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Interview – George Vlachopoulos: Grace Hotel Santorini is Devoted to Excellence

High-end gastronomy, a stunning view to the Caldera, incomparable architecture and quality personalized services, are just some of the features of Grace Hotel Santorini, a member of Auberge Resorts Collection.

Having been ranked as one of Greece’s top 20 resorts by Condé Nast Traveler (CNT) readers, the Grace Hotel Santorini follows exactly what the Auberge Resorts Collection promises: devotion to excellence, according to says the hotel’s general manager, George Vlachopoulos.

“What Auberge Resorts Collections does bring to Greece – our Unique Selling Point, if I must describe it as such – is this diversified and contemporary notion of luxury, which focuses on each visitor’s individual needs and promotes authenticity stemming from each property’s locale, be it architecture, design, gastronomy or more,” George says.

GTP Headlines recently had the chance to discuss with George regarding the distinction of Grace Hotel Santorini on CNT’s list of Greece’s top 20 resorts and also what exactly the Auberge Resorts Collection offers: a trustworthy hotel brand that “partners” with their guests to offer only the best in terms of personalized experiences of exquisite quality.

“Our goal for 2020 is to maintain our growth over the previous year, always preserving and enhancing the relations with our clientele of discerning guests and keeping up with the high quality of our services.”

George Vlachopoulos

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

George Vlachopoulos: Thank you, Nikos. Managing an internationally acclaimed hotel such as Grace Hotel Santorini, Auberge Resorts Collection is a definite highlight for me. Auberge Resorts Collection holds a portfolio of extraordinary properties, giving me the opportunity to exchange views and best practices with my counterparts from all around the world. Although I am no stranger to global brands and destinations – prior to my appointment at Grace Hotel Santorini in 2018 I had worked at Radisson Hotel Group as well as at the Nihi Sumba Island (formerly Nihiwatu) in Indonesia and at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Thailand – my current job is a journey unlike any other. And I am grateful for this!

Grace Hotel Santorini – Honeymoon suite terrace.

GTP: Let’s start off with your experience at Grace Hotel Santorini, a member of Auberge Resorts Collection in 2019. The hotel was recently included on the list of Greece’s top 20 resorts for 2019 in the Condé Nast Traveler’s (CNT) Readers’ Choice Awards. How do you, as general manager, perceive this distinction? Based on what criteria was the hotel selected and what are the opportunities that can arise from this recognition?

George Vlachopoulos: This has undoubtedly been a great honor for us, due to Condé Nast Traveler’s legendary status in the industry, but also because this was the year when Resorts in Greece earned their own list at the awards. It’s therefore an important first for CNT and the Greek travel industry, which makes this distinction even more significant for us. Concerning the criteria of voters, I am sure our ability to create a series of unforgettable, high-quality experiences for our visitors, has played a major part. I also view the Awards as the perfect global platform to promote our multi-winning assets, such as the high-end gastronomy, the stunning views to the Caldera, the incomparable architecture and the abundance & quality of personalized services.

Grace Hotel Santorini – Deluxe room Plunge pool.

GTP: A total of 11 Auberge Resorts Collection hotels and resorts are included among the very best in the world in the 2019 CNT Readers’ Choice Awards. These lists were determined following the vote of some 600,000 readers. Just how important is this for the Auberge Resorts Collection?

George Vlachopoulos: Considering the sheer number of voters, this is indeed a great acknowledgment of Auberge’s devotion to excellence, yet it does not exactly come as a surprise. CNT’s readership consists of well-educated individuals, experienced professionals and travelers with different preferences coming from different walks of life, all of them sharing a non-negotiable need for excellent quality and authenticity. So far, Auberge Resorts Collection has invested a lot of time and effort in creating a diverse portfolio of hotels, resorts, residences and private clubs, each of which boasts a unique individuality yet all of them sharing a crafted approach to luxury that is expressed through captivating design, exceptional cuisine and spas, and gracious yet unobtrusive service. Therefore, it is important for us to provide luxury hospitality services catering for the diversified needs of an international, while keeping quality standards high. This, I believe, is reflected in Auberges’ distinction through the vote of these 600.000 individuals.

Grace Hotel Santorini – Yoga Retreat.

GTP: Getting back to Grace Hotel Santorini, the hotel is the first and – until now – the only Auberge Resorts Collection’s hotel in Greece and in Europe. Considering that Auberge properties are distinguished as the highest-rated and most-admired in some of the world’s most alluring destinations, do you agree that this gives Santorini – and Greece for that matter – a boost regarding to its position in the luxury hospitality segment? What is the USP (unique selling point) of the Auberge Resorts Collection and of Grace Hotel Santorini?

George Vlachopoulos: Luxury hospitality is an advanced sector in Greece, especially in destinations such as Santorini, a favorite among international visitors. As a professional, I acknowledge there are many great hoteliers out there doing their best, just like we do, all of us helping the travel sector maintain its status in the country and thrive. What Auberge Resorts Collections does bring to Greece – our Unique Selling Point, if I must describe it as such – is this diversified and contemporary notion of luxury, which focuses on each visitor’s individual needs and promotes authenticity stemming from each property’s locale, be it architecture, design, gastronomy or more. This business paradigm is perfect for Greece, a country known around the world for its cultural footprint yet sometimes somewhat silent about it, especially when it comes to luxury – Until now. Instead of homogeneity, the approach of Auberge Resorts Collections opts for individuality & character, enabling visitors experience all that a place can offer without compromising quality. So, for example, in the case of Grace Hotel Santorini, our version of luxury is rather inclusive of locally sourced products like fava, ‘apaki’ ham, Symi island shrimps and more.

Grace Hotel Santorini – Santoro Restaurant.

GTP: Let’s talk gastronomy. Grace Hotel Santorini’s Santoro restaurant has also achieved recognition on numerous occasions. How would you sum up Santoro’s approach to cuisine? And what experiences does Santoro, as well as the hotel’s 363 Champagne Lounge, offer guests?

George Vlachopoulos: Santoro’s approach to gastronomy is perfectly aligned with Auberge’s vision of luxury, which is rooted in uniqueness and authenticity. We want our visitors – including the visitors of Santorini in general, as our restaurant is open to the public – to consider culinary culture as part of Santorini’s wider cultural narrative, which is meant to be discovered and explored. We are glad that this effort of ours has indeed been acknowledged by travelers, gourmands and the media, all of whom have given us a “thumbs up” many times. About Santoro’s menu, now, I am sure our acclaimed Consultant Executive Chef, Jean-Charles Métayer and our excellent Head Chef, Giannis Koutsoperakis would be able to elaborate more thoroughly on this, all I can say is that the backbone of our dining philosophy is based on contemporary renditions of traditional Mediterranean cuisine, from Langoustines “Saganaki” to our famous Cylinder of “Fava”. The best ingredients are sourced from all over the country to create a memorable dining experience with a supreme sense of place, as the restaurant has an incomparable view to the Caldera.
On similar grounds, placed 363 metres over the Aegean and offering fragrant Mediterranean cocktails, some designed by the renowned mixologist Salvatore Calabrese, Champagne Lounge is all about the ambiance – an unforgettable experience in its own right! Just imagine sitting at the bar before sunset, as your panoramic view of the Aegean Sea turns to gold… Pure magic!

Grace Hotel Santorini – Champagne & Cocktail lounge.

GTP: What is the current “relationship” between Grace Hotel Santorini and the local community of the island? Are there any plans to take this relationship further?

George Vlachopoulos: Building a relationship with the local community is integral to the success of such a venture. So far, we have been working with people on the island to create bespoke experiences for our visitors and source ingredients for our gastronomic experiences. In addition, we constantly organize open gastronomic and musical events at Santoro, giving everyone the chance to enjoy a unique view to Santorini’s sunset, paired with incomparable cuisine or great music. Our vision for the future requires further engagement with the local community, making our hotel a platform for the promotion of local culture, so that, for example, our visitors can actually meet the people behind Santorini’s cultural, gastronomic and agricultural treasures.

GTP: Until now, 2019 has been labeled as another good year for Greek tourism. How was the year for Grace Hotel Santorini? How are bookings proceeding for the 2020 season? What are your expectations?

George Vlachopoulos: Yet again, in 2019 tourism proved to be one of the country’s most powerful assets. This was reflected in our annual results, according to which a 3 percent increase was noted in the number of nights booked by our guests, in addition to a 5 percent rise in the average price. As for 2020, we are optimistic; bookings so far exceed those made during the same time period last year by 5 percent. Our goal for 2020 is to maintain this lead over the previous year, always preserving and enhancing the relations with our clientele of discerning guests and keeping up with the high quality of our services.

Grace Hotel Santorini

GTP: As a hospitality industry professional, what would be your best piece of advice for travelers?

George Vlachopoulos: What a great question to close the interview – thank you for asking, Nikos. Traveling is all about exploring new destinations, meeting new people, being in sync with different cultures etc., therefore it usually is synonymous with experimentation and adventure. In order to achieve this, one occasionally does have to step out of their comfort zone, yet they do not need to compromise, ending up with a feeling of discomfort or uncertainty. That’s why travelers need to choose a trustworthy hotel brand which will be their partner in this, making sure they receive ample support throughout their stay, providing them with differentiated and personalized experiences of exquisite quality while keeping them attuned to their environs – exactly what Auberge Resorts Collection offers at each property globally.

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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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