I had the opportunity, I returned to work for Marriott, convinced that hospitality remains the right fit for me.

On opportunities in the hospitality sector: “I think it is important for those who are interested in hospitality to know that it is truly one of those sectors where hard work and initiative can translate into huge growth in your career. I started in the lowest possible position at the hotel with no background in hospitality, and now I represent three different brands managed by Marriott International and serve on the executive committee. Here you can achieve a lot, just work hard and believe in your success.”

Sopho Meskhi
Director of Sales at Silk Hospitality Hotels
Years of experience in hospitality: 13

On how she got her start: “I joined Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel in 2009 as a group coordinator when the hotel was still in its pre-opening stage. I would say this was one of the most exciting periods in my career, where I had the opportunity to interact with both international and local clients.”

On the journey: “After working as a group coordinator, I was promoted to sales manager, and I am proud to say I was part of the development that saw Georgia receiving more MICE requests, meaning we started to see more groups, conferences, and events. Later, I moved towards the leisure market, which was not an easy transition and required me to familiarize myself with a whole new type of clientele (local and international agencies, wholesalers, and tour series from different markets like Europe, Japan, or the Americas). However, this is part of why I love working in hospitality – it’s a dynamic industry that pushes you to constantly improve and take on new challenges. Soon after, I joined a cluster team as the Radisson Blu Hotel Batumi was opening, which was our first trial in synergy. I was promoted to Director of Sales and Mark eting soon after and led my department through the opening of the Radisson Collection Tsinandali Estate in 2018 – a feat that would not have been possible without the hard work and collaborative efforts of my incredible team. Throughout my career, I have never had two days be the same – this allows me to always move forward!”

On how to succeed in hospitality: “Hospitality is all about people – it’s a people business. That means there is no such thing as weekends or holidays for us. You really need to love what you sell and believe in it – if you do that, success will follow.”

Natalie Chanadiri
Director of Sales and Marketing at Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace
Years of experience in hospitality: 17

On how she got her start: “My hospitality journey started when I moved to London in 2004, and it really began as more of a job than a career. My first position was in Food & Beverage as a waitress. But one of the things that I quickly learned while working for Marriott International was that they always look for people with a spark – that spark that shows you want to progress and learn. If they see that in you, they really develop you and give you the resources to be successful, which is how I worked my way up to where I am today.”

On the journey: “In my first four years in F&B, I took every opportunity I could to cross-train, spending time in the front office, housekeeping, concierge – really any department. I felt it was strategically wise for me to know as much about hotel operations as I could if I wanted to move up to senior management one day. In 2008, I moved to sales, and this represented an entirely new chapter of my career that was hectic but also filled with travel, new clients (many of which became friends), and so many amazing memories. I still remember the highlight of my time working in events and groups sales when I got to handle the main sponsors of the 2012 London Olympics – the city was buzzing! I worked in various senior management roles in sales and marketing before taking a position at Marriott International HQ, where I led a team that looked after 30 brands and over 7000 hotels around the globe. In 2021, I chose to move back to Georgia and take on my current role as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace, where I also serve on the executive committee board. Being in hospitality allowed me the flexibility to seamlessly continue my career in a different country – which you can’t say about a lot of industries.”

On the importance of mentorship: “Great mentors and leaders have played a major role in my career. A great mentor will have your best interest in mind and will encourage you to reflect on what you are good at; but most importantly, they will boost your confidence through their continued support. My advice to anyone just entering the sector – find that person. And once you find your success, become that person for someone else. To this day, some of my mentors and mentees remain my greatest friends.”

This article was prepared with the support of the USAID Economic Security Program.