KAVANA Hotels & Resorts makes a significant dent in the hotel development pipeline in Greece with its collection of unique hotels, resorts and villas which are all designed and curated by owners Kalia Konstantinidou and her husband, and business partner, Antonis Eliopoulos. For the couple, it’s about creating beautiful spaces as well as memorable experiences, while also introducing guests to their beloved Cycladic way of life.
The brand’s vision of hospitality first appeared on the whitewashed island of Santorini, where Eliopoulos transformed a rustic vineyard from his family estate into the island’s first five-star hotel in 1993, which is now the famous Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort.
Since then, the couple’s combined passion for hospitality has motivated them in 2007 to expand to the north of the island, with the opening of Mystique, a boutique gem carved out of the rugged cliffs of the Caldera. Taking a different approach in 2018, the decision was made to transform an abandoned mansion of a legendary socialite on the famous black sand beach of Perivolos into peaceful Istoria, a member of Design Hotels that offers a unique residential accommodation experience.
After leaving its mark in Santorini, KANAVA Hotels & Resorts jumped from island to island in Paros, where it opened the brand’s fourth hotel, Parīlio, member of Design Hotels, which is an exceptional hotel, designed as a gateway to the real Cyclades. The following year, the group presented Acron Villas, a unique collection of 24 villas, all with a minimal Cycladic aesthetic.
The visionary brand quickly established its position on the island and launched its third property in Paros in 2022, Cosme Hotel, a project designed to celebrate the authentic Mediterranean village. The hotel’s objective is to “transport its guests back in time”, and to fill them with a feeling of serenity.
Before that – and in an effort to establish where the next hotspot for hotel development in Greece is – I met Konstantinidou for a cafe in London’s West End. I wanted to get a feel for both the brand in general, as well as more specific plans for the new project on Paros – and was told no questions were out of reach!
Pauline Brettell: You opened in Santorini in 1993 with Vedema, which was the island’s first five-star hotel. Has the vision changed over the years – is luxury in 1993 the same as luxury in 2023?
Kalia Konstantinidou: Luxury has changed completely over the past three decades, in that in the 1990s it was based purely on material goods and offerings, while in 2020, especially in the post-Covid era, the meaning of “high end” or “” Jet set travel is not defined by gear and lifestyle, but rather by experience and intellect.
The world has changed tremendously and as such our vision has become intertwined with the creation of unique hotels that define a destination, with the need to connect, engage with communities, be caring and to travel for a purpose. And as travel reminds us of all the things we share, including our humanity and our planet, the new luxury we embrace is also linked to sustainable travel and a more conscious approach to travel: less trips, longer trips, more meaningful trips. . While the planet has been incredibly resilient for billions of years, it’s strange how vulnerable we are on this earth which has a rapidly growing population and is so interconnected.
PB: How does KANAVA Hotels & Resorts stand out?
KK: The most important thing that makes KANAVA Hotels & Resorts unique is that we examine the essence of things. We strive to create a better world for tourism, a world that listens to its communities better than any other industry in the world. We create projects with the essence of being sustainable, sincere and useful places for us and travelers around the world, and we insist on raising awareness for a better kind of travel!
PB: Your choice of location seems quite personal, what made you decide to move from Santorini to Paros?
KK: Santorini is our first and everlasting love. It will always have a special place in our hearts because it is the island where our journey began and developed our passion for hospitality.
Having created three unique properties in Santorini, each with their own distinctiveness, but linked to the common elements that always inspire us, we felt that we have managed to leave our mark on the island’s hotel scene, showcasing all the angles of it, it seemed natural to us to seek a new challenge for our fourth property, and we found it almost instinctively in Paros. In 2019 we launched Parīlio, while in 2020 we introduced Acron Villas, a unique collection of twenty-four villas.
Wishing to establish our position on the island, we will be launching in May 2022, Cosme, a project which we hope will further improve the luxury hotel scene of the island, located on the Naoussa seafront.
PB: Of all the islands in all of Greece, why were you drawn to Paros?
KK: Paros is the island where we spent our teenage vacations, but also later as a couple, and over time, as a family. It is a relatively unexplored island with irresistible potential, exquisite natural beauty, rich culture and gastronomy. Younger guests seek a laid-back vacation among its pristine sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife. Surfers come for its inviting waves, while families take advantage of its many sheltered bays. Visitors love the quaint villages and alleys lined with bougainvillea. And nature lovers come to discover the fauna and the amazing geological formations of the island.
PB: And after choosing Paros, what are you looking specifically for in a new hotel location?
KK: After choosing Paros, we were initially looking for a place that would feel welcoming and have positive energy for us, so that we could multiply that energy through the filter of the place and make it a magnet that would attract travelers from all over the world. world, in a mostly unknown place, which makes them want to explore and immerse themselves in it.
PB: The Acron Villas in particular seem to fit into the landscape – is there a theme emerging?
KK: For Acron Villas, we were looking to soak up the rugged landscape that surrounds the project and which is heavily dominated by the Mycenaean Acropolis which is right next door. We used a lot of local stone from the cliff and followed a typical Parian architecture characterized by the traditional classical elements of Cycladic architecture, such as the austere landscape, the weather conditions (mainly winds) and the need for protection from the elements. invaders-conquerors in ancient times.
All of Paros’ projects feature some aspect of local design, from sunlight to traditional village dwellings, to simpler monastic spaces or to the rough hewn boulders of the surrounding cliffs.
PB: How will this new project, Cosme Hotel, differentiate itself from other properties in Paros?
KK: The new project, also coming in the post-pandemic era, is a “celebration of life”, a unique hotel design that is a mixture of experiences and rituals from all around the Mediterranean, anchored in Paros and inviting travelers to appreciate the gifts of life, in a Greek summer setting that makes you feel carefree, happy and full of positive energy.
Situated on a sublime waterfront, the hotel’s private beach club overlooks the translucent Aegean Sea and, in line with KAVANA Hotels & Resorts’ commitment to provide our guests with holistic wellness and mindful experiences, it will have a unique outdoor wellness and fitness center, including a stargazing area. It is a project that is primarily anthropocentric and aims for a holistic sense of well-being that comes from happiness and a conscious connection with people and also with place.
PB: Sustainability is mentioned as part of your vision. How do you translate this in KAVANA Hotels & Resorts at all levels – and has the work in Paros raised any particular issues with regards to sustainability issues in the local environment and community?
KK: Sustainability has always been integrated as a fundamental value in the growth and development of our company. We believe that the only way for our business to grow is to use sustainable practices, to ensure not only that the environmental impact of our hotels is minimized, but also that we contribute to the community by supporting organizations and organizations. charities focused on sustainable development. As a result, we have planned and implemented a dedicated Environmental Management Plan (EMP) that prioritizes ecological self-efficacy in all of our operations. We believe this plan, along with our company’s commitment to protecting the environment and contributing to the well-being of society, is our fundamental duty in our quest for success. We were delighted to find that in Paros sustainability was at a more advanced stage than in Santorini and have already started working with local and international organizations that support the local environment and community, and we are partners of several initiatives, in particular the use of water and energy. .
PB: And finally, for visitors to Paros, what’s the must-see that you would recommend seeing / experiencing?
KK: A tough question, as Paros is a conclave of unique experiences that all seek to elevate the local experience, but if I have to simplify one, then it would be walking the streets of Naoussa just after sunset and heading towards one of the romantic restaurants in the small port, tasting of authentic Greek dishes that celebrate the Greek summer. It is an experience that certainly makes you feel good!
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Main image credit: KAVANA Hotels & Resorts