The largest investor appeared in the hotel sector of Crimea
On the eve of the summer season of 2021, the media attention was attracted by a network of health resorts “Resorts of Crimea”, the beneficiary of which is called the billionaire Arkady Rotenberg. HotLine.travel editors managed to get a detailed commentary on his plans in the field of tourism. Details – in an interview with the director of the management company “Vizant Group” Nelly Shatova…
Nelly, what objects does Vizant Group manage and what does the company have to do with Arkady Rotenberg?
There are five objects in our portfolio now: the boutique hotel “Dacha Rachmaninov”, the sanatoriums “Dyulber”, “Ai-Petri”, “Mishor”, “Morskoy Priboy”. All of them are united in the “Resorts of Crimea” network and purchased in 2018 by the “Management Company of Infrastructure Projects”, with which we are connected by a mutual investment fund. One of the fund’s investors was Arkady Rotenberg, he came to ZPIF at the end of 2019. Now the process of registration of documents for sole ownership is underway.
The company has already managed to reconstruct and bring to the market one hotel – Dacha Rachmaninov. But earlier there was no official information about the businessman’s investments in Crimea, why did they start talking about it right now?
After Arkady Romanovich decided to single out tourism as a separate area and focus on it, our main task was to assemble a team, prepare a development strategy and enter the market with ready positioning. We are now ready to enter the public space.
At the same time, the initial investments in the objects were made before publicity. The investments were mainly related to basic things such as utilities, refurbishment of elevators of all facilities, installation of a fire system and ensuring the safety of our guests. The Rachmaninov Hotel was our first pilot project that we presented to the market.
What niche will the “Resorts of Crimea” network occupy?
Currently, in Crimea, there is a large gap between very expensive and economical hotels. We want to create a product in the middle price segment that can compete with popular destinations and offer the guest a good price and high service. Crimea is a beautiful region with high potential, but for guests to choose our resorts, we must compete with Turkey, Greece and other popular destinations. Another goal we set for ourselves to enter the level of global chain hotels, creating strong brands around our facilities and scaling the business.
This is an ambitious goal, you have raised the bar high. Is it realistic to achieve?
All our facilities are located on the southern coast of Crimea on the first line from the sea, and next to each other. This allows us to create a complex of hotels targeted at different target audiences, both the most numerous – family tourists with children, and those who want to receive quality treatment or a unique experience of living in historic buildings. For example, Dacha Rachmaninov is a small boutique hotel that implements the concept of European boutique hotels with its own history, culture and philosophy. Sanatorium “Ai-Petri” will retain its medical profile and continue to work in the middle segment, but with a completely different level of service and range of medical services. “Miskhor” will be more focused on family holidays with the concept of “all inclusive”.
And what about Dulber and others?
“Dyulber” is one of my favorite objects, the former palace of the Romanovs, built in the 19th century. Everything here is steeped in history and incredible energy. The concept of the hotel will be similar to the “Rachmaninov’s Dacha”, with more emphasis on the spa.
We had an idea over time to create a chain of such hotels like Relais & Châteaux in France.
In RBC there was a mention of the Morskoy Priboy sanatorium, that for this object it has not yet been determined who will be the owner. Has something been decided?
This is not entirely true, at the time the article was published on RBC, we had not decided on the concept of reconstruction of the Morskoy Priboy sanatorium. The object will remain part of the company, and there is no question of selling it.
When will the renovation start and how will it affect the work?
We plan to start the reconstruction this year, but after the end of the summer season, so as not to interfere with the rest of the guests. The work will be carried out in stages. This will allow not to withdraw all our objects from circulation at once. For the same reason, we plan to reconstruct the largest sanatoriums, in particular Ai-Petri and Miskhor, with buildings. We plan to complete the reconstruction process within 3 years.
What is the total investment in the project?
We expect to invest 15 billion rubles: partly it will be our own funds, partly – borrowed funds.
Many tourists, especially those who are used to spending money abroad, are biased towards Crimea. We have to hear such reviews: even if you stay in a good hotel, there will be devastation outside the gates. Are you sure that 15 billion rubles will be enough to change the situation for the better?
Indeed, the resort infrastructure of Crimea has been virtually destroyed for decades without receiving adequate funding. You know, the work on the tourism and hospitality industry national project is now being completed, and there is hope that it will help improve the situation, including in our region. For our part, we plan to put the adjacent infrastructure in order at our own expense.
For example, we are planning a number of investments in the improvement of the park in Miskhor and we want to renovate the beaches adjacent to our facilities. The beaches will be publicly accessible, where locals can also relax.
Will this lead to conflicts over sunbeds?
I am sure that there is enough space for everyone. We plan to restore the destroyed beach maps as well, so that the use is comfortable for everyone.
How about a sewage treatment plant and water supply?
All our facilities already have sewage treatment plants, of course, we do not drain anything into the sea. We plan to increase their capacity so that even neighboring mini-hotels can connect to them in the future. As for water, we have our own reservoirs, there should be no interruptions.
Many hoteliers in Crimea and Krasnodar Krai last year complained about the lack of employees. How are things going with your staff?
More than 1000 people work for us, there are not enough people, it is true. However, we do not solve the problem by bringing in seasonal workers. We want to employ local residents, we have concentrated all our efforts on making work in tourism attractive. People should appreciate it, only in this case really good service is possible. Therefore, we invest in training, conduct trainings and various events for staff. In addition, we invite students for internships, thereby preparing young personnel for ourselves.
What part of the load of your sanatoriums is provided by government contracts?
We, like many other companies, participate in tenders – this helps not to stop the work of facilities in winter and to keep jobs all year round. However, the share of orders under the social insurance line is no more than 10%. We load 90% of the rooms ourselves: 40–43% are provided by tour operators, the rest is provided by online channels and direct sales.
Tour operators and travel agents report that they are being pushed out of the market: feeling the demand, hotels allegedly focus on direct sales and entice tourists by providing them with discounts. How will your priorities change in 2021?
We have always been open to the agency market, this year we decided to conclude an exclusive contract for some objects with a major Russian tour operator. But we are not reducing the share of sales in the travel agency segment. At the same time, we maintain price parity: by contacting us, a client cannot get a number cheaper than in the B2B market. I myself am from the tour operator business, so I know very well what forces operators and agents invest in attracting customers and promoting hotels.
Nelly, in conclusion, this begs the question. It is obvious that there are a lot of problems in Crimea that do not help to shorten the payback period for investments. How does Crimea attract investors? Probably, it will take many years before the investments “pay off”.
For my part, I can say that our investor really likes Crimea: he often rests here and wants the resort to develop so that its beauty will be appreciated by as many people as possible. Of course, from a business point of view, it would be easier and more understandable to build up plots of land by the sea with apartments and villas and sell them. But we have completely different tasks. Our main philosophy is the preservation of heritage and the revival of culture and service in Crimea. We treat history with great trepidation and try to put a cultural code in each of our projects. It seems to me that this is very noticeable in the example of Rachmaninoff. We have restored more than 500 pieces of furniture, restored stucco moldings, collected an excellent collection of works by Crimean artists. They even printed brochures like in an art gallery. Our team consists of ideological people, and our main investor supports us in this.