With his innovative vision for the Athens Riviera, Chrysanthos Panas has paved the way for its development into a truly European destination.
You grew up in Vouliagmeni and being identified with the Island, which is now an Athens Riviera landmark. When it first opened, did you ever imagine we would be talking about the Athens Riviera as a destination in its own right?
Vouliagmeni is a place of unique natural beauty, a magical landscape which has retained its authenticity. I feel blessed to have grown up here. Thirty-three years ago, together with my brother Spyros, when we built Island, we decided that we wanted to invest in hospitality and catering. Both Island and the Athens Riviera in general were projects that we had in mind from very early on. Athens is the only European capital that has an organized coastline or a riviera that is less than half an hour from the city center, with wonderful clear waters that you can swim in. As a project, Island required a lot of effort but eventually succeeded in becoming a destination for visitors from all over the world who come to sample its fine dining and enjoy its DJ sets every summer.
With an impressive portfolio of popular venues in Athens (Island, Athénée, Bricolage, Dragoste, Central), are your plans for the first entertainment resort in Greece a natural succession to all of the above projects?
We have consistently invested so that the quality in all of our venues is always flawless, both in terms of aesthetics and the raw materials that we use. Island will indeed be the first entertainment resort of its kind in Greece, accommodating guests either visiting for their own personal events or to enjoy an evening at the club. Guests at the resort will be able to swim on our beaches, dine in the restaurant and have fun in the club whilst enjoying their very own bungalow within the resort.
WE HAVE ALWAYS ENVISIONED THE ATHENS RIVIERA AS THE ULTIMATE DESTINATION WORLDWIDE, NOT ONLY DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS BUT THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
Considering its importance in the area’s overall development, what factors did you take into account when designing the resort?
An important study of the area and the natural landscape was conducted; a team of scientists has elaborated all the resort specifications, whilst fully respecting nature, endeavoring to preserve it, without interfering with it. Sustainability has always been high up on our agenda, for example, our chef Nikos Skliras uses herbs and vegetables from our own vegetable garden. In fact, the bungalows that are about to be built, will be fully harmonized with the philosophy of sustainability that we have been following for years.
You have said that you want to see the Athens Riviera “flourish according to the European standards that it deserves”. Do you believe that your vision will be achieved with the completion of its renewal?
The renewal of the Athens Riviera, which in recent years has taken shape thanks to ambitious projects with foreign specifications, is definitely part of our vision. With that being said, we have always envisioned the Athens Riviera as the ultimate destination worldwide, not only during the summer months but throughout the year. Its comparative advantage is that it is located in a European capital with the richest history and cultural heritage. This should be promoted more to foreign, but also to Greek visitors.
ISLAND REQUIRED A LOT OF EFFORT BUT EVENTUALLY SUCCEEDED IN BECOMING A DESTINATION FOR VISITORS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.
In addition to being a successful businessman, you’re also an avid art collector. What do you think is needed to establish Athens as an artistic destination?
have always been passionate about Art. From a young age, I started collecting works of art (which are visible in all of our venues). Therefore, at the suggestion of the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, part of my collection of works by Greek artists was exhibited under the title “Greek Kaleidoscope”. In Athens, several galleries have opened with great success. Artists and gallerists from abroad choose to live in Greece, their base is here, which has created an art hub I strongly support. However, we ultimately need an art fair that will attract people from all over the world.
Knowing every inch of the Athens Riviera, what part has stood out over the years as something that represents yourself and your vision for the region?
When I was little, and would watch the sunset from our house, I remember asking my father about the fishermen who fished on the pier right in front of our house. My father told me that as long as our area has fish and the natural environment isn’t harmed, its value will rise. The fact that there is a temple of Apollo on Lemos Beach Vouliagmeni, which proves the prosperity of the area since antiquity, as well as the fact that the buildings at Ellinikon were designed by the best architects of that time, proves the evolution. However, our main concern should be the preservation and protection of the natural environment.