DPN: Thodori, you are the General Operations Manager in LUXURY VACATIONS GREECE (www.luxuryvacations.gr) for the last 5 years. Tell us some things about your company.
After the completion of a successful year 2007 in the sector of alternative maritime tourism, by representing worldwide 4 luxury yachts, LVG has decided to invest more in the field of luxury tourism by offering to the elite luxury traveler the opportunity to experience Greece, either in an exquisite villa or a personally selected five star hotel suite. Therefore LVG has activated a range of websites, that refer to luxury and elegance, such as www.luxuryvillasgreece.com , www.themykonosvillas.com, www.greece-concierge.com www.luxuryvacationsgreece.com in order to cover all provided luxury services in the Greek territory. These last five years LVG promises and guarantees first class quality and services. LVG is not a travel agency but a unique boutique concierge service in Greece covering all the special demands of VIP clientele. Our highly experienced and enthusiastic team works passionate to make any clients vacation dream a reality.
DPN: You do have a great hospitality background in your career up to now. May you describe us this career up to now?
A career in tourism in Greece sounds like an easy thing, when you keep in mind a picture of Greece with thousands of sandy beaches and paradise islands. Although Greece has a natural advantage and is “on default” a very attractive touristic destination, does not mean that having a career and succeed in the domestic touristic field is an easy thing. I am working the last 15 years in tourism and from the very first years I was forced to pass all sections in tourism, which is not only accommodation but a range of services that are being connected to create the result – “happy client /visitor”. I had to work as waiter or stock controller of a hotel in order to understand how the procedure is and to comprehend the true meaning of hospitality. Facing the client every day and fulfilling his requests, not because you are forced but because you love it, have helped me filter which sector of tourism is the right for me personally. Being an employee in tourism had many advantages and many perspectives in my career but my dream was to open my own company and try to increase the incoming tourism in Greece. Therefore I opened in 2007 LVG, which is a dedicated boutique concierge office operating till today, despite the structural difficulties and problems, everybody faces when he does business in Greece.
Languages are a “must “not only in tourism but in all sectors of economy. Handling with tourists all over the world indicates to the future tourism professionals the languages that they are obligated to know. English, French, German and Italian are the top languages needed. Here in Greece the last few years Russian and Chinese become very popular because of the increase of incoming tourism from China and Russia. However the thing that is the real “must” in tourism , and I mention it because I have seen it all this years from simple people that are not involved professionally in tourism , is the smile and the true desire to serve the visitors/clients.
DPN: If a young person would ask you if it would be a good idea to start his career in the hospitality industry what will be the first thing you will advise?
First thing is patience and second thing is the follow-up of events. Tourism has radically changed the last few years with the entry of internet and new technologies and anybody who wishes to get involved with the touristic sector has to follow-up all development in the society worldwide in order to create original touristic products. Anybody can understand that creating something original in tourism, needs time but mostly love and dedication
DPN: Greece is facing really difficult moments. Do you believe that a solid solution will come up for the country?The Greek crisis raises big questions and the biggest is:
Can Greece find a solution, or is it just forestalling disaster? As a professional in Tourism I strongly believe that Greece could give up the euro, but not for good. Instead, it could take a "Eurozone holiday," temporarily sloughing off the obligations of the single currency and returning when the time was right. Being in the Eurozone, Greece is unable to restore its economic competitiveness by devaluing its currency. In this scenario, Greece would return to the drachma at a new exchange rate: one euro would equal one drachma. It would then devalue by nearly a quarter and return to the Eurozone after a few years had passed at, say, 1.3 drachmas to the euro. Such a measure would certainly cut labor costs and boost exports and at the same time make the touristic product of Greece more competitive in comparison with Turkey ‘s for example. Facing the today’s political status and after Greece has announced it has succeeded in a debt restructuring deal with private sector lenders that this will help the country avoid default. This fact brings me to wonder again:Is this the solid solution?
DPN: more specifically how do you see the tourism industry in Greece at the moment, especially durin the timing of the financial crisis?
In my opinion luxury tourism will not be affected so much from negativism that comes due to economical issues. From times to times it is also not bad to have a crisis, because visitors might consider a luxury destination cheaper in terms of value for money. What needs to be upgraded in Greece is the ''product'' or ''service''. Take your time and define luxury your way, then bring yourself into the position of the customer-tourist or luxury consumer in general and finally try to seek it in your market. You will then notice that it is not Greece but the separate individuals (not all but in average) that do not offer or care about luxury. Also consider that ''luxury'' might be the very thing you can experience in one and only place and nowhere else... So in conclusion it is in our hands to make our products and services or even our place to look and be understandable as unique and then you will also notice that Greece is quite small and beautiful and could be a very busy luxury destination for 12 months /year.
DPN: From which countries are most of your clients?
Crisis has affected everybody but yes I could say that unique clients that love luxury products are not and this is why I am still running my business! Traditionally my clients come from the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the USA but the last few years Russian clients seem to have a real persistence in any service that is called VIP. Unfortunately Greece has left efforts in attracting the Arabian market and any individual efforts cannot come to success without a central strategic touristic plan from the Greek government.
DPN: Which are the places that are being mostly preferred from your clients? May you name the top 3 destinations that you do facilitate?
Greece is a vacation paradise and every spot especially during summer period has its unique characteristic. However when we are talking about 5 star luxury holidays, few places can cover all the needs of VIP clientele. Mostly they prefer Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes where we can find accommodation that refers to their standards but Greece has the advantage of the maritime tourism. My top clients prefer renting a yacht and create a unique vacation plan that covers places that are not popular or crowded – You cannot imagine how many secret sandy beaches the Greek islands have!
DPN: Thodori, “vacation used to be a luxury, however in today’s world, it has become a necessity”. Comment us that.
I never use the phrase necessity when I mention vacation. Vacation is something natural and this is why I will bring you a picture in mind: Blue sea -sandy beach – Two chairs- A table and a bunch of Greek mezze. This simple thing is vacation in Greece!
DPN: What’s your definition for “professionalism”?
Professionalism is love for what you are doing without trace of feasibility.
DPN: How is your standard day in the work?
Unfortunately in tourism you do not have a so called standard day in work. Especially in concierge services I feel that I am working 24/7 – ready for action!
DPN: Take us through one of your last projects.
As I told you before internet and new technologies is the future of tourism. I try to discover the needs of my clients and combine them with internet. Therefore my last project is handling with e-commerce and is the website www.luxuryvacationsgreece.com . This website aims in helping my clientele discover Greece through google map and allow them understand the unique characteristic of the Greek touristic product.
DPN: Share with us the most important phone call you have ever received.
It was when I received a positive answer of creating a boutique concierge office inside the most luxury resort in Athens -Starwood Astir Palace. It was a phone call that really recompensed all my efforts in my professional career in tourism.
DPN: How do you see the future for Thodoris Katsibras?
I love challenges and I love creating original things- Tourism is my passion and despite the difficulties I face as a professional in tourism here in Greece, if I could turn back time I would once again operate in the touristic sector . For the future I really want to expand my work in the Arabian or the Russian market and I am willing to relocate in order to understand & feel the passion the people of those territories share about vacation.
DPN: What title would you give in the story of your life up to now?
A romantic professional of Greek tourism!