“New Faces” is a column by GTP that introduces the young professionals of the Greek tourism industry. In each column, the young Greek professionals refer to issues related to their profession, the travel & tourism sector and Greece as a destination.
“My philosophy is to bring the warmth and personability the clients seek in order to feel at home and connect with you, while maintaining an urgency to serve, to precede expectations and to give importance to each task at hand.”
Kassandra M. Lefakinis is a yacht charter specialist based in Athens, Greece. Along with her sister, she co-owns Valef Yachts, a luxury yacht charter company since 1969, with offices in both Greece and the United States. She is Greek-American, raised in Philadelphia while having spent each summer in Greece, watching her father run the business, experiencing the inner workings of the yachting industry from a young age.
With a love for production in media, after graduating from The New School University in New York City in Communications, Kassandra began her career in Greece in 2004 revamping the company’s marketing, conceiving and executing yacht brochures, writing for tourism magazines and further involving the company in international TV and film productions. Kassandra continues promoting Greece through broad channels while running her yacht charter business with a hands-on approach. Her latest: she is co-host on a travel show on Greece, airing on BBC in 2016.
- What are the things you like best about your job and how would you describe your yachting and tourism management philosophy?
A yacht charter is undoubtedly an intricately orchestrated production, with different protagonists at different acts; the fisherman, the Captain, the client, Apollo or Aeolus…! Each element of these productions contributes not only to the overall outcome but to testing and securing relationships. After intricate planning with a client, I love meeting them and their intimate yacht charter group. Part of my days each summer are spent with guests, before cruising and also after, with them oozing with positivity, smiles and gratitude as the result of good ‘philoxenia’ (hospitality) from all angles. My philosophy is to bring the warmth and personability the clients seek in order to feel at home and connect with you, while maintaining an urgency to serve, to precede expectations and to give importance to each task at hand.
- Have you had to face any challenges in your career to get to where you are today?
Respect has to be earned — from clients, colleagues and service providers. Being effective, trusted and also sought out, requires confidence from know-how and proof by repeated success in all kinds of circumstances. Also, adapting to the crisis, being efficient within new parameters on new terms, has pushed us to work harder to achieve the same results and to be more innovative.
- In regards to yachting, where do you think Greece needs to improve the most?
We have paradise here waiting to be discovered and no real or effective promotion of that abroad. We need systematic, strategic promotion of our real wealth, the unparalleled destinations accessible by yacht in Greece (and not only Mykonos and Santorini). Also, we need proper infrastructure (marinas) to host our yachts, keep them in Greece and for them not to flee to other countries with cheaper rates and better service. Our potential as an industry feels both unrealized and squandered without the government recognizing its importance. Logistically, more direct flights to Athens announced much prior to Spring, would greatly facilitate those trying to plan holidays here.
- 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’s beauty and magical waters do not stand alone in making Greece a perfect holiday destination; it is the Greek people and their warmth that bring it to life. Despite that we are in crisis, anyone who visits Greece will see that Greeks know how to live the good life. From the way we eat (at leisure, with friends and family) to what we eat (the brilliantly simple Mediterranean diet incorporating our unique specialty products), to how we express ourselves (openly and through gathering often, sharing news, dancing, drinking, our unique traditions..) to becoming affected even by subtle changes in the weather which shows our sensitive relationship with our environment. This is not Zorbaism but what feels like retained habits from our wise ancient ancestors to maintain a kind of sanity (a loosely defined word nowadays!). Visitors experience all of this first hand and become charmed and addicted.
- If you could pass on a message to the yachting industry about Greece, what would it be?
With the Euro having weakened (in particular to the US Dollar), our yacht VAT being one of the lowest in Europe, the affordability of our yachts compared to yachts abroad, this is truly the most idyllic destination for yachting (beyond the absolute glory, diversity and proximity of our islands and bountiful coast). So, I would tell the industry: “get your clients to Greece”!
- What are your plans for the future?
To develop new, creative outlets for promoting Greece and Yachting (such as our new Valef e-boutique). Having just launched an e-boutique for our clients, we join forces with Greece’s young and thriving designers, to build a stronger network of highly motivated achievers interested in serving and representing Greece.
- If you didn’t work in the yachting industry where would you be?
Developing and scripting stories for books or film (which I actually dabble in now via producing promotional yacht videos). Or maybe gathering exotic scents from all over the world to create the ultimate, journey invoking, fragrances! Basically doing something which ALSO involves a mode of travel and creating and relaying beautiful, unique experiences.
Connect with Kassandra Lefakinis on LinkedIn