NEWSWEEK REPORT: GREECE MARCHES FORWARD
Earlier this month, construction began on Athens’ €8-billion Hellinikon Project, Europe’s largest urban redevelopment scheme that “symbolizes the new Greece,” according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Mitsotakis’ new Greece is a country of optimism. Prior to coronavirus’ emergence, his government’s reforms had reignited the economy after a decade of financial crisis. Confidence was high, with foreign direct investment and exports seeing double-digit growth rates. That confidence has risen with Greece’s impressive management of coronavirus. The government rapidly introduced decisive measures to limit its spread, resulting in one of the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the European Union. By 1 July, Greece could safely welcome back tourists. Tourism is a vital sector that supplies nearly 21 percent of the economy and one of the few that expanded during the financial crisis, as visitors enjoyed diverse, year-round experiences.
A new, sustainable landscape for Greek tourism
Stavros Mitsis, Managing Director, Mitsis Hotels, underlines the importance of shifting the focus from quantity to quality in tourism.
Your father established Mitsis Hotels over 40 years ago and it has since be – come Greece’s largest privately owned hotel chain. How has COVID-19 affected your firm and what will its impact be on Greek tourism?
The country’s excellent performance in this crisis will certainly boost tourism in the short term, as Greece appears to be the single safe destination in the region. It came at a time when Greece has the lead over other countries: our tourism is more mature than ever and is extending its product as a 12-month destination beyond the sea-sun-sand model—the richness of this country creates endless possibilities. Likewise, it caught Mitsis Hotels on the rise. We have worked intensively over the last three years in implementing large investment projects that showcase our valuable tourist assets, modern products, quality services and unique experiences that we offer to our visitors, enabling us to reach out to new interest groups and chart a dynamic development path. Despite the crisis, we are completing our infrastructure projects that were underway—investments in renovations, modernization and the improvement of all units. Technology and artificial intelligence, which offer us creative apps for better services and interactive communication, are our best allies in the development of holistic experiences for our guests and to maximize our group’s competitiveness, and we have invested heavily in them. This crisis has empowered Mitsis Hotels’ effort for progress even more, which was already an intrinsic element in our DNA. We are determined to carry on investing in new infrastructure, advanced technologies and improved services to constantly add value to our product. With our guests’ and employees’ health and safety as top priority, we have drawn up an integrated health and safety plan, specifying detailed procedures for all departments. Aspiring to take care of others as well, we have organized a large blood donation and offered 10,000 nights in our premises to healthcare staff as a way to extend our deep appreciation.
What other decisions have you taken to move the group forward?
We are turning our attention toward becoming a management company. At the moment, we are separating hotel operations from asset management and the real estate sector. We have had the chance to organize the right teams to help us provide consulting services to other companies. We believe that we will become vertically integrated across the whole spectrum of tourism. At the same time, we are also thinking horizontally. We can offer so many services in so many segments of the business. The second part is still under discussion, but when it comes to consulting, we are pretty much ready and are able to provide consulting to more than eight sectors already. The name of our company will be Philoxenia, which signifies the Greek essence of hospitality.
What is your vision for sustainability within your operations and for the wider support of your local communities?
Overall, this crisis has further highlighted the unique role our brand plays in the lives of Greek people. As a trusted partner, visionary sponsor and proud ambassador of Greece, we invest capital, time and expertise in the progress of our communities. We all need to develop our own piece of corporate social responsibility and show our modern visitors that we care about sustainability and respect human rights. We must all be geared toward local communities and their power to give birth to unique authentic experiences. Last year, Mitsis Hotels was awarded with Travelife’s gold certification for accommodation sustainability and in two years we aim to acquire the ISO 14001:2015 certificate for environmental management and sustainability. The idea is to be able to recycle 100 percent of the garbage that we produce, go 100 percent green and leave zero footprint on the environment. We will be recycling on site and through some external partners. We started a couple of years ago, but the goal is to reach the maximum in these regards.