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Issue no: 1202/206

• NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

In this week’s issue...

FOCUS ON VINOTEL

Meet the man redefining exclusivity in hotel diligence

PRICE: GEL 2.50

Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge

PAGE 11

NEWS PAGE 2

Ministry of Economy Plans to Develop the Tskaltubo Resort According to a 6-point Plan NEWS PAGE 2

The Black Sea of Economic Cooperation BUSINESS PAGE 4

US-Georgian Free Trade Agreement in Projection BUSINESS PAGE 4

Israeli Chamber of Business Welcomes The Registry Collection by Wyndham to Georgia TRANSLATED BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI

Ren Zhengfei's Northern European Media Roundtable, Part 4 BUSINESS PAGE 6

Georgia's Foreign Exchange Reserves Decrease by $216 mln BUSINESS PAGE 8

W

orld brand Wyndham is expanding its business in Georgia. On November 13, an agreement will be signed on awarding an exclusive high-end brand, The Registry Collection, to a company-owned hotel under construction in Abanotubani with the Israeli-Georgian Chamber of Business member company MCI in old Tbilisi. Wyndham representatives spent a year studying the project, its benefits, and decided that the hotel would work with Wyndham‘s high-end brand,

Huawei Wins Two TechRadar Mobile Choice Consumer Awards BUSINESS PAGE 9 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

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The Registry Collection. Another reason that got the hotel world-class status was its owner's experience in the field - it has already built a 5-star Wyndham Grand in Tbilisi and the Rustaveli Hotel on Liberty (Freedom) Square, which is now run by Badagoni. According to Itsik Moshe, president of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, Wyndham, a world-class brand, always has high demands especially with regards its Registry Collection, and in this case its decision was driven by its unique location, its prospects, owners' experience and their confidence in the Georgian side. Continued on page 3

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NEWS

@entrepreneur.ge Gamarjoba! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgian edition of Entrepreneur magazine and I’m here to share the top weekly Entrepreneurial news with you: Pulsar Al is the first start-up to have attracted Silicon Valley to invest $1,2 million, which will help the start-up establish itself in the American market. After completing the funding round successfully, the investors of the Georgian start-up are as famous as Ridge Ventures, Great Oaks VC, Mike Murphy and Ten Eighty Capital. Pulsar Al was founded by Dachi Coladze and Zaal Gachechiladze in 2016. In less than a year, they became the lead company on the Georgian Artificial Intelligence market, producing totally innovative technologies. In 2018, Pulsar Al got international recognition and was named among the winners of Payment Awards and in 2019, their audio technologies were named as the best mobile bank. ‘Round’ is the name of a sportswear start-up founded by four freshmen of the Caucasus University: Giorgi Topuridze, Sandro Zabakhidze, Kote Dikhaminjia, and Giorgi Didmamishvili, who set up production with an affordable Georgian manufacture while keeping high quality production. Now they have launched a Georgian brand of thermal t-shirts, sports pants, jackets, and hoodies. Their short-term plans are connected to establishing the start-up on the market, though they are already thinking about exporting. The Global Start-Up Fund, which was established by the partnership of Silicon Valley in Tbilisi and Israeli Silicon Wadi, has signed an unprecedented deal for Georgian start-up influence.ge for GEL 1,300,000. Founded by Ladi Gabunia and Giorgi Tushurashvili, influence.ge is an innovative, data-driven influencer marketing company. It unites influential people on social media and professionals who are connected to companies in Georgia. Customers choose influencers from the database who have prestige in the corresponding segment. Said influencers then create the appropriate content on social media, popularizing the customer’s product. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on business@entrepreneur.ge

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

Ministry of Economy Plans to Develop the Tskaltubo Resort According to a 6-point Plan BY ANA DUMBADZE

O

n November 11, a public discussion of the Tskaltubo development project (a spa resort in west-central Georgia, Imereti region) took place at the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, Tbilisi. The presentation of the Tskaltubo development concept was attended by Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava, Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Maya Tskitishvili, Deputy Director of Investment Department of JSC Partnership Fund Nino Cholokashvili, as well as representatives of the government, business sector, NGOs and media. “Today we start discussing the Tskaltubo Revival Project Plan, and we would like this process to be very available to the public and very transparent,” the Minister of Economy told media. “There is very high public interest surrounding it, and the project itself is so historic and large-scale that I want each step to be known to society. Within the framework of the discussion, we will introduce the role and functions of each actor in this project, including the State and the private sector. Of course, Bidzina Ivanishvili, with his charity initiative, is the person who brought new energy and power to the Tsktaltubo revival project, however, the project is so important for the economy and future of the country that it goes beyond the frames of one municipality. Accordingly, we would like to have

a detailed plan, divided among several participants, and we are presenting this action plan today.” As she noted during the public discussion of the Tskaltubo development project, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development plans to develop the resort according to a specially established 6-point plan, which includes: 1. Preparation of a general plan for the Tskaltubo resort; 2. Infrastructural development of the resort, infrastructural projects; 3. Offering alternative places of residence to IDPs currently living in former sanatoriums or buildings in the resort area; 4. Unified administration and management of the resort; 5. Preparing and implementing a multi-

year marketing plan; 6. Establishing and managing a unified model for the supply of the resort's main wealth, the healing water, to the private sector. “These are the six key points the state is responsible for in this large-scale process,” she said, explaining the meaning of each paragraph. “After Bidzina Ivanishvili's proposal, it became especially urgent that Tskaltubo should be developed not through separate chaotic initiatives, but as a unified complex, where each investor will know for sure how and when the resort will be developed. Tskaltubo itself was initially planned to be a spa resort, and the first plan for it was written 100 years ago. Continued on page 5


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

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And Then The Homophobes Protested… BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

A

nd Then We Danced is a now renowned award-winning, critically acclaimed Swedish-Georgian film. But that description failed to impress some Georgian ultra-right-wing groups. For them, it is a movie that is robbing Georgia of “its national identity” (though they have yet to really explain what this “Georgian identity” is). ‘And Then We Danced’ raised much speculation among these groups, given that it is a gay-themed movie, featuring Georgian dance and many other beloved elements that carry something of what makes up the ‘Georgian identity’. So when it was announced that the Swedish-Georgian queer love story would be screened in Georgia, the homophobic forces reacted immediately. On November 8, the first day of the movie screening, Sandro Bregadze, the leader of ultra-conservative movement Georgian March, announced that he, along with his supporters, would hold a rally against the premiere of ‘And Then We Danced,’ in front of the Amirani movie theater in Tbilisi center. He underlined that the demonstration would be peaceful and the protestors would not use force to disrupt the screening, nor would they try to enter the movie theater. It was not too long after this promise that the protestors burnt an LGBTQ+ flag in front of Tbilisi Concert Hall near Amirani. The MIA answered press regarding the move saying that the Georgian Criminal Code has no law against such an act. Indeed, throughout this and other demonstrations, the police held to the law

and did everything in their power to keep the situation peaceful. Law enforcers, fire and emergency brigades were constantly mobilized in each cinema location. As the film’s start time approached, the number of protestors rose. The Georgian Marchers were joined by Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman known for his ultra-right-wing mentality and homophobic aggressiveness, and his supporters. Vasadze and his supporters held a separate rally in Vera Park, from where he addressed Ivanishvili, asking him to come join the demonstrations. “I want to address Bidzina [Ivanishvili]: if you are really scared of canceling this film, then come here and stand with us in Vera Park. Show your national position that way. Bring your Prime Minister along, and Garibashvili; let us see your Minister of Defense… Let us know that you are not ignoring the public outrage,” said the homophobic businessman. When the two groups of protestors united, the situation grew in intensity at Amirani. They began shouting "shame" and "Georgia", demanding the cancellation of the movie screenings. Some members of the Church also joined the homophobic groups to protest. One of their banners read "Those who screen the movie and those who watch it - they are all swearing at Jesus Christ". Other protestors held up Christian Orthodox icons, some of them even read prayers aloud, while still others lit fireworks or threw bottles and other items. The ultra-right-wing protestors at one point tried to force their way into the Amirani movie theater. The police kept them from entering but the rally members refused to back down. Two of them managed to slip inside the doors but were quickly detained and were reportedly

Image source: Radio Tavisupleba

arrested for disrupting public order. At first, it was hard for those coming to see the movie to enter the building, however, the police stood in cordons to help the cause. During the first day of the movie screening, the one most physically hurt was social activist Ana Subeliani. A heavy object was thrown and hit her forehead. The emergency unit provided immediate medical assistance and took her to hospital. Subeliani told the media that the homophobic protestors had deliberately attacked her, knowing who she was. “They recognized me and started threatening me. The police did nothing to stop them, though everything signaled that I would

BUSINESS

be victim to physical attack,” she said. The social activist claimed that it is a by “mere chance” that she didn’t lose an eye. At the end of the long day and night of the ‘And Then We Danced’ premiere in Tbilisi, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that 27 people had been detained, 24 of them in Tbilisi and three in Batumi. The irony of these protests lay in the fact that while the homophobic rallies were warming up in Georgia, ‘And Then We Danced’ was winning yet another international award - Listapad, an international film festival in Minsk, awarded lead actor Levan Gelbakhiani ‘Best Actor’ for his portrayal of Merab. On Saturday and Sunday, the homopho-

bic groups felt the need to protest the second and third movie screenings. However, both in Batumi and Tbilisi, these screenings took place in a much calmer environment. On November 9, one person was detained in Batumi. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that the demonstrator verbally insulted the moviegoers for attending such a ‘sinful’ movie. Despite the dramatic protests of the homophobic groups, all the planned movie screenings of ‘And Then We Danced’ in Tbilisi and Batumi on November 8, 9, and 10 were not disrupted and all who actually went to see the film, rather than losing their 'Georgian identity', gained a better sense of it.

Israeli Chamber of Business Welcomes The Registry Collection by Wyndham to Georgia Continued from page 1 Moshe notes that the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business has been helping to attract high-budget tourists from Israel and the world’s Jewry in recent years. To this end, Israeli television has produced several shows on Georgia's tourism potential, and the Israeli House, along with the Council of Europe, is implementing the Jewish Cultural Heritage Route in Georgia, something which leading circles of world Jewry are highly interested in. The MCI-owned hotel, managed by The Registry Collection by Wyndham, will become another tool

Signing Ceremony of Wyndham Grand with Sergey Egorov

for attracting high-budget tourists. The signing ceremony will be held at the hotel Wyndham Grand and will be attended by the leadership of Wyndham Europe. Wyndham has 20 brands in more than 80 countries making up more than 9,000 hotels. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts makes travel possible for all. From big cities and small towns to beachfront resorts and highway hotels, their 20 iconic brands bring a diverse perspective to the travel experience. With friendly service, thoughtful amenities, and a range of options for the everyday traveler, Wyndham will be there to welcome you wherever you go.

EBRD Leaves Georgia’s Economic Growth Forecast Unchanged BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

T

he European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) left the forecast of Georgia’s economic growth for 2019 and 2020 unchanged, at 4.5%. The EBRD’s latest Regional Economic Prospects report reads that GDP in Georgia grew by an estimated 4.7% year-onyear (y-o-y) in the first half of 2019. “Inflows of money transfers are growing for the fourth consecutive year and credit growth remains robust, supporting private consumption,” the report reads. It also says that exports of goods increased by 12.4% y-o-y in the first eight months of 2019. The EBRD noted that the tourism sector remains strong despite the Russian ban, which took effect in July 2019 after Russian President Vladimer Putin withdrew direct flights to and from Georgia.

“The overall number of international visitors increased by 5.9% in the first nine months of 2019, compared with a rise of 11.1% in 2018. However, these events, coupled with domestic political uncertainties, have increased pressure on the domestic currency,” the report reads. Regarding the recent fluctuations and devaluation of Georgia’s national currency, the EBRD says that the Georgian GEL (Lari) depreciated by 9.4% in the period January to September 2019, adding that inflation increased from 2.6% in 2018 to 6.4% in September 2019 on the back of the currency depreciation and an increase in excise taxes earlier in the year. The report reads that this prompted the National Bank of Georgia to intervene on the foreign exchange market, and it has raised the monetary policy rate by 200 basis points, up to 8.5% in October. Official international reserves increased by 9.5% relative to the beginning of the year and stood at $3.6 billion in September 2019, providing around

Image source: infrastory.com

four months of import coverage. “The Georgian economy is forecast to grow by 4.5% in both 2019 and 2020,” the report underlined. At the same time, the forecasts for economic growth for Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine increased, yet decreased for Azerbaijan and Belarus. The report also reads that the pace of growth in the

EBRD’s emerging economies is slowing on the back of a weaker global economic outlook, and pressure from slower growth in the Euro zone and China, US/Chinese trade tensions and a contraction in world automobile production. Moreover, the EBRD’s latest Regional Economic Prospects report sees average growth of 2.4% in 2019 across all EBRD

countries, compared with 3.4 per cent in 2018. It also sees a recovery to 2.9% in 2020, a small downward revision from the forecast of 3.0% in May and still clearly below 2017’s growth rate of 3.8%. The report predicts steady growth in the EBRD’s southern and eastern Mediterranean region, adding next year’s upturn will be driven primarily by a stronger performance in Turkey and Russia. To note, earlier this month the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered the forecasts of Georgia’s economic growth for 2020. “The GDP growth in Georgia is projected to reach 4.3% in 2020, while the previous forecast was 4.8%,” says the International Monetary Fund. In addition, the World Bank forecasts 4.6% economic growth in Georgia in 2019. Further, according to the Head of the IMF Mission, Mercedes Vera-Martin, inflation forecasts for this year increased to 7.2%. However, the Fund predicts a decline in inflation for 2020.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

The Black Sea of Economic Cooperation OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI

S

ince the Ukraine crisis of 2014 the security situation in the Black Sea region has significantly deteriorated. The annexation of Crimea by Russia as well as the latter's military moves around the Kerch Strait and in the Azov Sea destabilized the shaky status quo which had been in place since the end of the Cold War. To back up the current state of affairs in the Black Sea, many an analysis as well as entire books dedicated to the Ukraine crisis mention various RussianTurkish wars of 18th-19th centuries, underlying the notion that the Black Sea has always been a space of competition and intermittent confrontation among several powers. Wars indeed were waged and at least two powers were always competing with each other for influence across the sea. This narrative, however, portrays the Black Sea as a sea of insecurity. In reality, though, seen from a centuries-wide perspective, wars between Russia and Turkey in the Black Sea lasted for a small fraction of time in comparison with the periods of peace in the 18th-19th centuries. Moreover, the Black Sea, though always surrounded by rival powers, was nevertheless a space of economic exchange. Trade flourished, which contributed to close contacts between coastal states. Take, for example, the period of Greek colonization in the 8th c. BC. Colonies in what is nowadays western Georgia

Image source: gundembugun.blogspot.com/

and in the Crimean Peninsula enabled the exchange of goods in the region. During the Roman and Byzantine periods (up to the 7th-8th cc. AD, the coastline of modern western Georgia was closely integrated with great cities in Asia Minor and Crimea. Under the unified Georgian monarchy (late 10th-15th cc.), despite patchy infor-

mation in historical sources, there was a wide range of economic activity which connected western Georgia to Byzantium, Crimea and later to the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, this period saw such a large economic interconnection that Georgian traders even visited Constantinople, Thessaloniki and from the late 13th c. onwards, were in close contact with Italian mer-

chants who operated ships and had colonies in Crimea and in Georgian cities Sokhumi, Poti and Batumi. Even the period of great empires from the early 18th c. around the Black Sea cannot be considered solely as a time of continuous confrontation. In fact, the Black Sea served as a good merging point for connecting different economic sys-

tems represented by Russia and the Muslim world (namely the Ottoman Empire). By the early 20th century, just before the outbreak of World War I, there was much economic activity seeing Russia sending most of its coal and grain through the Bosporus and Dardanelles to different parts of the world. Georgia, too, was connected to the rest of the world by the early 20th century when Batumi operated as a main conduit. Surprisingly the Soviet period too can be characterized as a period of economic cooperation. Ukraine, Georgia and Russia’s ports transported oil, coal and other natural resources through the straits to the Mediterranean. Thus, despite the wars we know in history, there have been even longer periods of much deeper economic cooperation which the countries (or empires) around the Black Sea have enjoyed over several centuries. Back to the current deterioration of the security situation in the Black Sea, it could potentially diminish overall economic activity as the flow of foreign investment may be curbed or diverted elsewhere. In a way, the geopolitical situation in the Black Sea today is more chaotic and unpredictable than it was in the 19th century. A certain order was still in place when the Russian and Ottoman Empires fought each other, whereas in 2019 there is much unpredictability in Russian and NATO behavior. Nevertheless, it is still possible to say that economic cooperation among the countries living around the Black Sea will continue. The sea will again play a role not of a divisive, but rather a unifying character.

US-Georgian Free Trade Agreement in Projection BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI

T

ime for a US-Georgia free trade pact - a Financial Times article was titled. The article is authored by a former member of the US Congress, James Bacchus, who is a Distinguished University Professor of Global Affairs at the University of Central Florida and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. The author argues the US government needs to strengthen ties with countries in the critical intersecting regions between the Black Sea and the Arab Gulf. “With the US in a sudden and shortsighted military retreat in Syria, and with doubts growing daily about its willingness to stand by those who have supported it in the Greater Middle East, there is an urgent need to strengthen our ties with countries in the critical crossroads region between the Black Sea and the Arab Gulf. One such country is Georgia, and one way of solidifying a positive and continuing American presence in the region would be by concluding a US-Georgia free trade agreement,” the article reads. As the author of the article reports, “the strategically, commercially and, not least, morally, response now to Georgia’s oft-stated desire for the launch of negotiations on an FTA makes sense for the US”. “Not only would it cement our ties with Georgia, it would also reassure other countries in the region that, despite recent events, the US continues to offer an alternative to acquiescence to the authoritarian regimes that surround and threaten them,” James Bacchus writes in his publication. He also notes that Georgia has a stra-

tegically significant location. “Strategically, Georgia is perilously placed along the fraught invisible border between the east and west, with the European Union to the west, Russia to the north, Turkey and Iran to the south and China to the east. Since securing their independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, the Georgians, in search of freedom, have largely looked to the EU and the US for inspiration. This is not easily done in their neighborhood. A Russian military invasion in 2008 cost Georgia Abkhazia and South Ossetia — northern regions that border Russia and comprise about 20% of Georgia’s national territory. Russian encroachment continues. Likewise, the Turks and the Iranians are restive, assertive and not far away. Amid all these threats, the signing of an FTA between Georgia and the US would send a strong signal that America is committed to expanding its footprint in this key region,” the article reads. According to the Financial Times, Georgia’s economic growth has been reasonably strong. “In recent years, Georgia’s economic growth has been reasonably strong, especially given its geopolitical circumstances. In 2017 and 2018, Georgia’s GDP growth was the fastest in the region, at 4.8% a year. The IMF has forecast a sustained rate of GDP growth for Georgia of about 4.9% annually from 2019 to 2021, more than twice its forecast for global growth. At the same time, importantly, the poverty rate in the country is down from 39% a decade ago to 22% today. "Georgia, with its central location in Eurasia and increasingly open trade and investment regime, could serve as an entry point to a regional market of half a billion people for US companies looking to expand their exports. The Georgians are eager to increase their two-way

Image source: gtreview.com

trade with the US and spur more American investment by concluding an FTA.” As the author reports, Giorgi Gakharia, the Georgian Prime Minister, is fully encouraging of the prospective agreement. The article cites the PM's statement: “A trade agreement is a logical continuation of our partnership with the US. We’ve nurtured our relationship to the point where we are ready to welcome more US companies to Georgia, which serves as a natural hub for American companies to access larger markets in Eurasia. A trade agreement will advance both America and Georgia’s security interests while bringing tangible eco-

nomic benefits.” “Morally, too, there is every reason to proceed with an FTA. Georgia continues to be a loyal and reliable partner of the US," the Financial Times author states. "The country has contributed much through the years in support of the US mission in Afghanistan and Georgians are still serving there. Of all our coalition partners in Afghanistan, the rate of casualties for Georgia has been the highest on a per capita basis. When the people of another country stand with us in combat, we Americans should, at the minimum, be willing to trade with them freely. Georgia meets all the criteria the

Trump Administration has identified as prerequisites for a bilateral trade agreement. In 2018, during the previous Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation that supported Georgia and urged the US Trade Representative to take genuine steps towards launching free-trade talks with Georgia. This legislation should be adopted by both the House and the Senate in the current Congress and signed by the President.” “With the credibility, reliability and security of the US in increasing jeopardy around the world, the time to do so is now,” James Bacchus concludes.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

Ministry of Economy Plans to Develop the Tskaltubo Resort According to a 6-point Plan

Continued from page 2 Our priority now will also be to provide appropriate living conditions for IDPs. 477 families remain in one of the former sanatoriums, living in very difficult conditions,” Turnava noted. She called on business representatives to invest in the Tskaltubo project and support the government in the process of its implementation and development, which is crucial for the country’s economy, emphasizing the importance of close collaboration between the government and business sector. The Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia also emphasized the importance of Tskaltubo for the country’s economy and elaborated on the process of establishing a general plan for the resort development, noting that its preparation is the main task of the Agency’s Department of Spatial Arrangement. Maya Tskitishvili noted that the process of constructing houses for IDPs living in Tskaltubo has already started, part of which will be completed this year. She added that the rehabilitation of another distinguished Georgian resort, Abastumani, is a good example in the process of the revival of Tskaltubo. "When the State cannot access infrastructure projects and businesses cannot access private projects, there will be guaranteed investments from both Cartu Fund and the Co-Investment Fund, which is a guarantee that the process will be completed successfully," Tskitishvili said. As part of the Tskaltubo development concept discussion, Nino Cholokashvili presented the results of a study conducted by Partnership Fund consultants about the project development and introduced their recommendations to the wider public. She emphasized that despite the grave condition of the Soviet-era sanatoriums in the resort (currently abandoned, Tskaltubo was a popular tourist destination during Soviet times) and the fact that the majority of them need immediate rehabilitation, the consultants of the Partnership Fund strongly recommend their general appearance be maintained

and preserved due to their architectural and historic value. “At this stage, there are 15 buildings owned by the State in Tskaltubo. Our researchers recommend four of them be totally dismantled, while the others are so important and unique that their original appearance and architecture should be maintained during the rehabilitation process," she explained. At the end of the event, a Q&A session gave the representatives of various sectors an opportunity to get answers to the questions they were interested in. Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream party, released a statement on October 29, saying that since the State does not have the resources to develop Tskaltubo, he had decided to buy all 22 hotels and 9 baths of the resort and rehabilitate them completely. "I have decided to sell all 22 hotels and nine baths in Tskaltubo and rehabilitate them completely," his statement reads. He noted he believes Tskaltubo has the potential to become the health and tourism capital of the region in the coming years, “and it will surely become so”. At the same time, he made a concrete offer to the business sector. “I am publicly offering to Georgian business - I am ready, at any stage of project implementation, including planning, designing, construction, to alienate these facilities to any investors. Naturally, I will not seek any profit: the maximum price will be prime cost of the facilities. At the same time, I am ready to give these projects to interested businesses at a discount, or even at a significant discount. By this action, I want to make the business steadier on the one hand and on the other, to encourage the State to develop infrastructure under a guaranteed investment.” Ivanishvili claims that after the implementation of the mentioned project, around 15,000 - 20,000 people will be employed in the Imereti region, which will inevitably lead to sustainable economic growth and prosperity throughout the region.

Business Ombudsman, Deputy Business Ombudsman Resign BY ANA DUMBADZE

B

usiness Ombudsman Irakli Lekvinadze and Deputy Business Ombudsman Levan Kalandadze have stepped down. The information was confirmed by the press service of the Business Ombudsman. “It was our desire. I categorically rule out any political interference,” Kalandadze said, adding that both of them will likely continue working in the same field. “Far from being a spontaneous decision, leaving my post is akin to the agreed alternative plans that will become known in the nearest future,” Lekvinadze stated, adding, “In the course of the 22-month

working period, our office has reviewed 565 cases, of which 300 have been responded to appropriately and 68% have at least partially complied with business requirements.” Lekvinadze expressed his gratitude on social media to “business companies for their trust, helpful staff and overall support; the state agencies and the Parliament of Georgia for a number of insightful business solutions; the donors and international organizations; all employees of the Office of the Business Ombudsman for their dedicated work in support of business.” The new Business Ombudsman of Georgia shall be appointed by the Prime Minister. Unconfirmed reports say that Giorgi Gakharia has already selected the new candidacy for the post of Business Ombudsman: former lawyer of the Economic Council, Mikheil Daushvili.

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

Ren Zhengfei's Northern European Media Roundtable, Part 4

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ally. Now, China has developed its own well-organized system. As long as you don't go over the top, you can say anything. That was not the case 30 or 40 years ago. At that time, I would not have even dared to talk to you. If I saw you in the street, I had to turn around and run away immediately. I could have been suspected of wrongdoing if I even brushed past you. Now China is much more open, and I can talk with you as I like. I'm telling you the truth without polishing anything. I believe China is moving further towards modernization and democracy. It might not be considered satisfactory by people in the West, because you tend to compare China to Western countries, and because you have been on a journey of modernization for several centuries. But people in China are quite satisfied because the country has been improving day by day.

en Zhengfei, Huawei CEO, welcomed media from northern Europe to a roundtable and invited them to ask whatever they wished, however challenging the question. GEORGIA TODAY will be publishing those questions and answers in the present and following issues of GEORGIA TODAY newspaper.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL VIEWS ON HUAWEI PRODUCTS? DO YOU PREFER TO READ YOUR NEWS ONLINE OR IN THE PAPER? ARE YOU A TECH NERD OR MORE OF A TRADITIONAL TYPE OF MAN? I use social media, and I look at stuff online. I mainly look at criticisms towards us, and I pass those criticisms on to relevant staff. I do this to remind them to check for problems with our products. As we all know, our products are used by billions of people. When people use our products, they are likely to find problems that are hard to identify in the lab. Some people post what they identify online, and when I see such posts, I am grateful, because then I can check with the relevant department as soon as possible to see if any improvements can be made. We have an internal web forum at Huawei called the Xinsheng Community, where many employees criticize the company. We don't think they are bad employees for criticizing us, and instead understand that most of them are probably really good employees. If an employee's criticism is useful, our Human Resource Management Department checks their performance records for the last three years. If they have done well, we actually bring them to our headquarters to work for three to six months. During that time, we give them training to equip them with more knowledge, and then send them back to their original posts. They might be promoted in the future after that. We wouldn't promote an employee just because they identify problems. Instead, we promote them after they make contributions on the frontlines. Our internal criticism platform is open to all our employees, and is like a Roman Forum where largescale debates take place. It's a tool that helps us self-correct. This is similar to what happens in the US. Being able to self-correct makes the US a great nation. Trump is a great man, but his staff also criticize him. The US can correct itself if it makes mistakes. Like the US, we also have a self-correction mechanism. I've made looking at online posts a bit of a habit. I skip the good things people say, but look at the bad and pass it onto the relevant people. After dinner, I normally read news, go for a walk, and take a shower. After that, I do a bit of email and look at people's comments about us before going to sleep around one o'clock. I forward anything I find to relevant people as I find it, sometimes as late as midnight. I know this makes some people wonder whether I actually sleep or not. In fact, I just send the comments when I wake up and see them in the middle of the night. That is very simple.

SO NO NIGHTMARES ABOUT DONALD TRUMP? No, none. I actually feel like I need to thank Trump. After the company's 30 years of development, the majority of our employees have become fairly rich. However, this has made them complacent and they have started slacking off. Shenzhen is a great place to live, so why would they want to go and work hard in places like Africa and risk diseases like malaria? If all employees think this way, the company is bound to collapse soon. However, with Trump brandishing his stick, our employees became nervous and aware that they must work hard to

WOULD YOU SAY THIS LAST YEAR'S TURBULENCE AT HUAWEI HAS BROUGHT BACK THE FEELING OF THE COMPANY BEING A CHALLENGER? HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS FIGHTING SPIRIT, AND HOW DOES IT APPLY INTERNALLY WHEN YOU COMPETE GLOBALLY?

till the soil. That's why our sales revenue has increased, and our company has not collapsed yet. This is the result of our employees' collective efforts. In this sense, I don't think Trump is a bad guy. Our employees were scared because he intimidated Huawei. I also used to intimidate our employees, but the stick I used was not as large as Trump's. So his intimidation played a big role in driving our employees to work harder than ever before.

WHAT WOULD OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES RISK IF THEY FOLLOW THE US EXAMPLE AND BAN HUAWEI? I think other Western countries make their own decisions based on their own interests. There is no way they will all follow in the US' footsteps, because the US doesn't share what it earns with these countries. If the US shared the money that it earned equally with other Western countries, it would make sense for these countries to follow the US. But the US only cares about its own interests, and even adopts its "America First" policy, showing it doesn't put its allies first. That's why we believe that all countries will make their own independent decisions.

PEOPLE ARE SAYING THAT YOU AND PRESIDENT TRUMP ARE MEN OF THE SAME GENERATION. IF HE SAID "I WANT TO SEE HUAWEI WITH FOR MY OWN EYES, I WANT TO VISIT MR. REN," WHAT WOULD YOU SHOW HIM? I would show him anything he's interested in, and even give him a hug. It's just like when you visit our exhibition halls, you can film and photograph what you see. When reporters from AP visited our facilities, they even took photos of our circuit boards. I don't think it matters. If he wants to, he is even welcome to visit my office, though my office is not as nice as his.

5G IS A POLITICAL THING, A CYBER SECURITY THING. AS IS AI. YOU SAID YOU DON'T EXPECT TO BE REMOVED FROM THE ENTITY LIST SOON. SO ISN'T IT CERTAIN THAT THERE WILL BE SOME DIVIDES OR DE-GLOBALIZATION IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL WORLD?

I don't think that would happen. If we build a localized ecosystem in Europe, and support the separate development of companies in different countries, then these companies would not necessarily have strong relationships with Huawei. It would be impossible for the US to impose sanctions on each and every one of these companies, so they would still have the opportunity to develop. Huawei alone is not sufficient to change the trajectory of globalization or the way things work.

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SCARED OF THE RISE OF CHINA, PROBABLY BECAUSE OF THE DIFFERENT POLITICAL SYSTEM THERE. DO YOU THINK CHINA HAS ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS FEAR, NOT ONLY IN DENMARK, BUT IN MANY COUNTRIES? AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE AFRAID OF A POWERFUL CHINA? Denmark is a great country that I have a lot of appreciation for. It is a country that encourages intellectual and academic freedom. That's why Danish people have come up with many great inventions, like Niels Henrik David Bohr, the father of quantum mechanics, and Hans Christian Orsted, who discovered electric currents create magnetic fields. I have visited Denmark several times, and I've also studied Denmark's social structure. Denmark implements flexible labor laws, which allows companies to fire incompetent employees for justifiable reasons. But the Danish government has also established training institutions to help these people upskill. Companies in Denmark have become more flexible and efficient in terms of workforce deployment, and pay more taxes. In doing so, Denmark has become a country where employees enjoy decent pay and huge benefits. If a country overprotects labor, companies operating there would not dare to hire large numbers of employees, making it difficult for them to develop into larger companies. This would bring about many difficulties for this country. So without overprotection of labor, a country actually protects its labor to the largest possible extent. In this sense, Denmark has made huge historical contributions. That's the way forward. I think China needs to learn from the

education and labor systems in Denmark. Why can't China build technical training centers on a large scale, so that the unemployed can receive training and upskill themselves at the government's expense? Without these burdens, companies can go all out to make more money, and pay more taxes, which could then fund more workforce training. This would then help upgrade China's entire workforce, making the entire country progress faster.

CHINA HAS BEEN GOOD ENOUGH TO EXPLAIN WHAT IT WANTS WITH ALL THIS POWER AND ALL THIS WEALTH THAT HAS COME TO DENMARK OVER THE LAST FOUR DECADES. Actually, China's top priority is to lift people out of poverty, because there are still tens of millions of people in China living below the poverty line. The Chinese government is determined to eliminate poverty by the end of next year. You've been to some coastal cities in China, like Shenzhen and Shanghai, but I would imagine you haven't been to many remote areas here. These coastal cities are not fully representative of all of China. There are many less developed, poor areas in West China. China must build its strength if it wants to address the poverty issue in its less developed areas. It needs to build infrastructure like railways, roads, and power grids, which can help modernize those poverty-stricken areas. China should remain dedicated to eliminating poverty. Another important issue for China is to improve its education systems. For example, 70 years ago, 70% of the Chinese population were illiterate, like a person in the West who doesn't understand A or B. Now, there are basically no illiterate people in the country, but there are still many who know little to nothing about science and technology. This is why I think China should establish more vocational and technical schools, so that ordinary people can master technical skills for better employment. This will ensure greater stability in the country, and stability is the foundation of development. China has been exploring the right path for decades, and shifted from the planned economy to the current system. 30 years ago, Shenzhen was nowhere near as ordered as it is today, and China has been establishing this order gradu-

The term "wolf culture" was coined by people outside Huawei to satirize us. We didn't come up with the term ourselves. The idea originated from an article where I said that we could learn from wolves' teamwork and perseverance. In the article, I talked about how wolves have sensitive noses, and can smell meat from far away. I hope our employees can learn from wolves to be sensitive to market opportunities and technological development trends. Second, wolves do not hunt alone, but work in teams. This teaches us to value teamwork, and not to fight alone. Third, wolves are tenacious and unyielding. They keep fighting even if they fail at first. We hope our teams can learn from this spirit. Since not all people can become wolves, they can learn from an animal called the "bei" from ancient Chinese legends instead. Bei were very smart animals, but had short front legs and long hind legs, so they couldn't hunt alone. They had to work with wolves to capture their prey. When they hunted, they held onto a wolf's back. If they saw the wolf running to the wrong direction, they would push it onto the right path. Together, these two animals made a perfect team. However, in Chinese, the names of these two animals have negative connotations. For over 5,000 years, Chinese society has always been relatively conservative. In our culture, people tend to dislike being too aggressive, and view acting proactively as a negative thing. Because of this, we didn't come up with a "wolf culture" metaphor on our own. It was proposed by outsiders. In fact, when people first used this term, they thought badly of Huawei. Some experts even wrote that wolves were cruel because they would steal meat from other animals. But that is not what my article was talking about at all. I doubt whether those people read the full article I wrote. But Huawei was not developing very well back then, and many people had a negative perception of Huawei, so this term became quite widely known.

DO YOU FEEL THE FIGHTING SPIRIT IN THE ORGANIZATION HAS INCREASED OVER THE LAST SIX MONTHS OR THE LAST YEAR BECAUSE OF THE TURBULENCE, THE TRADE WAR, AND THE TECH WAR? Yes. It has increased. We no longer slack off now, and are becoming stronger and stronger. Read the final part of this interview in the next edition of GT.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

Poti City Council Chairman Arrested for Bribery

BY ANA DUMBADZE

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he Investigation Service of the Ministry of Finance confirmed the detention of Irakli Kakulia, Chairman of the Poti City Council, along with three other persons involved in illegal activities. It was announced at Friday's briefing held by the Agency that law enforcers detained four persons, including three acting and one former public servant, as a result of operative search and investigation activities. The detainees are charged with misappropriation and embezzlement of large amounts of state property, bribery, abuse of power, negligence, and production and use of false documents. “The investigation established that two contracts were signed by Poti Municipality in 2015 and 2017, including rehabilitation of the coastline in Poti. In

the course of the work, contractor executives provided false data on the amount of work performed in their records, as a result of which they misappropriated government funds. The expertise revealed that GEL 528,821 was misappropriated in total. The investigation also established that Poti City Hall officials did not respond appropriately to violations by work-producing companies and signed a document confirming that the works had been delivered, thus encouraging company executives to misappropriate the funds. In return for such official protection, the head of the Poti municipality demanded a bribe and received the sum of GEL 170,000 while performing his official duties. The investigation is in progress under Articles 180, 182, 338, 332, 332, 342 and 210 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which envisages imprisonment from 11 to 15 years. “The issue of responsibility of other persons will be raised in the near future,” the representatives of the Agency stated at the briefing.

Turkish Vessel Fined for Polluting Georgian Waters

Image source: IPN

BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

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he Department of Environmental Supervision of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture has reported that their employees, along with Border Police officers, witnessed pollution of Georgian waters by a Turkish ship which polluted

waters near the port of Poti. The ship is detained for illegally dumping farm-fecal waste. As soon as the fine is paid, the vessel will leave the territorial waters of Georgia. “The ship, sailing under the Turkish flag, polluted Georgian territorial waters by dumping farm-fecal waste. The Poti City Court fined the captain of the ship GEL 65,000 and imposed an additional fine GEL 5 306.40 for the damage caused the environment,” reported the agency.

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GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

Georgia's Foreign Exchange Reserves Decrease by $216 mln BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

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he National Bank of Georgia (NBG) data reads that in October 2019, Georgia's total foreign exchange reserves decreased by $216 million and amounted to $3.38 billion. This is the minimum level of reserves the country has had this year. Such a reduction in foreign exchange reserves may be linked to the alleviation of the minimum reserve requirement for commercial banks. In March 2019, under the Larization policy, the minimum reserve requirement for commercial banks in foreign currency increased to 30%. The decision aimed to increase the attraction of foreign currency resources to increase the relative advantage of the national currency GEL (Lari). However, on October 2, 2019, the National Bank reversed its decision and reduced the minimum reserve requirement by 5 percentage points from 30% to 25%. Speaking on the decision, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said the move was backed by the Georgian government and would boost private sector lending. The National Bank's decision came into force on October 17, 2019. The Monetary Policy Committee of the NBG sets the norms for minimum reserve requirements, which are determined separately for national and foreign currencies based on the average attracted funds. The minimum reserve requirements for funds attracted in a foreign currency are kept on foreign currency reserve accounts in the National Bank of Georgia. Banks are obliged to fulfill reserve

requirement norms and have the required amount of funds on reserve accounts for 14 days. During the maintenance period, the required amount is blocked on the reserve accounts. By changing reserve requirements, the National Bank of Georgia is able to influence banks' credit activities and interest rates. The reserve requirements on foreign currency liabilities can be used to control the interest rates on credits denominated in a foreign currency. Exchange reserves are one of the leading indicators of the country's economy. This amount is the wealth that protects the country's economy in times of economic crises, external or domestic shocks, and acts as a buffer for it. Exchange reserves are an important indicator for investors as well - if adequate, this is a clear signal to investors and international lenders that operating in the country is relatively low risk. Accordingly, foreign exchange reserves are directly linked to the country's credit rating and investor confidence. Moreover, it also influences expectations. If the financial sector sees reserves as low or the state fails to adequately utilize them, then the likelihood of even a minor crisis escalating into an economic recession is high.

HOW ARE GEORGIA'S FOREIGN EXCHANGE RESERVES FILLED? An important source of filling Georgia’s foreign exchange reserves is the foreign debt and direct foreign exchange interventions attracted by the State. When Georgia, for example, receives $500 million foreign debt from the World Bank, the amount is credited to the National Bank's balance when it enters the country, after which the NBG pro-

Image source: reuters.com

vides the government with a relevant amount of GEL. Half of Georgia's foreign exchange reserves represent foreign debt. Another source of replenishment of currency reserves is the SDR allocated by the International Monetary Fund. This is the amount allocated to Georgia by the Fund, which is a special right to loans. Moreover, deposits opened by the

commercial banks in the National Bank constitute an important part of Georgia's foreign exchange reserves. Today, it is about half of total reserves. For example, if a Georgian citizen opened a $1000 deposit at any of the Georgian banks for a period of one year with an interest rate of 3%, it means this person lent some money to the bank, which must repay the deposit holder the sum with the interest. To do this, the bank

will lend this deposit amount to some other company to gain a profit. Throughout this process, the commercial bank has to comply with the regulations of the National Bank of Georgia. One of the most important of these rules is the minimum reserve requirements. From the $1000 deposit opened by the client, $250 or 25% must be stored in a deposit account of this bank opened in the NBG.

BGCC & Co.Mode: Georgian Fashion Designers on Display in London BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

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ith the #UKGeorgia Season 2019, the Georgians have been further introduced to the Great British culture and the common ties it has with the Georgian. Georgian-British relations are a two-way street and while it was noted that the UK will host the Georgian season in 2020, important Georgian events are taking place in Britain here and now. The British Georgian Chamber of Commerce (BGCC) is one of the great contributors to developing business relations between the two countries. On November 5 and 6, London celebrated Georgian fashion when a Georgian concept store’s fashion designers showed off their works in the British capital. Nino Ugrekhelidze, Founder and Creative Director of Co.Mode, told GEORGIA TODAY about her concept store, how it works and what success it has had so far, while also giving context to their collaboration with the BGCC. “While Co.Mode is a company that unites up to 40 Georgian designers who create clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories of various styles, it is also its own brand. The Co.Mode brand produces clothing and accessories and we currently employ 15 people,” she told us. She went on to discuss her mission and goals: “My main goal as the founder of the company is to increase sales of Geor-

Image source: BGCC

gian designers, as well as the number of our employees. “My mission is to build a big company with friendly staff and creative designers making amazing products and selling them around the world”. She is ready for the dedication the plan is going to take: “I understand well that accomplishing this requires a lot of effort and hard work. But I’m ready!”

The motivated founder of the concept store describes her collaboration with the BGCC as one of those challenges that lead to success. “Mako Abashidze, the founder of the BGCC, suggested we bring our products to the London market with her assistance. Mako herself was our biggest fan and client. When wearing our clothes in London, she was often asked what brand it was and that's

where the idea came from to hold this event. We have already traveled to shows, presentations and exhibition halls in Almaty, Baku, New York, and Paris. But London and the British market are a completely new stage for us. During the three-day pop-up event, held between me and Mako, we realized that the British capital is also greatly interested in Georgian designers. Therefore, I think that this will be only the beginning of a series of visits to London.” Mako Abashidze, Founder of BGCC, also shared some of her ideas on the new collaboration with GEORGIA TODAY. “We have been working on this project since last summer,” she said. “It all started on seeing the high interest from journalists in the activities of the British Georgian Chamber of Commerce, as we regularly invite UK press representatives and journalists on media trips to Georgia.” Journalists from the Tatler, Decanter, Guardian and The Times wrote amazing pieces about Georgia, she tells us. “Our last project was in partnership with Monocle magazine - Adam Sutton Film and Katrine Levin Gallery - covered a big piece on Georgian fashion.” She told us that whenever she wears a piece by a Georgian designer, she feels that her look is unique even in stylish London, “wearing Georgian means in a way promoting the country, increasing recognition,” she added. The BGCC founder also told us the sustainable reasoning behind supporting Georgian brands like Co.mode: “In an era of a dangerous climate change and

environmental problems, the consumer market is becoming more conscious about shopping,” she said. “The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries, so buying from small artisan designers, mostly handmade craftwork, is a perfect way of guilt free environmentfriendly shopping!” The Georgian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tamar Beruchashvili talked to GEORGIA TODAY about the diplomacies of the fashion industry and congratulated the organizers: “In recent years, the Embassy of Georgia in London has been actively engaged in the promotion of the innovative cultural sector of Georgia. Especially attractive and popular is the fashion industry, as a very effective tool of public diplomacy,” stated the Ambassador. “In this regard, this threeday pop-up show of Georgian company Co.Mode, organized jointly with the BGCC, presented to the wider audience garments and accessories of various talented Georgian fashion and clothes designers. I want to congratulate the organizers and hope to continue active collaboration to facilitate more events of this type to further strengthen trade and cultural ties between Georgia and the UK.” The British Georgian Chamber of Commerce (BGCC) is a leading business organization, which was founded by Lord Godfrey Cromwell and Ms. Mako Abashidze in March 2007. It is a nonpolitical trade body to facilitate business growth and contacts at all levels between the UK and Georgia.


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GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

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Huawei Wins Two TechRadar Mobile Choice Consumer Awards BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI

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UAWEI received two prestigious awards at the annual TechRadar Mobile Choice Consumer Awards (MCCA) 2019, held at London’s Cafe de Paris. According to annual consumer surveys, where the consumers are invited to vote on which network or device they feel deserves to walk away being crowned consumers’ choice and a coveted winner of a TechRadar MCCA trophy. The 19th ceremony saw the evening’s hosts announce the HUAWEI P30 Pro as Best Camera Phone and the HUAWEI P smart 2019 as Best Value Phone (under £200) further endorsing Huawei’s leadership in mobile photography and proving that consumers can buy smartphones at an attractive price with great specifications. These TechRadar Mobile Choice Consumer Award wins for Huawei continue the brand’s prominence, having won three TechRadar Mobile Choice Awards in 2018 (Manufacturer of the Year, Phone of the Year, Best Camera Phone). Huawei also won two awards in 2017 (Best MidMarket Phone, One to Watch) and one in 2016 (Best Camera Phone). The statistics shows that the company is improving its product year-by-year, which shows the growth of satisfied consumers. “We are honred to once again be recognized by consumers and the tech experts at TechRadar, and we’re pleased to receive two awards for HUAWEI P Series devices," said Li Changzhu, Vice President of the Handset Business, Huawei Consumer

Business Group. “Huawei is committed to bringing new and improved smartphone photography experiences to consumers, pushing the limit of smartphone camera capabilities with ground-breaking and bold technologies.” “After 19 years of work in the UK, when we interviewed 34,000 users, our results exceeded all available data. Research has shown that consumers are very excited about having the opportunity to evaluate their favorite product,” said Mark Fermor, Director of the TechRadar Mobile

Choice Consumer Awards. Huawei's win in the "Best Camera Phone" category continues a trend of our innovative approach to photography earning top honours at TechRadar MCCA 2019. HUAWEI released the redesigned P30 Pro in September 2019, which continues the tradition of aesthetic design and innovative photography technology. The new P30 Pro boasts fashionable enhancements in colour design and improved photographic and video editing functions.

The HUAWEI P30 has remained a customer favorite, with sales exceeding 17 million units. It has been praised by many authoritative organizations around the world, including the European Image and Sound Association (EISA). HUAWEI P30 Pro was named the “EISA Best Smartphone 2019-2020” by the Association, the second year in a row that Huawei has won this category. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's popu-

lation. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of three business units of HUAWEI, mainly focusing on the production of smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. The HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business and serves to the production of innovative technologies to customers around the world.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

Ajara Presented at London International Tourism Fair

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he Ajarian region was popuarized by the representatives of Ajarian Tourism Department at the world's largest tourism exhibition termed WTM London 2019. The exhibition, attended by more than 5000 travel companies and organizations, hosts business meetings with leading media outlets, travel portals, agencies and organizations. This is the second time the Ajarian Tourism Department has taken part in London International Tourism Fair. The region's mountain-skiing tourism products were presented at The Telegraph

Ski & Snowboard Festival at the end of October. The Ajarian region has been popularized in Britain with the help of TV and online advertising, since 2017. Interesting travel-related blogs organized by the department are published in various popular British publications. Similar PR campaigns will continue in 2020 in order to increase global awareness of Ajara and Georgia in the British market. Management of the Ajarian Tourism Department has aready reviewed issues of future cooperation with representatives of Euronews, Tripadvisor, Expedia and BBC.

Georgia & Armenia Launch Free Air Routes Number of Visitors to Georgian Protected Areas Up 27%

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n October 2019, the number of visitors to Georgia's Protected Areas increased by 21%, announced the Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia. In the first 10 months of 2019, 1,130,400 people visited the protected territories of Georgia, an increase of 7% compared to last year. Based on nationality, visitors were distributed as follows: Georgian visitors – 49 % Foreign visitors – 51 % The number of foreign visitors has increased by 14% compared to last year. During the first 10 months of 2019, 63.5% of persons visited the following protected territories:

The Kazbegi National Park Martvili Canyon Prometheus Cave Okatse Canyon Tbilisi National Park In the first 10 months of 2019, the revenue from Georgian ecotourism reached 9.4 million GEL. The Agency for Protected Areas actively pursues the development of ecotourism in the country. This year, the Okatse Waterfall Nature Monument was opened to visitors, ecotourism infrastructure was arranged and a visitor center was built. The monument has been hosting visitors since May and has been visited by 21,000 people in six months.

BY ANA DUMBADZE

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akaeronavigatsia Ltd of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, and Armenian Joint Stock Company ARMATS started launching free air routes between Georgia and Armenia from November 8, the Ministry of Economy reports.

Free route airspace (FRA) is a specified volume of airspace in which users may freely plan a route between a defined entry and exit point. CEO of Sakaeronavigatsia Ltd, Gocha Mezvrishvili, stated that 75% of Europe already uses free airspace routes. He noted that Armenia and Georgia are the first in the South Caucasus to introduce the free route airspace, adding that this will allow airlines to choose the shortest route of travel, saving money,

time and fuel. “This is a rather difficult mission, and I am glad that our team successfully coped with this global challenge,” he said. The authorities of both countries began work on the introduction of the free route airspace in 2017. Georgia joined the initiative of the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation to introduce free routes in 2017. The organization’s action plan is to implement free air routes across Europe by 2022.

Low-cost Ryanair Carries Out First Flight to Georgia BY ANA DUMBADZE

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he Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has launched regular flights to Georgia. The first flight of the airline to Georgia was made from Milan to Tbilisi and vice-versa. The company will operate four flights on this

route each week. The flights on the Marseille-KutaisiMarseille and Bologna -Kutaisi- Bologna route will be launched on November 9. and will be conducted twice a week on a regular basis. Ryanair was granted permission to enter the Georgian aviation market on October 24 by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 12 - 14, 2019

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Vinotel: Redefining Exclusivity in Hotel Diligence the international top prize in Moscow.

DID YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE MOUNTAINS HELP YOUR NEW ROUTE WITH VINOTEL? Starting from Alaska and including Antarctica, huge mountaineering experience provided me with an array of skills to better guide the implementation of my Vinotel project. Up in the mountains, one stands autonomously, as though outside the dimensions of time and space, always looking death in the eye. Precision, courage, cooperation, and dedication are among the indispensable qualities of a true mountaineer. I owe to the mountains the endurance and devotion that I drew on to bring about the Vinotel project in the face of disruptive scepticism and the hardships inflicted by the 2008 war. What I think I also inherit from my experience in the mountains is appreciation of the timeless moments of tranquility and stillness. Vinotel is designed to let one enjoy the luxury of saving time for oneself. It features a library with books in Russian and English, which, in sync with the softwood interior, is designed to create the ambience of serenity. In the main hall, which is always adorned with fresh flowers, you can listen to jazz and Georgian classical repertoires on the Grand Piano Fazioli. The garden and terrace, overlooking a Georgian church, are also designed to let one feel at ease.

the walls of Vinotel, including natural wines from exclusive small batch wineries. Our exclusive collection of wines is available at our Vinotells boutique. Vinotells has its own production, bearing a variety of wines ranging from silky Krakhuna to a more sumptuous Cabernet. We have small groups of specialists in the regions of Imereti and Kakheti that harness an 8,000-year-long national winemaking tradition to produce some of the world’s unique and inimitable wines. In the process, they’re transforming into an emerging artisanal powerhouse by tying the wine’s long-running past to a dynamic and exciting future.

WELLNESS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR DINING PROGRAM. DO YOU HAVE FUTURE WELLNESS INITIATIVES IN MIND FOR VINOTEL? Wellness is at the very heart of Vinotel’s business model. Eco-friendliness is an absolute priority. Most of Vinotel’s embel-

lishments are hand-made, crafted and painted. The restaurant pampers its guests with the most delicious artisan foods prepared with organic produce of the highest quality. Vinotel guests are welcome to enjoy the delicious Georgian cuisine and enthralling live performances of Georgian folk music.

WHAT ARE FUTURE GOALS FOR VINOTEL? We’ve taken steps to promote our wines on a larger scale. A while ago, Vinotel hosted 21 Masters of Wine from all over the world—a momentous event in its own right for a country where the appreciation of wine is deep-rooted in the culture and lifestyle. In the near future, we plan to expand the production of biodynamic wines to start exporting worldwide. We will begin the sales this year. With due dedication and love of our craft, I hope we will succeed to carve out a niche for our selection of wines on the global wine market.

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND VINOTEL’S DESIGN?

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hough Vinotel has only been open since 2015, it looks like it’s been around for centuries. Designed to resemble an affluent Georgian home, the hotel is brimming with classic living spaces – one with a grand piano for all to play – that lead into a gilded library. Vinotel is a veritable oasis of luxury and comfort at the gateway to the historical Avlabari district. Opened by former mountaineer Benedikt Kashakashvili, the flamboyant Vinotel has set a new benchmark for hotel design and immaculate service. It has already been acclaimed at the World Luxury Hotel Awards where it won the top prize in St Moritz, last year in Belfast, this year in London at International Hotel Awards. They consider themselves honoured to have received a mention on the website of the White House in 2017. To learn more about this standout venue and find out why it is a must-stay for travelers to Georgia, GEORGIA TODAY decided to talk to the owner himself.

FIRST TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A PROFESSIONAL MOUNTAINEER.

I discovered the magic of the mountains when I was a kid. Relishing the awe and grandeur of mountain scenery is surely a universal instinct, but it gets even more articulated if you grow up in a country with a landscape dominated by granite peaks. In the mountains I set missions and devoted myself to achieving them. I was the first Georgian man to climb the Seven Summits and the organizer and participant of the first Georgian Everest expedition, one of the members of which entered the Guinness Book 2000. Reaching the top of a mountain is an impressive physical, mental, and emotional triumph. And it is motivating. But the art of mountaineering is much more than reaching a summit – it is a style of life. The main accomplishment lies in performing an elegant ascent. With the help of my fellow mountaineers, I performed a myriad of technically intricate expeditions that I am proud of because, as valuable artistic compositions or good wine, they never lose eminence. Good wine and challenging peaks have things in common, such as dedication, daily hard work and luck. Among the six documentaries that I shot in the mountains, Rendezvous with El Capitan received

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From the very start I wanted Vinotel to be a vivid example of traditional Tbilisi architecture. But this is also a place where East meets West, which is why the style of Georgian architecture has always been highly diverse. Even though it always adhered to the classical canons of symmetry and proportion, oriental ornamentation has also been a part of it, although frequently restrained. I always thought that the fusion of the two architectural styles has historically been the hallmark of Georgian architecture. When designing Vinotel, we made every effort to preserve the very best features of Georgian architectural elegance.

VINOTEL IS A VERITABLE HAVEN FOR WINE-LOVING VISITORS. TELL US MORE ABOUT IT. The concept of Vinotel is inspired by Georgia’s history and viniculture. For centuries, winemaking has been the engine of the Georgian economy, elevating the vine to an iconic symbol of endurance, regeneration, and prosperity. Vinotel is designed to provide the best of experiences for wine-lovers. It features a wine cellar where you can find a rich selection of Georgian wines. Along with its exclusive wine collection, Vinotel offers a wide selection of natural and bio wines. Family wineries produce topnotch wines because they put their heart and soul into winemaking. We are good friends with good winemakers and they really respect us. Some of the greatest among our wines are rarely found beyond

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Tea Mariamidze, Ana Dumbadze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1202 Business  

November 12 - 14, 2019

Issue #1202 Business  

November 12 - 14, 2019

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