SILC Chat with Kostis Karatzas
During the first weeks of operations at The Alex, my brother sent me a link themodernist.gr with a message “check this out it’s an ideal partner hotel for The Alex”. He was right, the feeling I got when I visited the website was from a hotel that I would love to stay in. My kind of style and my kind of vibe of hotel. Fast forward to the first week of December where I met Kostis Karatzas the founder of The Modernist and partner at Ergon House at ΝΕΣΤ the rooftop of The Alex for a chat and I realized that my brother has introduced me to one of the future major hospitality industry influencer and trendsetters.
We started our chat by the obvious, The Modernist, the project that I was fascinated with, starting with the design. When you visit the hotel website the first thing you notice is the minimal but modern design that gives a fresh vibe to the property. As Kostis told me, every room has a custom-made design from the architectural plants to the furniture and their website describes it perfectly as ‘the devil is in the details. What is interesting about this project is that it was made from a non-hotelier, sure they were some operational issues in the beginning but every new hotel goes through this process. This is how hospitality gets evolved, by users becoming the producers by adding their idea of hospitality into the mix.
Since the focus of this discussion is how SILC mentality could be part of the future of hospitality, my first question for The Modernist was how they managed to bring the local community into the hotel. The answer was easy; by collaborating with local producers from the amenities to welcoming products. This gave The Modernist a gateway to the local community because as Kostis says this made every collaborator an ambassador to the hotel and they have already seen results from the business being brought by these partners.
Back in 2015 when I was visiting Thessaloniki for a project I did my research on the availability of Airbnb's in the area and what I saw were low prices and an increase in numbers of Airbnb listings. Hotels like The Modernist can be part of an anti-Airbnb movement, especially for the upscale market. Price is the number 1 reason travelers book an Airbnb but the connection with the locals comes second.
This led our discussion to Destination Management. A topic that has recently been very popular in Tourism conferences and forums. Kostis idea of destination management is a more city/destination approach rather than a one size fit all nationwide campaign. Its an interesting approach as the city destination in Greece has been focused on Athens and the other cities especially Thessaloniki need a separate branding to approach a different niche traveler. Each destination is unique but still within the national generic agenda.
The next subject could not have been about the Ergon House. It is interesting to see how a Food & Beverage company adds the accommodation side of hospitality into the business and how the earnings to flip. When asked if the percentage of revenue is tilted towards the F&B, Kostis said that just 30% of the revenue comes from the accommodation. This is astonishing as we see a complete reverse in numbers. Like any other F&B project, the Ergon House has to change and adapt in order to stay relevant and fresh, much faster than any hotel. It’ s restaurant nature is creating the need to innovate faster.
For the Ergon team, this project was challenging to complete as the expectation of the brand had to be implemented into the accommodation. However, if you have a clean brand such as Ergon, you can easily guess the expected look and feel within the rooms and services.
The goal of the SILC chat series is to meet with hospitality professionals that I believe will be major stakeholders in the future of the Greek hospitality scene and Kostis is definitely one of them. His next plans include an addition to The Modernist brand in Athens opening the Summer of 2020 and expanding the Ergon unique projects. I am looking forward to both as they all add the mix of quality hospitality with a purpose.