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Interview – Haris Siganos: Zeus International is a ‘Project’ for Greek Tourism

Wyndham Grand Athens Exterior

Wyndham Grand Athens, exterior

“2019 will be an important year for Zeus,” says Haris Siganos, CEO of Zeus International, a leading Greek hotel management and development company.

Rapidly growing in Greece and also active in Cyprus, Romania, Italy and Southeast Europe in general, Zeus International collaborates with the world’s largest hotel chains such as Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Hilton.

“We are aiming this year to implement two major projects on Crete and in Cyprus,” he told GTP Headlines.

Referring to the company as “a project for Greek tourism”, Haris gives us details on Zeus’ new projects, which follow a number of investments in Athens by the company over the last two years.

Haris also focuses on the company’s plans to contribute even more to the development of Greece’s tourism product and does not rule out expanding Zeus’ activities to other Greek destinations, including the islands.

“We are open to partnerships that will have a long-term horizon and a steady development course in and out of Greece.” – Haris Siganos

  • GTP: Haris, please share some career highlights with our readers.

Haris Siganos: I started my career in the hotel industry about 20 years ago, working in well-known hotels in Greece and abroad, and holding positions of high responsibility. In 2014, I decided to apply my working experience into a whole new project – the Zeus International – which, as I usually say, is “a project for Greek tourism”.

  • GTP: Please “introduce” Zeus International to us. When was it founded, how many hotels are currently in its portfolio and in which countries is the company currently active?
Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort, exterior.

Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort, exterior.

Haris Siganos: Zeus International has provided consultancy as well as hotel management and development services for the past four years. Our company has a specialized team of executives, technicians and consultants with significant experience in managing the technological-financial aspects of projects related to the tourism industry. Also, by providing business reorganization strategies even for hotels with the most complex operations -through making the right decisions and executing the appropriate implementation program for them- we manage to achieve our multi-level goals and therefore meet the highest requirements in the regions where we operate – Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Italy. Furthermore, Zeus International’s experienced team has become the key strategic partner of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in the Balkans. In a short period of time, we’ve managed to build a company that now holds the largest growth in the Balkans on a solid basis with low borrowing and only institutional partners of the domestic and international market. Our portfolio is continuously enriched with other partners in other markets as well. Recently we have began running the Hilton Garden Inn Malpensa in Italy, which is a very important step for us as we are able to export the hotel product and we also went forward with Lazart Hotel in Thessaloniki and K29 ​​in Athens, which all operate as independent hotels of Zeus International. So we are open to partnerships that will have a long-term horizon and a steady development course in and out of Greece.

Ramada Loutraki Poseidon Resort, exterior.

Ramada Loutraki Poseidon Resort, exterior.

  • GTP: What are your strategies for 2019 concerning Greece?
Mirabello Beach. Photo source: Zeus International

Mirabello Beach & Villas.

Haris Siganos: 2019 will be an important year for Zeus, as we are aiming to implement two major projects: Mirabello on Crete and the former Holiday Inn in Cyprus. For the first project we came to an agreement for its management a few months ago and our goal is to operate from the spring of 2019. It is a significant investment in Agios Nikolaos, as the hotel has 311 rooms in a 12,35-acres site on the sea with unique beaches and a private marina. Our intentions include the extensive renovation and upgrading of the complex’s facilities and services – which will probably be completed in 2020 – for it to become one of the top hotels in South East Europe under the top brand of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the Wyndham Grand. I have to note here that this hotel is the first one that we have taken on out of Attica and Thessaloniki and I must admit that I am particularly fond of it as it is located in my hometown, Crete.
The second project is the former Holiday Inn in Cyprus. This hotel is one of the most famous hotels in Nicosia, with 140 rooms, suites, conference halls, restaurants and bars as well as a variety of facilities. The plan is to fully rebuild it and for it to function as a luxury city hotel in the center of Nicosia.

  • GTP: With the opening of the hotel on Crete, should we expect the Zeus International-Wyndham partnership to expand to other Greek island destinations?

Haris Siganos: Wyndham Grand Crete Mirabello Bay is our first step in the hospitality market of the islands. It is a project that we believe can be one of the best on Crete. Now, as far as island Greece is concerned, in general, I would like to note that we are clearly interested in hotels that fit our profile and standards.

Haris Siganos, founder of Zeus International.

Zeus International CEO Haris Siganos speaking during an event in Athens held with partner Wyndham Hotels & Resorts CEO Geoff Ballotti.

  • GTP: What is your vision involving your collaboration with Wyndham? What are the goals set for the immediate future?

Haris Siganos: Zeus International, during a period of introversion for the Greek economy, looked ahead and set up a comprehensive strategic plan for the hotel industry that included a partnership beneficial for Greek tourism, with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the largest hotel chain in the world. Results have already begun to appear on the market with very positive signs. With Wyndham, apart from our desire to offer in tourism, we share common values, and in these two years that we have teamed up, we have implemented 8 different projects, different requirements and specifications, bringing to Greece for the first time big hotel brands such as Dolce, Wyndham Grand and Ramada, to meet the needs of both business and leisure travelers. We aim in the next seven years to have jointly developed hotels in Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and other European destinations in general, contributing to the improvement and development of the tourism product in Greece and abroad.

  • GTP: Can you give us some details on the performance of Wyndham/Zeus International hotels in Greece until now in terms of occupancy rates and revenues?

Haris Siganos: At this moment we are moving at above 30% of what we had initially set in the business plan. This development leaves us completely satisfied and gives us the impetus to move smoothly to the implementation of the remaining projects.

Exterior of Wyndham Athens Residence.

Wyndham Athens Residence, exterior.

  • GTP: The latest collaboration between Zeus International and Wyndham brought a new and unique concept to Athens hospitality with the launch of Wyndham Athens Residence in the Greek capital. What are the expectations for the hotel’s first year of operation?

Haris Siganos: Wyndham Athens Residence features a different and original mixed-use hospitality concept in relation to the rest of the city’s hotels, combining luxurious suites with modern apartment amenities with improved and upgraded services. The aim is to offer comfortable short-stay accommodation in the heart of the city, where guests will feel at home, combined with affordable prices, ideal for families, younger travelers and business travelers. What it is important for us, in the first year of operation of Wyndham Athens Residence, is primarily for it to establish itself in the conscience of travelers and visitors who have the culture and mentality that this hotel represents.

Dolce Attica Riviera, exterior.

  • GTP: With the opening of the Dolce Attica Riviera hotel in Vravrona, you had announced your aim to boost the reputation of the “Attica Riviera” to the international and domestic market. How is this proceeding and should we expect Zeus International to invest more in the destinations of the eastern coast of Attica?

Haris Siganos: In Dolce Attica Riviera, a luxury hotel complex on the seafront, the world’s first Dolce Wyndham Hotels & Resorts franchise brought to Greece by Zeus International, as well as in Eastern Attica and the so-called Attica Riviera, we have distinguished a tremendous momentum. A momentum that we believe, combined with our know-how, can make the region a major attraction for 365 days of the year. We believe that through significant and ambitious investments in the area’s hotel sector, as well as the investment involved in the fundamental renovation of Dolce Attica Riviera, and the contribution of initiatives aimed at highlighting the historical importance and natural beauty of areas such as Vravrona, the tourist visibility and development of Eastern Attica can reach an extremely high level contributing to strengthen the area’s position as an independent tourism destination.

  • GTP: Zeus International in late 2017 launched the condo hotel named “K29” in Athens, another different hospitality concept to Athens. What sort of travelers does this hospitality concept target? How have travelers responded so far?

K29 apartments.

Haris Siganos: K29 is a big “bet” for us as it was the first major venture in the center of Athens at the sector of serviced apartments. It’s a hotel that appeals to an audience which is looking for a value for money choice of accommodation and wants to stay in the city center for short or long term. It primarily targets young people, executives and families. During these months of operation, it has become known to tourists due to its special character, modern facilities, minimal decoration and abundant natural light it offers in its rooms and common areas.

Lazart Hotel. Photo © Lazart Hotel

Lazart Hotel.

  • GTP: Zeus International obviously has faith in Athens as a destination, but what about Northern Greece? We know that Zeus International already manages and operates the Lazart Hotel in Thessaloniki. Are there any plans to further expand the company’s presence in the hospitality market of Northern Greece?

Haris Siganos: It’s true that we started dynamically in Athens and Attica in general and we will continue in the years to come, but that does not mean that we are not looking at other markets, let alone that of Thessaloniki. The Northern Greek city has never managed to become an autonomous citybreak destination, although it has all the qualifications (culture, gastronomy, nightlife and great hotels). As Zeus International we believe in Thessaloniki. Besides, Lazart, which opened a year ago, a luxury hotel in the heart of the artistic life of the city across from the Lazaristes Monastery, is the Zeus International springboard for development throughout Northern Greece, as it is on the crossroads between Chalkidiki and the Balkans and precisely because of its character: a combined destination for business and tourism.

  • GTP: What are the three major concerns you have as a hospitality professional? What challenges need to be addressed?

Haris Siganos: At Zeus International we maintain our strategic plan, both in our self-investment projects and those we do in cooperation with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Our strategic plan is a plan that reduces risk. Therefore, I would not say there is reason to worry. Our main concern was and will remain to provide the highest level of services in all hotels and to record a high rate of satisfaction from our customers. This, of course, also requires an inter-company strategy that focuses on the right choice of human resources, continuous training and satisfaction, giving opportunities for development. Apart from that, what we consider to be a challenge – and we are continually working in this direction – is to successfully implement the growth plan we have signed with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and also look for opportunities in properties that, depending on each destination, could help improve the overall tourism image of the country. Aiming to implement a grand growth vision to boost tourism in and out of borders, and regardless of the size of the venture, we want to continue to focus on detail and maintain the quality of service bar high as well as to build a strong brand awareness for all hotels that are under the umbrella of Zeus International.

The Armonia Wellness Spa at the Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort.

The Armonia Wellness Spa at the Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort.

  • GTP: How do you find the tourism/hospitality investment climate in Greece? Is Greece an investment-friendly destination or are there issues that need to be addressed?

Haris Siganos: Although the government has launched initiatives to create an attractive environment for investments in Greece, there is still alot that needs to change in order to be able to reassure that we are now entering a new era that includes attracting international investments in the country. For example, the enforcement of residence (or stayover) tax in hotels – valid from January 1, 2018 – is moving in the opposite direction than the one needed to be taken by the Greek economy for the enforcement of competition of the hotel industry. Specifically for the hotel industry, it is very important for the existence of a clear land-use plan, as this is also one of the biggest inhibitory factors for investments. I consider that the biggest problem in the sector is the constant change of the conditions under which hotel investments are carried out, as well as the bureaucracy, which makes it difficult to proceed. We need a long-term strategy aimed towards the upgrade of the tourism product, the creation of more jobs and the establishment of a stable and secure investment environment through which the state will increase its revenues and reduce unemployment in the long term.

Wyndham Grand Athens, view to Acropolis.

Wyndham Grand Athens, view to Acropolis.

  • GTP: 2018 is said to have been a record year for Greek tourism. What is your impression?

Haris Siganos: The year 2018 has ended and all indications show that its tourism season was even better than in 2017, with an increase in incoming traffic. A big contribution to the total increase of tourism in Greece was granted by Athens, as the city is going through its own “touristic spring” welcoming 5 million travelers in 2017, while for the period of 2013-2018, an increase of 648% was recorded in city break visitors. Regarding the hotel industry exclusively, Zeus International is a top example, with the launch of its strategic partnership with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in December 2016, debuting in Wyndham Grand Athens. Today, Zeus International manages 7 hotels that belong to Wyndham’s brand and also 13 hotels in Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, with 9 of them launched in the last 12 months.

The hotels that belong to Wyndham’s brand in Greece and are managed by Zeus International are: Wyndham Grand Athens, Wyndham Athens Residence, Dolce Attica Riviera, Ramada Attica Riviera, Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort, Ramada Loutraki Poseidon Resort and Mirabello Beach & Villas (expected to open in 2020 as the Wyndham Grand Mirabello).

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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