GTP has launched a weekly column that will introduce the young professionals in the Greek hospitality industry. Every week, a young Greek entrepreneur will refer to issues related to their profession, the travel & tourism sector and Greece as a destination.
“Hospitality is more than a business. It’s a special feeling and bond with people, an honest relationship that creates lasting memories.”
After a global exploration within the hospitality industry in Switzerland, USA, Scotland, Maldives and Canada, working for international hotel chains in major positions in the food & beverage department, Panagiotis Nikiforou decided to come back to his Greek roots to make one of his dreams true.
Returning to Greece, he took the risk and became an entrepreneur. He currently faces the great challenge to rebrand and reposition Scala Vinoteca as the top fine dining wine restaurant in Greece.
“It constitutes a big challenge but we are here to make things happen,” he says.
Panagiotis has an MBA in Hospitality with Marketing (Les Roches Switzerland) and a Bachelor Degree in Tourism Management (TEI Athens).
- What are the things you like best about your job and how would you describe your hospitality and tourism management philosophy?
I have been to many countries around the world for both business and leisure. What I like the most in this business is that you get to know people with different backgrounds, cultures and habits.
My philosophy about hospitality is simple. While I was working for the Olympic Games, I remember my director’s words. He compared that wonderful and unique event as the “best party” we ever organized for our friends: “In order for them to remember this party as one of the best moments in their life, we have to give our best performance and exceed ourselves. Extend warm, honest and friendly hospitality coming from the heart”. Hospitality is more than a business. It’s a special feeling and bond with people, an honest relationship that creates lasting memories.
- Have you had to face any challenges in your career to get to where you are today?
I remember that at the age of 15 I knew that hospitality was my passion. Nothing was easy. There were many challenges on my way and especially relocating in so many countries was tough — new environment, new people, new cultures. Getting along with people coming from different backgrounds and harmonically working together so as to achieve guests’ satisfaction has been always a great challenge.
- In regards to hospitality, where do you think Greece needs to improve the most?
I believe Greece has the perfect “package” but doesn’t have the appropriate people to take advantage of it. There is too much bureaucracy involved and there is a lack of quality and lack of sincere care for the hospitality world. Firstly, we need to respect our rich heritage and then we should create a healthy environment, and economic motives so as to attract more business. We need to have a long-term focus instead of a short-term.
- What is your country’s best kept “secret”? (In other words, what shouldn’t be a secret in your opinion and should be promoted more abroad?)
Greece is for me the most beautiful country in the whole world and that’s no secret! We have a rich heritage that we thoroughly need to appreciate. We should all work together as a team and keep promoting abroad and overseas the known motto “Live your myth in Greece’’ .
- If you could pass on a message to the global hospitality and tourism industry about Greece, what would it be?
Greece is a blessed country. “Xenia” is the ancient Greek concept of hospitality. We really need to understand that so we can move on. We need to emphasize on quality and professionalism. Aim long-term and not short-term. In this way the benefits will be way much better as it will offer stability and more business to the Greek hospitality industry.
- What are your plans for the future?
For now I only focus on my new project. Scala Vinoteca represents a new philosophy of high quality of food & service. Having travelled around the world, I realized that there are a few elements which lead to success: Be honest, know what you are doing, do it with passion and make sure you’re happy doing it.
- If you didn’t work in the hospitality industry where would you be?
After difficult moments I have faced in my life, I would still choose the hospitality industry. As I mentioned before, I do not see the hospitality only as a business. It’s a passion that I was born with and I’m here to give 101% of myself so as to offer people something unique, a feeling that will last as a lifetime experience. When I achieve that, the feeling will be priceless and last forever. For me that’s the real success and pleasure in this industry.