The Authentic Hospitality Guardian

Interview by Elsa Soimoiri

Fond of unity, Kalia Konstantinidou, co-owner of Kanava Hotels & Resorts, sets the pace to recreate the Greek authentic hospitality. With the vision of creating lifetime memories, σηε aims at redefining the notion of a summer destination forging a bond between the Kanava Hotels & Resorts and their guests. An integral part of their DNA, this bond is transmuted into the “joy of life” and respect for the locality.

What motivated you to create Kanava Hotels & Resorts and what are the goals and vision behind it?

From the day that my husband, Antonis Iliopoulos, had the idea to turn a rustic vineyard to the first five-star hotel of Santorini, the now renowned Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, our vision was clear; we want to redefine destinations as the leading luxury hospitality brand of Greece. Our goal is to offer unique experiences to sophisticated travelers, in order to create lifetime memories and elevate Greek hospitality. Our sole purpose is to act as the bond for our guests to connect with the destination, while we encourage them to fully disconnect and create their own story, embracing the authentic Cycladic lifestyle and carefree state of mind.

We strongly believe in the “joy of life” both for our guests when they visit our properties, but also for our people who make everything possible, from their inner soul.

How would you define the DNA of Kanava Hotels & Resorts which has been preserved to this day?

Each of our properties represents a part of our company’s DNA and ourselves – each feel like our child with a very distinctive character and personality. Even though we have expanded significantly over the past few years, our DNA has successfully managed to preserve the unique character of our brand. It consists of our values which are the backbone of the way we operate in everyday life. We strongly believe in the “joy of life” both for our guests when they visit our properties, but also for our people who make everything possible, from their inner soul. Another important aspect of our DNA is no other than passion for what we do, which is the fuel that inspires us individually and collectively and drives our company forward. Last but not least, we value innovation and distinction; we do things in our own distinctive way by being the destination authority, while always striving for continuous improvement.

What do you believe is the greatest asset that the Kanava Hotels & Resorts experience offers, and what makes it stand out?

At Kanava Hotels & Resorts we aspire to offer our guests the Greek essence of distinctive hospitality. Except from the exceptional five-star service our teams offer to our guests, and our commitment to refined gastronomy, holistic wellbeing and authentic culture, I believe the greatest asset of our hotels is the respect for the locality of each destination. Our properties embrace the local architecture, traditions, rituals, connect with the local community and most importantly, offer guests the opportunity to do the same, while enjoying an elevated and sophisticated hospitality experience.

What is your vision and philosophy of hospitality for our national tourism product?

I would love to see our local brand emit to the world the sophistication we live and breathe. In an international context, there tends to be a false perception that Greece is all about the sea, the sun and the fun. Our guests at Kanava Hotels & Resorts are beyond overwhelmed to learn that as a country we have so much more to offer in gastronomy, music, art and culture. We always strive to promote this elevated side of Greece, disseminate Greek values and heritage, and in doing so to propagate Greece’s new message to the world.

How do you think the landscape of the Athenian Riviera will change in the coming years as a result of the projects at Ellinikon?

Undoubtedly the transformation of the Athenian Riviera will upgrade the area, add to the city’s prestige and attract high-end investors and tourists. As an Athenian lover and a South of Athens native, I am looking forward to seeing the end result-undoubtedly striking- as I strongly believe that Athens has immense potential and I am so excited to see it flourish!

Do you think the transformation of the Athenian Riviera will lengthen the tourist season?

I believe that slowly but steadily Athens is gaining its proper position among the Metropoles of Europe and I see it becoming a year-round destination attracting a diverse crowd that will contribute to its sensorial transformation.

How do you view Greek tourism as a whole? Are there any brands that stand out?

Greece has immense potential and I believe we can achieve great things if we invest in synergies between destinations, hotels, and all different business related to tourism. Looking to the future, we need to follow the need for the tourism sector to implement green policies, incorporate new technologies and create products and infrastructure that cater to traveler preferences towards sustainability, learning something new, volunteering, living an adventure, or nomadic sabbaticals, among others, that will in turn prompt the tourism and travel industry to adapt and transform. Working collectively towards a goal can create far greater results than each of us on our own. Among the Greek brands that I love and stand out are Phāea Resorts for their passion, environmental consciousness and humancentric approach and Temes for their vision, commitment and innovation.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your day-to-day running of the Kanava projects?

Every time that I visit one of our properties, what satisfies me the most is the energy I receive immediately, that brings a big smile on my face. What we are most proud of is the calming ambience we have managed to create in all of our hotels. Every corner is imbued with a sense of serenity and as soon as I step in, I can disconnect from everything else and enjoy the vibe, while carefully observing how this same energy flows from our associates to our guests.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge that you’ll face this year?

I think that our biggest challenge this year is to accommodate the high demand, as people are so eager to travel, without adequate human resources. We have struggled to find the right people for the growing needs of our guests, and I understand that this is a global challenge. I feel that the most important aspect is that all of us in tourism need to change the general perception and communicate the message that Hospitality is not an industry, but a profession. We have to create engagement energy in our properties, so that we generate the hospitality professionals of tomorrow.

What is the first place that you would go to in order to relax and rejuvenate?

This is a very difficult choice, as I am deeply connected with each one of our properties, but if I had to choose one then it would probably be Parīlio, as the energy of this place is truly unique and has a transformative power that rejuvenates. However, the place that has stolen my heart and has made me feel almost like I was born there, is Oitylo village at Mani peninsula, where we have created a lovely cottage house and I cherish all memories I am creating with my family and friends there.

I believe that slowly but steadily Athens is gaining its proper position among the Metropoles of Europe and I see it becoming a year-round destination

What do you love most about working in the travel industry?

The opportunity to search and showcase the authentic side of a well-known destination nation. I always try first the experiences we then curate for our guests and I research a lot to discover local hidden gems and learn for myself, before I blend them with the destination and hotel offering. That has offered me the opportunity to meet wonderful people coming from different paths of life and see life through their eyes. For me, it always comes down to the human factor, whether it is meeting with locals or seeing the joy in our guests’ eyes, through our hero associates that are the wind beneath our wings.

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