“Face of the Week” is GTP’s weekly column that introduces the young professionals of the Greek tourism industry. Every week, a young Greek professional will refer to issues related to their profession, the travel & tourism sector and Greece as a destination.
“Athens never seizes to amaze me with its new quality restaurants, vibrant nightlife, cultural offerings, and friendly people.”
Sofia Kalfopoulou was born in Athens in 1990. She graduated from Athens University of Economics and Business with a B.A. in Business Administration and joined her family’s hotel business TourHotel.gr consisting of 3 hotels in Athens and the Kalamaki Beach Hotel in Isthmia, Peloponnese.
In 2013 she started her Master’s degree at Cornell University and graduated in 2014 with a degree in Hospitality Management. Upon graduating from Cornell, Sofia worked as a Sales Manager at the Grand Summit Hotel, a boutique hotel in Summit, New Jersey for a year.
- What are the things you like best about your job and how would you describe your hospitality/tourism management philosophy?
To run a hotel means that you are constantly in touch with different people. This job doesn’t have a routine. These two elements are what fascinate me most about my job. My philosophy is based on understanding what the people that surround me are looking for. For the guests that stay at our hotels, it’s about exceeding their expectations and for the staff that works in our hotels, it’s about understanding their strengths and weaknesses and focusing on empowering those strengths.
- Have you had to face any challenges in your career to get to where you are today?
Being a third generation hotelier one could say that I haven’t faced any challenges in my career thus far. However, I surely did have to prove that I am capable of continuing the family business before coming on board. Also, recently I had to decide between staying in the U.S. where I was a Sales Manager at a boutique hotel and coming to Greece to join the family business.
- In regards to hospitality, where do you think Greece needs to improve the most?
Greece is a unique place and can become a top, year-round destination. However, in my opinion, the areas we need to improve are: hospitality education of excellence, offering of ancillary services and infrastructure, and last but not least, branding. If we addressed the above with a more strategic approach we would be unbeatable.
- Which is your region’s best kept “secret”? (In other words, what shouldn’t be a secret in your opinion and should be promoted more abroad?)
Greece is a mythical place and even someone such as myself, who has grown up in Athens and have travelled countrywide, comes across new things. Athens never seizes to amaze me with its new quality restaurants, vibrant nightlife, cultural offerings, and friendly people. One best kept secret that I recently discovered, is Philopappou Hill. The very top has 360 views of Athens that are breathtaking. The hill is also ideal for jogging.
- If you could pass on a message to the hospitality/tourism industry about Greece, what would it be?
Greek Philoxenia and Philotimo. These are two words that are not well known abroad and one needs to come experience them in order to understand them. The first (philoxenia) is exhibited in every region of our country and is the best memory foreigners take with them back home. The second (philotimo) can’t be translated but is showcased (and should be showcased) in almost every transaction a foreigner will have in Greece.
- What are your plans for the future?
Apart from trying to effectively manage our hotels I strongly believe that continuing education should be in the forefront of my future plans. Also, there is a saying that goes: the first generation builds, the second generation maintains the business (because they saw their parents build the business from scratch) and the third generation sells. Being the third generation I will try to prove the saying wrong by not only maintaining the business but also trying to advance it.
- If you didn’t work in the hospitality/tourism industry where would you be?
That’s hard to say, but it would definitely be something that involves travelling and interacting with people.
Connect with Sofia Kalfopoulou on LinkedIn