Poseidonion Grand Hotel has been a true landmark for over a century in the island of Spetses, in Greece, known as the “jewel of Spetses”. It is the brainchild of Sotirios Anargyros, benefactor of the island, and it dates from 1914 with its architectural style being influenced by the style of the Côte d’Azur hotels such as the Negresco and Carlton in the French Riviera. With its distinctive architectural details and its aristocratic aura, Poseidonion was one of the first luxury hotels in the country that has served as a cosmopolitan pole which has welcomed over the years the top business, academic and diplomatic elit. Today, 8 years after its successful rebirth, the hotel remains an imposing edifice which awes every guest with its breathtaking location and its exquisite hospitality services.
Of course, as with all important and exceptionally beautiful and elegant things in life, there is a female maestro behind this success story and masterpiece. A very talented, strong, intelligent, stubborn and beautiful woman with a unique sense of humour, a contagious laugh and the notion that nothing is impossible. Yes, Maria Strati is nothing less than a wonder woman. Which is absolutely needed to achieve everything she has in the last three years.
When we first met, I was intimated by her aura, her way of entering the room, of discussing new ideas. We spent together hours and hours of shooting, talking, laughing – spread among endless dinners, lunches, cocktails and coffee breaks. And very very soon, I knew: she is the woman to look up to for inspiration when the going gets tough, and you need an almost fictional weapon to overcome every obstacle, and create magic.
What makes Poseidonion unique in every sense?
Poseidonion is all about uniqueness. Its architecture, its history, its tradition, its people. You cannot name only one thing that makes it unique. You just have to visit it in order to sense the imposing ambience of the 103 year old building, the great history behind it, the elegance in every detail, the feeling of being at home and treated accordingly, the warm philoxenia of its people, the authentic tastes of its creative Greek gastronomy, the breathtaking backdrop of Spetses island. No one should leave the hotel without experiencing the bliss and wellness of its spa and beauty services, the art exhibitions, the variety of different activities on the island, the amazing and impressive events such as the Armata, Spetses Classic Regatta, Spetses Mini Marathon, Spetses Classic Car Race, the Tweed Run and Spetsathlon. In other words, Poseidonion is a world of its own.
It is challenging to take over the hotel management position of such a historic hotel. If so, why?
The challenges are numerous if you consider that we are talking about a living legend of hospitality for the past 103 years. The expectations are very high, not only in terms of operational procedures for the hosting of the guests, but also because of the fact that Poseidonion holds a huge institutional role in Spetses’ society. It is at the heart of all the great happenings on the island, being at the centre of initiatives and also actively supporting all the events. Moreover, its verandah is a major meeting point, not only for the hotel’s guests, but also for the local community.
What is new in Poseidonion for this season?
One of the most typical things about Poseidonion is that it never stops evolving and being at the heart of new activations. In this context, this season we undertook the management of the island’s open air cinema ‘Titania’, a beloved spot on Spetses for the past 65 years. The venue has been refurbished, keeping at the same time the charming feeling of the past. Visitors will have the opportunity to watch their favorite movies under the stars and taste delicious snacks and cocktails. Other novelties include our new collaboration with Holmes Place, the top brand name in fitness. Our guests can enjoy a selection of group and personal training programs at the hotel’s gym by the experts of Holmes Place.
This season, we are also thrilled for our cooperation with Volvo, one of the leading automotive companies, which is in perfect harmony with our values of high aesthetics and top notch, personalized service.
In addition, we introduced catering services for all occasions, from weddings and vow renewals to anniversaries, private parties and corporate events, which take place either at the Hotel or at alternative sites in Spetses. Our Bostani Farm-to-table restaurant, now in its second year of operation, is a fully equipped restaurant for a unique dining experience in nature.
Among our successful cooperation’s which also continue this year is that with Artion Galleries, where our guests have the chance to see and acquire amazing artworks from contemporary artists. In addition, we have with us for the second year in a row the team of The Gin Joint, one of the best cocktail bars in Athens, who have compiled the hotel’s drinks and cocktails list. Last but not least, our guests can experience the exceptional standards and luxurious treatments provided by the ‘Asian Spa Resorts’ which remains all these years a trusted partner, as well as Poseidonia Hairworks, which continues to offer distinctive hair styles employing the latest techniques. A delightful selection of jewelry, clothes and summer accessories is also available for another year at our ‘Mageia Boutique’, by the renowned designer Ileana Makri.
Name the trickiest / toughest choice you have had to make
As I mentioned above, the building of a strong team is of immense importance to me. So, one of the trickiest parts was to enhance the existing team with new people and make them work all together, with team spirit and under a common philosophy.
Is Poseidonion a destination in itself? Why?
It is indisputable that it is and the reasons obviously lie in its unique characteristics. From the moment someone arrives in Spetses, they instantly become breathlessly enthralled by the sight of this grandiose building that enchants every guest. This is just the first feeling which will unfold into an unparalleled experience that encloses history, philoxenia, culture, tradition and at the same time gastronomy, wellness, and personalized service, all perfectly aligned.
In your opinion, what will guests rave about to their friends and family after their stay?
One of the main feelings that Poseidonion creates in its guests is the feeling of being at home. This is the reason why they return, in order to experience this feeling again and again. Home means warm hospitality, top quality food, blissful moments, and relaxing ambience. I am 100% sure that Poseidonion’s guests carry back with them all these elements of their stay.
Favorite drink / meal / dinner / dessert / arrangements?
I have two favorite drinks, the Easy Green juice with cucumber and pear from our Organic Juice Bar and the Jakes Leg that has been awarded one of the 101 best cocktails in the world, that is served at ‘Palms’ cocktail bar. I can’t resist the fish degustation experience at the “On the Verandah” restaurant. Working together with the chef Stamatis Marmarinos for the past 5 years, every season the degustation menu is a true surprise. From this season’s menu I like ‘A walk in the farm’, a very impressive salad with vegetables from our organic farm, Τhe ‘Athenian’ in Spetses, a plate that is identified with the traditional family Sundays of the past and ‘The Crispy Spetsiota’, a traditional recipe from Spetses recreated by our chef. As far as desserts are concerned, one is more delicious than the other, with Mille–Feuille being my favorite!
What is the atmosphere of your hotel? What types of guests does it attract?
The atmosphere of Poseidonion is all about elegance and style, an understated luxury which enchants its guests with the charm of a bygone era, an ambience perfectly aligned with our times. Poseidonion’ s guests are people who love uniqueness and attention to detail, seeking a different experience of absolute class and elegance but warm and familiar at the same time.
Describe an episode in your work history involving an unhappy customer / awkward situation. What did you learn in the aftermath?
You can never avoid unhappy guests and awkward situations and I admit that there have been numerous so far. The important thing is to turn an unhappy guest into a happy one! That is my everyday challenge. I strongly believe that the problem is not as important as the way you deal with it. As a result, anything can go wrong with guests, the most important thing is the way one will turn this around, satisfy them, make them realize how much you sympathize and care and find a solution to their problem. There is no guest in my career until now that has not appreciated this genuine and caring attitude.
If you had to choose between cutting a corner to meet a deadline and missing a deadline in order to attend to a detail, which would you choose?
As a genuine perfectionist, I would both attend to the detail and try to extend the deadline.
What are your biggest strengths, would you say?
Do everything with passion, have a vision, work hard, encourage teamwork and always be a fair player…
Your greatest weakness?
I am totally impatient! I want everything done now, not a second to delay.
Explain hospitality in terms of the hotel industry. What constitutes hospitality?
Hospitality refers to the relationship between a guest and a host. To my belief, the main aspect that constitutes a good host is to make the guest feel so comfortable like being at home. Warm and genuine hospitality in our days is about personalized and proactive service, the service that would make the guest feel pampered and taken care of with the utmost attention to their personal needs and wants.
What is your work philosophy? – The rules you play by…
My philosophy lies in team work. Good managers are not judged only according to their personal success but also by the level of their team’s success. The strongest the team players the better the manager performs and can take care of the details that make all the difference, especially in a boutique hotel. Recruiting is crucial, but training is even more important. Within my philosophy and when I am looking for new people to work with, I look for professionals who have a vision, who share my ideas about what hospitality is all about, who want to be part of a team that will constantly evolve in order to offer exclusive and personalized service that will exceed the guests’ expectations.
Name the most important thing you learned after so many years of working as a hotel manager (for the absolute best hotels)
Working in the world of hospitality is amazing, however it is very demanding and managers must find their own strengths to bring the balance and success in their careers. I believe that patience and consistency are of immense importance in this job.
What makes a hotel unique and allows it to be a destination within itself
It is all about the details and the people behind. There a lot of beautiful hotels around the globe, but the hotels that stand out are the ones with attention to detail and personalized service.It is the people who make that come true, who bring it to the surface and who make the difference in the end.
When the season comes to an end, do you shut down or prefer an aftermath and directly start organizing the next season?
First priority is to organize the sales schedule of the winter, travel fairs etc. Then, in between that, a short holiday break is what Ι need to recharge my batteries. In return, I start to organize the season to come. Building the base of my team for the next season, taking care of the hotel maintenance, planning the events of the hotel for the season to come, are just a small taste of my winter’s season components.
You travel extremely often throughout the globe. Name the absolute lifesaving content of your luggage.
International adaptor. I cannot imagine myself not being able to charge or use my electronic devices, especially during a trip.
Favorite destination? Hotel?
Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas, India, an Oberoi Hotel.
Favorite destination for your own shutdown / vacations?
Ios Palace Hotel on Ios Island, Greece. It is my paradise on earth, my personal hideaway.
How do you manage to be everywhere, taking care of practically everything, at all times, and still look fresh and rested, not stressed at all?
There is no secret other than a balanced diet, good sleep, exercise on a regular basis and a relaxing massage from time to time!
You come from a family with a history of hotel management, from an island too. What were the most important lessons your parents taught you?
The first thing that they passed on to me is that hospitality comes and should come naturally! If not, then you’re not born for it and you will never do it in the right way! In our hotel, we treated our guests exactly as if they were visiting our home, not a business! My father had the vision and my mother was the perfect host. The most important thing I was taught is that results are earned with hard work and, as time goes by, I realize how right they were. So, if I could compose a personal motto out of these lessons it would be: “Host like at home, work hard and be on top of everything!”
Name the job / project (previous) that made you prouder and happier than ever.
I am very proud of all of my professional steps up to now. From the Cavalieri Hilton Rome, which I consider to have been an amazing school in my career, to the legendary King George Palace and Eze Hermitage in Southern France. I also adored developing a project for Luxury Hotel Partners in the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and Middle East, as I love travelling. Being the Hotel Manager of Aqua Blu Boutique Hotel & Spa on Kos Island gave me a lot of important experience and knowledge. I undertook the management of the hotel on its opening and turned it into a successful business within the first 2 seasons of operation. It was a truly challenging and rewarding experience.
When do you consider a job done?
A job is never done since there is always room for improvement. I sense that my personal part is completed when I have given everything I could and build up important results. Of course, this cannot be achieved in one season. It needs at least 3 to 4 years to yield fruitful results.
What is impossible for you?
Nothing is impossible for me!
Where do you see yourself ideally in the next, say, 20 years?
Professionally speaking, I see myself having contributed to the tourism industry as much as possible. In my personal life, I imagine, living happily ever after!