Welcome Challenge is a global initiative that helps foster innovation and entrepreneurship in hospitality and travel Industries by hosting worldwide forums with participation of leading executives, experts, visionaries, and disrupters.

The forums showcase world's best, brightest and most inventive entrepreneurs who compete in several regional startup competitions and the final annual global forum.

Welcome Challenge has registered a non-profit legal entity in Georgia (Georgian Tax ID: 406244185), that organizes first Welcome Challenge™ Global Forum in Tbilisi, October 2018.

Founders of
Welcome Challenge™ Hospitality & Travel Industry Innovations Global Forum.

Saba Kiknadze

Founder and CEO of the GHG Georgian Hospitality Group.
Founder of Welcome Challenge.

GHG is a holding company in the field of Hospitality, Tourism, MICE and Lifestyle Management; a few of holding member companies, such as Caucasus Travel, Caucasus Luxury Travel, Georgian Events, Explore Georgia, are well-known pioneers in their respective fields carrying strong brand recognition and leading positions in the market.

GHG also holds lifestyle management company, franchisee partner in South Caucasus of Quintessentially, the world's leading luxury lifestyle group.

Mr. Kiknadze is the founder, shareholder and former CEO of regional franchisee partner companies of worldwide brands, such as American Express Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

During 2004-2006, Saba Kiknadze served as Chairman of Georgian Department of Tourism and Resorts (NTO). Mr. Kiknadze has contributed in: creating fertile soil for the hospitality industry clusters, establishing a legal framework for tourism development, building tourism education pilot institutions, implementing public-private partnership programs and designing principles of country’s international tourism promotion.

An architect by education, Saba Kiknadze has been a pioneer of Georgian business since 1986 and is one of the first entrepreneurs in a newly independent Georgia. A serial entrepreneur, he created and “piloted” several successful companies, achieving leadership positions on different fields of activities – architecture, design, publishing, advertising, and especially in tourism and hospitality.

He continues to act as founder and developer of several startups of various profiles: IT Development, Winery, Microbiology Technologies, etc. Mr.Kiknadze is actively sharing his experience and expertise, providing mentorship and incubation support to newcomers in business.

Saba is co-founder of Creative Business Cup Georgia, organizing annual competitions for business startups Georgia. Mr. Kiknadze is a founding member of Georgian Angel Investors Club.


Zaal Abazadze

Executive Manager

Zaal Abazadze has had extensive experience in dealing with foreign visitors to Georgia. He used to provide services to visiting business, diplomatic and journalist persons in arranging contacts and researching necessary information.

Studied Law at GTU - Tbilisi, Georgia and International Business Administration at           VEU – Germany.

He recently served as a Deputy Director at “Georgia Film” Studios, Administration Manager at Rugby Club “GORI’S JIQI” and at present works as an executive manager of Welcome Challenge Global Forum


Gvantsa Mindiashvili

Project Coordinator

Gvantsa has always had a passion for movies and all things visual which led her to entering at a prestigious Shota Rustaveli State University for Theater and Film from which she graduated in 2016. While studying at Film School, she worked on several projects, finishing two short films and a documentary, further developing her combination of creative and managerial skills.

Upon graduation, Gvantsa worked as a production assistant involved in all aspects of preparation of first-ever cash-rebate qualifying document that Georgian government issued. She also directed, co-produced, and edited eight video-clips that depicted well-known Georgian creative entrepreneurs; the clips were used for the promotion of Georgia’s first ever entrepreneurial competition for creative startups.

Currently Gvantsa is Projects Coordinator for CBC / Welcome Challenge Global Forum, responsible for all aspects of communication, planning, and executing company’s ongoing projects.

 

Gela Andrew Suli, USA

Founder and CEO of Welcome Challenge and CBC Georgia.

Gela Suli is a Georgian-American media and technology entrepreneur and producer. Gela co-founded and for years was executive partner of Site4view, New York based creative & production boutique that produced TV commercials, still photography shoots, music videos, reality TVs, documentaries, etc. for leading international brands, such as American Express, L’Oreal, Microsoft, IBM. He also founded and led Depicto, a real-time software application that many American advertising agencies have used in their work.

In 2011-15, Mr. Suli was the CEO of Georgian Film Studios, one of the oldest and most prolific movie studios in the region in the XX century. He led the complete financial reorganization and legal restructuring of a multi-million-dollar company from an idle state-owned enterprise to a region’s leading provider of film production services for international clients.

Gela has been an investment advisor and business intelligence consultant to several companies working in the Caspian / Black Sea region. In 2007-2009, he pioneered a concept of high-technology research and education center for Georgia that was eventually picked up as a blueprint by several Georgian universities.

Currently, Gela Suli is active in the development of Georgia’s startup ecosystem and leads or sits on several boards of several organizations. He is a co-founder of the Angel Investment Club of Georgia and Startup Acceleration Partners. Gela is a mathematician by training and also holds an MA in International and Area Studies from Yale University.

 

Petra Benkö
Head of Communication

Born and raised in Vienna the daughter of two United Nations officials she was educated at the Vienna International School. After graduating from the Hotel and Tourism College Klessheim and studying at the Vienna university of Economics she was employed in the Sales Department of the at the Radisson SAS Palais Hotel and continued as Groups and Reservation Manager.
In order to facilitate more compatibility between the work of her husband, an Austrian diplomat and the resulting life circumstances, and after the birth of her two older sons, she studied and became a Montessori pedagogue.

Since 2010 she has been on the Board of the Club der Angehörigen – the spouse association of the Foreign Ministry of Austria and is responsible for school/education matters.

In Georgia she supports her husband with the PR work of the Austrian Embassy there. In 2017 she was IWA Fundraising and since summer 2018 she has been President of the International Women’s Association Georgia. The annual Fundraiser Exhibition (Bazaar), with approximately 4,000 visitors enables the NGOs to support caritative projects focusing on support for women.Since September this year is the head of Communication of the Welcome Challenge™ Global Forum.

 

Zaal Abazadze

Executive Manager

Zaal Abazadze has had extensive experience in dealing with foreign visitors to Georgia. He used to provide services to visiting business, diplomatic and journalist persons in arranging contacts and researching necessary information.

Studied Law at GTU - Tbilisi, Georgia and International Business Administration at           VEU – Germany.

He recently served as a Deputy Director at “Georgia Film” Studios, Administration Manager at Rugby Club “GORI’S JIQI” and at present works as an executive manager of Welcome Challenge Global Forum

 

Gvantsa Mindiashvili

Project Coordinator

Gvantsa has always had a passion for movies and all things visual which led her to entering at a prestigious Shota Rustaveli State University for Theater and Film from which she graduated in 2016. While studying at Film School, she worked on several projects, finishing two short films and a documentary, further developing her combination of creative and managerial skills.

Upon graduation, Gvantsa worked as a production assistant involved in all aspects of preparation of first-ever cash-rebate qualifying document that Georgian government issued. She also directed, co-produced, and edited eight video-clips that depicted well-known Georgian creative entrepreneurs; the clips were used for the promotion of Georgia’s first ever entrepreneurial competition for creative startups.

Currently Gvantsa is Projects Coordinator for CBC / Welcome Challenge Global Forum, responsible for all aspects of communication, planning, and executing company’s ongoing projects.