Kartuli Hotel: Changing the Hospitality Game in Batumi

How can a new hotel, making zero advertisements, be almost fully booked at the end of the tourist season in Batumi? Bringing tourists and locals together in an arty way seems to be the winning formula, and a game-changer in the ultra-competitive Batumian market.

With Kartuli Hotel, the young directors, Sergei and Liya placed the focus on art and cultural exchanges rather than on standardized accommodation. It came with many challenges, but by staying true to their vision, they hope foreigners and Georgian visitors can rediscover Batumi and its creative potential.

The hotel opened just a month ago and has now 23 rooms starting from 80 GEL, which is significantly lower than most of the hotels here, for the same standards. The second floor and the restaurant will be ready for the next summer season, and the directors have many upcoming events and side-projects for their hotel and for their host city. Last Saturday, at their one-month birthday party, Kartuli Hotel was full of young Batumian and foreign visitors, a mix that is pretty unusual for the mainstream hospitality sector here.

Commenting on this low-key success, Sergei told GEORGIA TODAY, “Hotels here offer high-quality designs and services, but ignore local tastes or experience, which is damaging to the reputation of Batumi itself. And we believe that Batumi deserves more. I love Batumi, but it can be a confusing city when you first arrive. You need the right environment to appreciate it and that’s what we are creating here, through art and human connections.”

The location of the hotel is a great way to start the conversation: since it is in the most recently built district, guests see the new buildings, the soviet ones, the sea-side park and its sculptures, the boulevard, the sea and the mountains at the same time from the 38th floor of the Beach Tower. Inside, rooms are full of details and references to Georgian culture, in a subtle and modern way. Using Georgian calligraphy, for instance, the managers created neon lights with words related to Batumi; freedom/tavisupleba, air/haeri, sea and sun/zghva da mze, nature/buneba, rain/tsvima, love/siqvaruli. They also integrated the typical Batumian metallic roofs, used to get rid of the rain, within wood frames to create the bar and the lobby desk, nicely merging local and modern design.

The hotel’s visual identity definitely stands out from its competitors, but creating an original place came with several obstacles. Because most of the apart-hotels or resorts proposed the same type of design and tastes for years, it was complicated finding different and minimalistic furniture that matched the artistic concept of the hotel. The lack of modern retail shops for the hospitality industry is constraining the creation of alternative venues for massive international hotel companies. Sergei and Liya had to import many pieces from abroad and designed the rest themselves.

The library is another special trait of Kartuli Hotel, proposing an eclectic collection of vinyl and art books in different languages. It reflects the diversity of Georgian past and present artistic movements as much as the directors’ love for their host country; in the future, the hotel will organize movie screenings and talks. Even the logo of the hotel puts the emphasis on “ART” in kARTuli and the name itself, on the “georgianess” of the place, as Kartuli means Georgian.

The popularity of the hotel and of the directors themselves among local creative minds promises to revive the Batumian cultural scene, which is sometimes overshadowed by the hotel industry and chaotic urban development. As an example, the first art center of Batumi, opened by Guela Tsouladze in 2012, was replaced in 2016 by the nightclub Botanico, a project of Radisson Blu.

But as locality and authenticity are the two driving trends of the hospitality industry at the moment, there are big chances that more projects like Kartuli Hotel will develop in the near future and thus transform the touristic potential of Batumi.

“I hope Kartuli Hotel will inspire people to do things differently and try new things; it is possible, despite the challenges on the way.”

Offering new venues and concepts is also the best way to attract new visitors to the city; the recent Russian ban on flights has shown the importance of a diversified touristic economy, which is especially true for Batumi. It will of course take years, and more creative entrepreneurs, to change the face of the city, but the success of Kartuli Hotel is a promising start.

By Lorraine Vaney

Photo by @iamhumann

14 October 2019 15:57