Civitel Aiming for its Corporate Hotels to Stand Out as Best in Athens – Interview with Dimitra Koumpouni, GM
Creating a strong team to take the Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Esprit – all members of Civitel Hotels & Resorts group – to the next level is the aim of hospitality professional, Dimitra Koumpouni.
Having taken over the position of general manager of the group’s properties in Athens last year, Dimitra says her main mission is for the three hotels to stand out as the “three best corporate hotels in the Greek capital”.
With first-class services and situated in an ideal location – the modern business suburb of Maroussi – the three hotels specialize in the MICE industry as venues for the organization of successful meetings and events.
“Currently, we are trying to leave the pandemic behind, following the current situation and recovering in the best possible way… We are preparing for our big goal: to level up, while being secure and well prepared,” she tells GTP Headlines.
In this interview with Dimitra, GTP Headlines had the chance to discuss Civitel’s focus on maintaining a high customer satisfaction level and find out news regarding the group’s three hotels in Athens, which include the refurbishment of the deluxe rooms at the Civitel Attik.
Moreover, Dimitra touches on the recovery of MICE tourism, informs on bookings for the 2023 season and talks about the hotels’ sustainability practices.
“Sustainability is very crucial to us… We are committed to protect the environment and for that reason we have undertaken several environmentally friendly initiatives in all our hotels,” she says.
With regards to this year’s bookings, she highlights: “The signs are that we are going to have an excellent year, which will consistently maintain high occupancy in all our hotels”.
- GTP: Dimitra, what made you pursue a career in the hospitality industry? Please share some career highlights with our readers.
Dimitra Koumpouni: I knew I wanted to work in the hotel industry as long as I can remember myself! I kept visiting my aunt in the hotels she was working, fascinated by the “circus magic’ they have. I was always amazed by the contrast between what guests see and the effort it takes to have that outcome.
I would say that one of my career highlights is being part of a team at Äva Hotel, when we managed to keep it number 1 among Athenian Hotels on TripAdvisor for 7 years. The effort we all provided to work as a team and to maintain that, was a very educational experience. Having that on my mind, I was able to create a strong Front Desk team at Civitel Hotels in Athens when I started working as a Front Office Manager, and afterwards a housekeeping and maintenance team when I was promoted to Rooms Division Manager. However, I believe that given the opportunity to be the General Manager at Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Esprit I will be able to add more career highlights within the following years.
- GTP: Please tell us about your role at Civitel and what your key responsibilities are. What vision have you brought to your new role?
Dimitra Koumpouni: As the General Manager of Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Esprit hotels in Athens, I oversee the efficient and profitable operation of our hotels, making sure all hotel departments run smoothly to guarantee that guests enjoy an outstanding experience. At the same time, I am responsible for all hotels’ services, such as guest relations, front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, revenue management, expense management, team building and employee development. My vision is to create a strong team that will be able to take the hotels to the next level and to maintain a steady and successful route for Civitel Hotels in Athens. Currently, we are trying to leave the pandemic behind, following the current situation and recovering in the best possible way. In the meantime, we are preparing for our big goal, which as said earlier is to level up, while being secure and well prepared.
- GTP: Civitel Hotels & Resorts represents a collection of individually-designed, distinctive hotels in Athens and on the island of Crete. Regarding the brand’s city hotels in Athens – the Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Esprit- what are their main features and how do they differ from other accommodation options in the Greek capital? What are the hotels’ unique selling points?
Dimitra Koumpouni: Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Esprit offer a personalized experience and – taking advantage of our location – a quiet and business friendly accommodation.
One of our advantages that differentiates us and makes us stand out is the size of our 143 total rooms, that are larger than the average rooms in other hotels in Athens. In the meantime, being close to the Olympic stadium and the most prestigious shopping centers of Athens, we combine the “business and pleasure” package. We are also committed to a Green Policy, both in the facilities and services we offer and in our general behavior as well. What makes us unique is that we can combine hospitality and professionalism in order to provide a pleasant and high-quality accommodation.
- GTP: I understand that the Civitel Attik recently underwent a renovation, adding new room types. Tell us about them.
Dimitra Koumpouni: Our recently refurbished deluxe rooms are our little gem (until the new renovation we are already planning). Modern and at the same time minimal rooms that make the accommodation experience a memorable one. Deluxe rooms offer tech facilities (USB plugs, wireless chargers, smart TVs, remotely controlled a/c and lighting, smart appliances etc.), brand new eco-friendly furniture and facilities with an elegant décor.
Every room has been designed to provide guests with luxury and comfort. Chic interiors with twin or double beds, high quality linens and en-suite marble bathrooms are combined with in-room amenities. For those who never miss their workout routine, we also offer a complimentary “Stay Fit Kit” with in-room fitness equipment. Each floor of our renovated wing has a different color, all based on Civitel Hotels & Resorts motto “Mainland mystique, island experience”.
- GTP: Civitel’s city hotels specialize in the MICE industry as venues for the organization of meetings and events. Following the hit that travel and tourism took by the Covid-19 pandemic, would you say that MICE, which was among the hardest hit sectors, is back in business as pandemic fears have waned? What is it looking like this year in terms of corporate meetings and events for Civitel?
Dimitra Koumpouni: The recovery from the pandemic began to take place around the end of 2022. We currently believe we will exceed previous years’ (pre-Covid-19) occupancy levels, both in room occupancy and meetings/events occupancy. During pandemic years, many companies started holding online, instead of face-to-face, meetings. The first months of 2023 have shown us that things have changed. People need to be together again, to act as a team and we are here to help them achieve that. With 12 meeting rooms in total, equipped with high-tech audiovisual facilities and a professional MICE team trained to guarantee high quality services, we are about to have our best year so far in terms of corporate meetings and events.
- GTP: While we’re on the topic of the pandemic, has the guest profile changed post-pandemic? What is the ratio of corporate versus leisure guests? Also, to what extent do you also attract locals (Greek travelers)?
Dimitra Koumpouni: During the pandemic, we saw that our guests’ profile remarkably changed. However, as mentioned before, the recovery has already started in the last six months. Being a mainly corporate oriented hotel, we have a small percentage of leisure guests. The leisure segment takes 19 percent of our total room revenue and the corporate one gets the 52 percent. The nationalities of our customers vary, depending on the purpose of the visit. Greeks are among European and other nationalities, equally distributed throughout the year.
- GTP: What strategy does Civitel follow for international promotion?
Dimitra Koumpouni: Together with a unique team of hospitality professionals, we are following a specific strategy in order to promote Civitel Hotels & Resorts internationally. We have also created a targeted plan to boost our digital presence. Also, a part of our main strategy includes the participation of Civitel Hotels & Resorts in major international exhibitions in order to promote our hotels and resorts and follow the global hospitality trends.
- GTP: What was the feedback following Civitel’s participation in WTM in London and ITB in Berlin – two of the most important exhibitions for Greek tourism enterprises?
Dimitra Koumpouni: Taking part in these exhibitions, both as a visitor and an exhibitor, can only have a positive impact. We had the opportunity to meet with potential clients, compare ourselves with other hotels and keep up with the current state in tourism industry. Especially in ITB Berlin, it was clear that the pandemic is over and that everybody is ready for the next period that seems promising. We understood that sustainability is becoming more and more essential, that new technologies are about to change the way hotels operate soon, and the most important, that Greece maintains its place between the top destinations globally. I am pleased to announce that we have already entered into new, fruitful collaborations from both exhibitions.
- GTP: 2022 was labeled as a good for Greek tourism considering that it neared 2019 levels in terms of revenue. How was the year for Civitel’s hotels in general? How are bookings proceeding for the 2023 season?
Dimitra Koumpouni: 2022 was the first year after the pandemic that the hope we can overcome the difficulties we were called to face in the hospitality industry, became a reality. Generally speaking, it was a good year for tourism. Now that the first trimester of 2023 is over, we are very optimistic and believe that 2023 will be the best year so far, in regards to occupancy levels. The signs are that we are going to have an excellent year, which will consistently maintain high occupancy in all our hotels.
- GTP: Sustainability has become increasingly important in the tourism sector. What practices does Civitel have in place to conserve the environment?
Dimitra Koumpouni: At Civitel Hotels & Resorts, sustainability is very crucial to us and it is great to see that other hotels are also following this vision. We are committed to protect the environment and for that reason we have undertaken several environmentally friendly initiatives in all our hotels and resort. We recycle and encourage our customers to do the same. Efforts have also been placed on controlling the use of water and electricity through energy management systems. Worth mentioning is that all our detergents are eco-friendly and our in-room amenities are from recycled materials and we try to minimize our food waste. We are also training our staff to keep up with our Green and sustainable philosophy. Noteworthy is that we are in the process of reducing our printαbles to almost 0, a new and difficult process for everyone but we are very happy that we almost achieved it.
- GTP: The hospitality industry worldwide is facing staffing challenges. Would Civitel like to share its approach on selecting and motivating talent?
Dimitra Koumpouni: We have also faced the same challenges, especially in 2022. What we are trying to do is to create a reliable and solid team. Our staff’s performance is taken into serious consideration. We provide educational opportunities and are here to listen and help them with everything they might need. I believe that when you give people the opportunity to speak and you listen carefully you can only come out victorious. Employees who know that their opinion is heard and are aware of equal opportunities to grow in their workplace, are more efficient, more productive and will remain loyal. Currently, most of our management team members, including myself, are people who started their career with us in non-managerial positions and we are very happy with their progress. To sum up, there are only 4 steps you need to follow in order not to face staffing challenges: train well, educate, listen and promote.
- GTP: What’s next for Civitel strategy-wise? Can you walk us through your future plans?
Dimitra Koumpouni: We are taking the next step. We are aiming higher, following our mission to satisfy our guests and provide pleasant and high-quality accommodation. We are setting up new marketing strategies and new partnerships. Last but not least, we always train our staff so to be able to follow and support our goals. Since 2023 is actually my first year as a General Manager at Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Esprit, I am facing this year as a preparation for 2024 to stand out as the 3 best corporate hotels in Athens.
* Civitel operates properties in Athens (Civitel Olympic, Civitel Attik and Civitel Espirit) and Crete (Civitel Akali & Civitel Creta Beach) that can be explored through the group’s website: Civitel Hotels & Resorts.