Roman Bokeria worked in various positions in the private sector as well as public institutions in the United States. He graduated from St. Petersburg State University of the Faculty of World Economics and Banking (1992-1996).
He continued his studies at the Tbilisi State University in Business Law (1997-2003).
In 2008-2010 he attained higher education at the University of Tampa in Florida, John H. Cisco Business College. He was awarded Master of Business Administration, MBA Finance and Investments. At the same University in parallel he was a graduate assistant of the Information Technology and Financial Department. After relocating to his home country, Georgian Airways, flag carrier of Georgia recently appointed Roman Bokeria their CEO.
After relocating to his home country, Georgian Airways recently appointed Roman Bokeria their CEO. Glossy reached out to him, interviewing him on his vision for the company and much more.
Q. What does it feel like to be leading one of the major airline companies in Georgia?
A. Leading the national air travel company “Georgian Airways” as CEO is an honour and a privilege. The company stands as part of our national identity. As tourism has become the leading income source of the economy, Georgian Airways has been established as a Georgian air travel embassy. The introduction to the country’s culture begins from the very first step aboard our aircrafts.
Q. How can we compare Georgian air travel standards to those of the rest of the world?
A. Georgian Airways has 25 years of experience and has always been achieving the highest standards the global industry had to offer. Currently, holding 12% percent of the Georgian market share and successful competition against the very best the world has to offer highlights the company’s power. Last year our team achieved 34% annual growth. Unfortunately, the beginning of my leadership has coincided with Vladimir Putin’s restriction against air communication as of 8 July, however, the survival instincts of Georgian Airways have not dulled yet! The management has a number of options for diversifying flights to European cities and some new destinations. In close cooperation with the Georgian Government and Georgian businesses, we will use the challenge as an opportunity to explore distinct destinations. Born in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, following my graduation from secondary school, we left our home as refugees. The occupation and the political environment left us permanently scarred, but I have always believed that whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.
Q. As the new CEO, can you elaborate on your vision for the company?
A. I feel that we have a tremendous opportunity for growth and development. Simultaneously, the increasing popularity of Georgia significantly empowers the role of Georgian Airways. I feel a huge responsibility to fulfil my personal expectations and make the company the regional leader of the airline industry.
Q. How would you estimate the strategic location of Georgia in terms of air travel?
A. Our nation has been blessed with a strategic geopolitical location in the Caucasus region. We are the gates between Asia, Europe, Russia and the Middle East. We share the Silk Road that has been developed as a Silk Air Way trade belt. China is considering Georgia a strategic partner for cargo shipments from China to Georgia and from Georgia to Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. In this regard, we are negotiating on creating a cargo shipment hub in Georgia. I would like to thank David Saganelidze, the CEO of the Partnership Fund, for granting opportunities to collaborate with Chinese partners. The activities again highlight the natural geopolitical advantage that creates phenomenal opportunities on an international scale.
Q. Are there any Georgian-specific consumer trends that you have picked up on?
A. Our blessed nation has several unique trends like its winery culture, healing mineral waters, amazing cuisine, breathtaking nature, fabulous culture and phenomenal history. Georgian Airways thrives to become an ambassador of Georgian trends. I’m trying to convince the Georgian Government to advertise tourism through Georgian Airways. The national budget and government funds have hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in the popularization of Georgian trends and attracting tourists as well as foreign investors to Georgia. In that regard, our national air company naturally has a unique position to deliver that magical first-time experience of Georgian wine, mineral water, food, nature, culture and history from the first step onboard Georgian Airways. We need to remember the American saying – “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Thus, the first impression is our national air company that bears the Georgian flag and delivers guests to Georgia. Therefore, the Government needs to contribute to Georgian Airways’ brand awareness and quality of services as a first impression for foreign tourists and business partners. We need strong, mutually beneficial collaboration with the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Finance as well as with the Georgian business sector too.
Q. What are the main traits that Georgian consumers seek in a decent flight, and how does Georgian Airways adopt those?
A. Georgian Airways’ priority is first of all the top-level safety of its flights and the professionalism of its pilots & crew. Also, better prices, better food, better plane, better service, etc. However, I would like to use that opportunity and address Georgian consumers, similar to how my favourite U.S. president J.F. Kennedy addressed the American nation. “My fellow Georgians, just once, ask not what Georgian Airways can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’s national air company that is the face of your nation and delivers the first impression to each and every foreign tourist, partner, guest and investor. How can each of you contribute to the creation of national brand Georgian Airways as the pride and symbol of the great Georgia?” We Georgians need to fully comprehend that our country, our air company, all nationally branded companies, all of our economy, nature, culture and history belongs to each of us and we need to participate in its creation and development as we want to see it and as we would like others to experience our beautiful Georgia.
Q. Tell us about your family and the decision you made to relocate to Georgia.
A. Honestly, I was not planning to relocate to Georgia. I was Deputy Auditor General of Georgia from 2000 to 2007 and moved to the United States because of disagreements with the previous government. For the last 12 years I lived in America, working for different U.S. Government audit institutions. Afterwards, I graduated from the University of Tampa, Sykes Business School and earned an MBA academic degree in Finance and Investments. Moving to Miami I became a successful businessman in the Mortgage, Real Estate, Development and Business Brokerage industries. I am also an active member of the United States Republican party and contributed to the election of Mr. Trump as President of the United States. Unfortunately, my father passed away and as a result I came back to Georgia in February 2019. After 12 years absent, something clicked in my soul and I start to feel the desire to stay in my home country and contribute to the growth and development of my magical & blessed nation of Georgia. My wife, Victoria Bokeria, moved with me to Tbilisi and is now President of “Georgian Business Brokerage”. She is a “Shark” Business Broker; buying & selling actual, active Georgian businesses for most foreign buyers and inventors. Also, she is advertising actual working American businesses for sale for Georgian and regional buyers who wish to buy a working business in America and get full family immigration through E2 Visa.
Q. Are there any things about the United States that you miss in particular?
A. I’m currently residing between the U.S and Georgia. Ownership of businesses always enables me to return, however I strongly believe I have reached my full potential in the U.S. Now it’s time to contribute to making Georgia great again. In the modern world, economy, finance and international business projects are deciding the fate of our nation. The modern Didgori is the battle to overcome Georgian economic obstacles. International corporations have often taken advantage of the lack of professionalism and experience from the Georgian side. I believe currently, in some Georgian industries we have international agreements with foreign companies that have betrayed Georgia’s national strategic interests and unjustly enrich the foreign partners. Such cases remind me of the ‘white man’ arriving in native American Indians’ land and trading European junk for American Indians’ gold. That’s why I feel that my country needs me to unite highly-educated professional patriots of Georgia in order to protect our national strategic economic & business interests, and to make Georgia great again. I graduated from Saint Petersburg State University and was awarded an academic degree in International Economics. I was working as Stock Exchange Broker at Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange. After I moved to Tbilisi I graduated from Law School, earning a degree in law. In Georgia, I was working as Deputy Auditor General of Georgia and was conducting reforms in the financial & auditing sector of Georgia’s incorporation with the U.S. Government Accounting Office as well as with the Court of Auditors of the European Union. In 2007 I relocated to America and was working for the U.S. Government; graduating from Business School with an MBA academic degree; I worked for ten years in the business sector of the United State economy. Finally, after 12 years, I’m back to serve my country with all my education, work experience, connections and unconditional love for my nation and blessed country, Georgia!
Q. You have also contributed to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. How was it like?
My political views have always been leaning towards the Republican party, as in fact, I have been a member of it for quite some time. I was actively contributing into the 2016 presidential campaign and transformed my Miami office into the campaign office in order to spread the word around the state of Florida, which has greatly contributed onto the success in the state. I have been receiving the annual gratitude letter from Mr President. Mr Trump has very positive feelings towards Georgian Airways, and there are many tangible and intangible benefits with having such a powerful ally.