“The Poseidonion Grand Hotel is always looking for new and exciting ways to attract visitors to Spetses,” says Maria Strati, the general manager of one of the major landmarks of hospitality in Greece.
The Poseidonion on Spetses is gearing up these days to welcome cycling enthusiasts for its 5th Tweed Run, to take place during October 19-21. The Tweed Run is just one of the events the hotel is involved with in its aim to support the island’s community and extend the tourism season.
For the Poseidonion, the 2018 season has been one of the longest and busiest in the modern history of the hotel, according to Maria, who refers to an expected increase of 10 percent in total room nights sold this year.
A recognized figure in the professional hospitality industry, with extensive know-how in the management and public relations of leading hotels, Maria has held the position of general manager at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel for the past four years.
“We are happy to report that the Poseidonion is breaking its own records in terms of revenue and bookings, and we are very pleased with the season so far, Maria tells GTP Headlines, while also underlining that teamwork has much to do with the hotel’s success.
In our interview with Maria, GTP Headlines had the chance to discuss a number of issues, as well as Poseidonion’s focus on offering the best guest experiences to visitors. Maria also reveals plans of the Poseidonion to open new restaurant in Vouliagmeni in Athens called Lagom – “the perfect opportunity for visitors to experience a little of the Poseidonion magic in the winter season when the hotel is closed.”
“Teamwork is everything… Teamwork is embedded in the DNA of my hospitality philosophy.” – Maria Strati
GTP: Maria, please share some career highlights with our readers.
Maria Strati: My career started at the Hilton Cavalieri in Rome, where I was fortunate to work in a number of departments including front office, guest relations, F&B, public relations and sales. One of the highlights was to be asked to run a business development project whose remit was to create new and exciting collaborations with luxury brands, with a particular focus on the fashion, jewellery and automobile sector. The project’s success proved to be an extremely useful experience in my next post as PR Manager at the King George Palace Hotel in Athens, where I was asked to create a number of similar collaborations with luxury brands, resulting in the development of the Royal Fork catering project. During my time at Eze Hermitage Art Hotel on the French Riviera I worked on an exciting archiving project, collating the hotel’s photographic and historic materials for publication. I was then appointed to the position of Director of Development for the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and Middle East at Luxury Hotel Partners, the management company of Small Luxury Hotels of the world, where I got to travel extensively and discover new hotel partnerships all around the world.
A particularly special career highlight has got to be the opening of the Aqua Blu Boutique Hotel and Spa, an establishment that truly stole my heart! Of course, I must mention the Poseidonion Grand Hotel, a hotel where I am able to put all my experience into practice in the challenging role of General Manager.
GTP: This is your fourth year at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel on Spetses. What is unique about the Poseidonion? As the hotel counts over 100 years of history, what milestones would you say have been achieved?
Maria Strati: The historic Poseidonion Grand Hotel is truly unique amongst its peers, and first opened its doors in 1914. It has seen over 100 eventful years of our history, which results in a special character and atmosphere. In 2004, the Vordonis family undertook the responsibility of renovating and bringing this grande dame of a hotel into the 21st century. Today, every detail of the hotel reflects its special characteristics, from the original, hand-painted tiles to the central marble staircase. The Poseidonion Grand Hotel has been instrumental in putting Spetses on the map for international travellers. Many people visit the island to experience the hotel, whether they are staying with us or not, enjoying a meal at one of our restaurants or simply taking a coffee on the verandah and admiring the view. Apart from being a leisure destination, Spetses has also become a distinguished wedding destination in recent years, especially after the hotel hosted the Royal Wedding of Prince Nikolaos & Tatiana Blatnik in 2010.
GTP: What are the main features of the Poseidonion Grand Hotel and how does the hotel differ from other accommodation options on Spetses?
Maria Strati: The Poseidonion is the only 5-star hotel on Spetses and among the Argosaronic Islands. It is also one of the few historic hotels in Greece that was built as a hotel and has always remained a hotel. It offers multiple culinary options to guests and external visitors. The Poseidonion introduced the very first brunch to Spetses, and the Palms Bar is renowned across the island, proving exceptionally popular every summers’ evening. Furthermore, the hotel hosts the only gym on Spetses and actively organises a wide range of activities and excursions for guests to enjoy, alongside our art gallery, spa, hair salon and boutique. Last year, the hotel reopened the Ciné Titania, the island’s historic outdoor cinema from the 1960s restoring it to its former glory.
“Spetses has much to offer outside of the peak summer months…” – Maria Strati
GTP: Poseidonion’s management carries out actions and initiatives that not only attract visitors to the hotel, but also to the destination of Spetses. Can you give our readers some details on these actions?
Maria Strati: The Poseidonion Grand Hotel is honoured to support the local community and is always looking for new and exciting ways to attract visitors to Spetses. The extension of the tourist season is a very important issue that we are keen to focus on, particularly considering that the island still has much to offer outside of the peak summer months. Some of the annual events we are involved in include the Tweed Run, the Spetses Classic Regatta and the Classic Car Rally, all of which attract special-interest international and domestic travellers. We also attend numerous international travel fairs and implement PR activities within Greece, as well as cooperations with PR offices in Europe and the USA to further promote the island and hotel.
GTP: Teamwork is the key for success. How does teamwork drive a hotel to successful results?
Maria Strati: Teamwork is everything! In fact, you could say it is the alpha and omega of every healthy business. Even the most talented and hardworking professional can never achieve as much on their own as they could when working in a team. Teamwork is embedded in the DNA of my hospitality philosophy, and my professional experience so far has proven to me beyond all doubt that teamwork is the key to success. When we are recruiting new staff at the Poseidonion, we look for people that share this same philosophy and have a passion for hospitality, because this is the only way to ensure each and every guest receives the luxury experience they deserve. This is particularly true, and even more challenging, when it comes to the organisation of a demanding hotel with many departments that all need to be operating at the same time in perfect harmony – this is what we aim for and, we believe, have achieved at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel.
“Gastronomy is an aspect of the Poseidonion Grand Hotel that we are particularly proud of…” – Maria Strati
GTP: How big of a role does gastronomy play in the experience of hotel guests? The Poseidonion this year opened the new “Il Cortile” restaurant. What should be expected from the menu?
Maria Strati: Gastronomy is an aspect of the Poseidonion Grand Hotel that we are particularly proud of, and we offer our guests a full day of exceptional dining experiences, from breakfast through to dinner and everything in between! I had previously worked with our head chef, Stamatis Marmarinos, at the Aqua Blu in Kos and it is a pleasure to work again with somebody who shares my same love of gastronomy. At Poseidonion we are really lucky to have the opportunity to source our products from our organic farm, as the philosophy of the hotel’s gastronomy is based on the authentic flavours of pure ingredients. Our flagship outlet, On the Verandah, has received 4 awards, the ‘Bostani’ farm-to-table is a unique dining experience on the island taking place at our farm including a guided tour and the Palms Bar remains the local community’s favourite meeting point. Il Cortile is our brand new restaurant, offering premium cuts of meat and serving them with an Italian twist. We have aimed for a relaxed, friendly yet elegant atmosphere, consistent with the unique aura of the historic hotel building.
GTP: What should we expect next from the Poseidonion Grand Hotel?
Maria Strati: The Poseidonion has recently partnered with stakeholders to open a new restaurant in Vouliagmeni called Lagom – a Swedish word meaning ‘just the right amount’ or ‘not too little, not too much’. This phrase is the philosophy on which the restaurant is based, and Chef Marmarinos has created a beautiful, contemporary Greek menu that invites diners to relive their favourite gastronomic memories. Lagom is the perfect opportunity for visitors to experience a little of the Poseidonion magic in the winter season when the hotel is closed, and hopefully inspire them to visit us on Spetses the following year! We are also planning some new ways to create more exclusive, private experiences for our guests at the hotel, something that is increasingly important for high-end luxury travellers and repeat visitors.
“Our upgraded services, good reputation and loyal clientele have secured us an increase of 10% in the average nightly rate compared to 2017. – Maria Strati
GTP: Can you give us some details on the performance of the Poseidonion for the 2018 season in terms of bookings and revenues?
Maria Strati: This season has been one of the longest and busiest in the modern history of the Poseidonion Grand Hotel. We have prolonged our operating season by 20 days compared to 2017, resulting in an expected increase of 10% in total room nights sold. Meanwhile, our upgraded services, good reputation and loyal clientele have secured us an increase of 10% in the average nightly rate compared to 2017. We have also seen very high occupancy rates throughout the peak summer months. All in all, we are happy to report that the Poseidonion is breaking its own records in terms of revenue and bookings, and we are very pleased with the season so far.
GTP: What are the three major concerns you have as a hospitality professional? What challenges need to be addressed?
Maria Strati: A major problem facing the Greek hospitality sector is the lack of properly trained hospitality professionals in our country. Even though 1 in 5 Greeks are employed in the tourism sector, there is a severe shortfall in the number of qualified and experienced staff able to provide the 5* experience expected by international travellers. It is challenging to put together strong team with extensive luxury hospitality experience, although I am very proud of all the staff at the Poseidonion Grand Hotel and their great efforts throughout our busy seasons and sometimes challenging guests these past years.
Sustainability is another key issue. We have noticed that our guests are increasingly concerned about environmental awareness and are pleased to see sustainable actions taking place in their hotel. The Poseidonion has joined the Spetses Plastic Detox campaign in recognition of the severe plastic pollution in our seas and beaches, and recently made the switch to reusable eco-friendly straws in all our F&B outlets.
Finally, my third concern relates to the handling of client complaints online and the power of review sites like Trip Advisor. Unfortunately, we have experienced several instances of blackmail over unfair negative reviews, which is always a delicate situation to manage. Of course, it is difficult to turn a disappointed guest into a happy one, but online review media and social media can put hospitality businesses at an unfair disadvantage, and it is upsetting to all of us when we cannot explain the bigger picture of a negative review.
Situated on Spetses, an island very near to Athens, the Poseidonion Grand Hotel comprises of two buildings with superior and deluxe rooms and suites, several with private gardens or balconies offering spectacular views of the Dapia Port area and the sparkling blue-turquoise sea.