Interview with Chloe Laskaridis, Chairperson, Lampsa Hellenic Hotels

Interview with Chloe Laskaridis, Chairperson, Lampsa Hellenic Hotels


Tourism hit a record year in Greece last year with a 17% increase in visitors, and close to 30 million incoming tourists in the first 10 months of the year. Lampsa Hellenic Hotels has benefited from the return of tourism, with half year revenues at the beginning of 2023 higher than the same period in 2019. To start, how would you evaluate the overall tourism performance of 2023 how has the luxury hotel segment coped with the pandemic, and the recent tourism rebound?

Greece is a post-Covid success story. I think during the pandemic our government did the right things that needed to be done so we were deemed a safe destination. When people began to travel post-Covid, our popularity as a destination surged. We have the sea and the sun, so we have the right components to make it a desirable destination, but it helped that we were also very safe and sensible during Covid.

In regard to the ultra-luxury segment, part of the reason we did better in 2023 than in 2019 is because, even though our occupancy level numbers were lower in 2023 than in 2019, we were able to raise our rates to what we believe is a reasonable level for a European capital city which wasn’t the case before. Athens was still quite a cheap destination compared to other European capitals. Post-Covid, we were able to raise our rates as people had a lot of disposable income from Covid, so they were happy to pay for a premium product, which is what we offer. Our service is fantastic. Our properties operate in the luxury segment so just like a lot of other luxury products whose sales boomed post pandemic there was less price sensitivity at the end of the pandemic period, which translated into better financial results. Additionally, Post Covid, people wanted more space and bigger rooms and we had a lot of demand for our suites, which translated into better numbers.

Additionally, Greeks have tried very hard to offer the best service that they can which is very important, despite the struggles of finding staff. During Covid many employees disappeared; yet despite that we can offer top notch service and I think the mentality in Greece is changing. Until recently we were very focused on the sun and sea model and felt like that was the only thing we had to offer. However, this is not the case. We have fantastic cultural offerings, like temples and historical sites, and the city of Athens is now a booming city offering a variety of events, happenings and experiences. I think that post-Covid, having a meaningful travel experience is now key for visitors and we are witnessing this throughout our properties.

For many, the quality of the room they stayed in was less important than how everything made them feel, the experience they had was paramount. I think Greece was successful in that. We are a 12-month hotel, operating the whole year round, which is not the case with the resorts on the islands. We are now seeing a shift to a longer operating season, thanks to both better flight connectivity during the winter months and to interesting events happening throughout the city during these months.

We are not like London or Paris with a 12-month season, but we are seeing that in April we are beginning to fill up and have a good base of foreign tourists up until November. Obviously, it helps that we have milder winters. We just need to fix a few things in the infrastructure that this Government seems to be interested in doing.


While global tourism is booming again, challenges in the sector are huge, from over-tourism, staff shortage, inflationary pressures, and so on. In July the Ministry of Tourism outlined a new tourism strategy for Greece focused on sustainable tourism and diversification. What are in your opinion the biggest challenges that Greece tourism sector faces now, and what needs to be done to address these challenges?

Infrastructure is the biggest challenge. Not so much in Athens, but in the islands. You have islands that just can’t handle the pressure: they lack water, or the water is dirty, or there are pools of stagnant water. Everyone is aware of these things, but we haven´t yet dealt with them.

Sustainability is another challenge. It’s a buzz word. For ultra-luxury properties like ours, very well placed financially, it is easy to do what needs to be done. We are operated by Marriott, and they have very strict guidelines and procedures regarding sustainability. It is much harder for smaller family properties, and we have many of those in Greece. I think people need to learn more about how they can take small steps in their properties, and that is something that we all need to work on. The reason the ultra-luxury market rebounded so quickly is that we have less price resistance, there is inflation but less sensitivity.


Lampsa Hellenic Hotel currently comprises three landmark properties in Athens, and two in Belgrade. In addition, the group is currently planning a 15-to-20-million-euro revamp of the Elatos winter resort.

We operate three hotels in the city center: the Hotel Grande Bretagne, the King George Hotel and the Athens Capital MGallery. The Grande Bretagne is the jewel in our crown, but we are equally proud of our other two properties, especially the Athens Capital, which is one of our newest properties and a completely different product to our first two Athenian hotels. In our Elatos winter resort, we are focusing on wellness. This is going to be a mountain resort, but it is only 2 hours from Athens. It is easy to get to and only 30 minutes from Delphi. It is a fantastic, beautiful property in the middle of the forest. The plans are to completely refurbish it and turn it into a top-notch wellness facility to compete with some of the Swiss and German ones, but it is still very early days.


Can you give our readers an overview of the company’s current assets and responsibilities? How does Lampsa Hellenic Hotels position on the Greek hospitality sector, and what does it stand for?

Lampsa Hellenic Hotels, as the oldest hospitality and tourism organization in Greece, holds a unique and distinguished position in the Greek hospitality sector. Given its rich history and vision for the future, Lampsa stands for excellence in hospitality. Through the exceptional skills and outstanding achievements of our workforce we aim to actively promote and embody the essence of Greek hospitality.

The jewel in our crown is obviously the Grande Bretagne. We used to own a resort property in Rhodes, but we sold that a couple of years ago and decided to focus on ultra-luxury city hotels. Elatos deviates from that, but that is mostly going to be a winter resort for the guests of our Grande Bretagne, to provide them with an alternative. We focus on ultra-luxury properties, and we like to be in the city center because that is what we know best. We like to work with operators, such as Marriott, Accor, and Hyatt. We are one of the few families who started off by working with operators in Greece. 20 years ago, when we first got into hospitality, it was not the norm to have brands in this country. We are happy that this has changed because obviously the operators give you brand standards and strategies with which to operate your property, which is a positive, constructive thing. This is what we focus on. We are not interested in expansion given that we own the best hotel in Greece right now. We are just focusing on improving the properties that we have. If a similar standard of hotel close to the center were to pop up, perhaps we would investigate that but otherwise, we are happy to focus on improving what we have.


To what extent has the return of MICE visitors helped to bolster Lampsa Hellenic Hotel’s recent rise in revenues, and how is the company positioning itself to take advantage of this segment?

As luxury properties, MICE is not so important to us. We do not have a big capacity, though we do have several meeting spaces, so we can hold some conferences for our shoulder months but, for us rate is more important than volume.

We do believe that Athens is lacking a large convention center. We are 100% for something like that and think it would bring a lot more business into the city, especially during the quiet months. We would be big supporters of such a project, but for our hotels, we go for smaller, more select groups. Obviously, a lot of the MICE groups are more price sensitive, which is fine.


When it comes to marketing your rooms and products, what efforts are you doing to compete with others on the market and to brand your venues.?

Firstly, we are with Marriott, so thanks to their Marriott Bonvoy which right now is one of the top 3 loyalty programs in the world, we are in a very lucky position. As owners, we do not do a lot of marketing. We own the properties and oversee them but Marriott and the team at the hotel put in a lot of effort. We have many contacts in the US, and we do a lot of trips to the US. The US is our #1 feeder market in all three properties right now, even the Athens Capital Hotel which is run by Accor. This year the Grande Bretagne is celebrating its 150th anniversary, so we have been doing some special events to make that a little more public. We have some special campaigns in the US as well.

Reaching 150 years of uninterrupted service is a remarkable feat for any organization and all of us, along with our associates feel proud to be guardians and continuers of a unique heritage.

Under the tagline “Always Grand” we have planned a special programme which will be enhanced with bespoke activations during the year, highlighting significant points in our hotel’s history and reminding us of all the elements which make the Hotel Grande Bretagne a true landmark for Athens. Our desire through our anniversary campaign is to invite guests to enjoy unforgettable experiences of haute aesthetics, opulence and unmatched hospitality. Our guests will have the opportunity to experience interactive activations, thematic tours, exhibitions, watch the upcoming hotel’s history documentary, explore the new Grand Collection of collectible items in collaboration with top-tier brands; Zeus n Dione, Mary Katrantzou, Ilias Lalaounis, amongst others. Guests will also savor nostalgic dining experiences and other activities that embrace every chapter of Hotel Grande Bretagne’s trajectory.


The US is a primary investment and cooperation partner for Greece, it’s also a major source market for tourism. It is expected that at the beginning of this year that Greece would welcome more than 1 million travelers from the USA in 2024. What are you doing to cater to the needs of American visitors? How are you working to enhance their experiences in Greece? 

More flights have been added which has really helped. We know what our American guests like because they have been our top market for many years. Americans like to be taken care of and they like larger rooms, and they like good service, all of which we specialize in providing. They like their rooms very cold, so we lower the temperature of the air conditioning. We have been catering to our American clientele for 20 years now, so I think there is a certain synchronicity now. They love the opulence and the heavy furnishing of the Grande Bretagne.

In Greece in general, there are a lot of cruises now filled with Americans, so we get a lot of pre and post cruise business. It makes it easy for them to fly in and then go to their cruise ship. I am sure Greece could be doing more for all tourists in general in terms of infrastructure and ease of getting around, but it is all a work in progress. I am sure there are many things that we as a city and a country could be doing, but I do think we have done quite well so far because they seem to keep coming back, which we are very happy to see


There is a big push towards sustainability. Additionally, ecotourism is becoming a critical market for tourism sectors worldwide. What new eco-friendly initiatives has Lampsa Hellenic Hotels undertaken, both in its hotels and in its internal operations?

We have started doing a lot as a company. We just completed our first ESG report which was quite positive. We are restrained a little bit, especially in the Grande Bretagne because it is a listed building, so it can be complicated to do some things. In the Athens Capital, our newest property that is just off the square that opened 3 years, we have been able to do everything right because it was a completely gutted renovation, and the biggest problem is our carbon footprint and energy. However, there, since it is a brand-new building, we have been able to do fantastically. We received a Green Tourism award, and we are working towards being completely carbon neutral in that building within the next couple of years. With the Grande Bretagne it is slightly harder as it always is with older buildings. It is not like we can put solar panels on the roof. But we have done little things like eliminating single use plastics. We are quite aware of our water and energy consumption. They are constantly monitored. We have switched to a green energy supplier.

There is a fine line between providing ultra-luxury service and being ecofriendly. We are doing our best to be as environmentally friendly as possible while still maintain top services. It is very important to us because our family foundation is geared towards the environment. Apart from substantial environmental initiatives, we also have a project called the Typhoon Project, which is named after a Special Purpose Vessel named Typhoon, which over the past 3 years has cleaned every single non-accessible beach in Greece. This is quite a feat considering our huge coastline. Our environment is important to us, and we do try to implement environmentally friendly practices as much as possible in our hotels and in our business. Yet it is still a business, so we try to maintain a balance. We source our food locally and do all these things, but we still need to provide guests with 5 Star service.


The issue of talent is not only affecting Greece, but everywhere. What are you doing to train, upskill, and retain your staff?

I must say that we are some of the lucky ones. We are based in Athens, which makes finding and retaining staff easier, as we don’t have to consider issues like providing accommodation for our staff. We struggled a bit when we first reopened properly in 2022, when there were no more Covid measures. It seemed like a lot of people had left the sector. We have a fantastic training program courtesy of Marriott. As a family we care very much about our employees, but it helps that Marriott does an excellent job with recruiting and training. They are really attached to the hotel almost as much as we are. What we have try to do is every good financial year, as a thank you, the family gives a one-off bonus to every single employee. For the past two years now, starting from rank and file, all the way up to managers, we gave each employee €1,000.

Additionally, since business levels have returned, we have implemented the practice of keeping employees on throughout the year. Usually in Greece as business is very seasonal you hire employees for the summer months when business levels are high and then they find employment elsewhere for the winter months. We have established the strategy of keeping our staff year-round to ensure that we have adequate staffing levels during the busy periods and can provide seamless service without struggling when our hotels are running at 100% occupancy. It is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be in a healthy financial position to do something like this and of course be a 12-month operation which is not the case with a lot of seasonal hotels in Greece. However, we have been lucky enough to be able to do that, which means that we have not struggled as much with staffing.


You have successfully led Lamps Hellenic Hotels through the COVID-19 pandemic to a return to high revenues and expansion. In a past interview, you mentioned that the largest challenge to the local tourism sector is a lack of investment in infrastructure. How would you summarize your long-term vision for the group and for the Greek hospitality industry as well?

We are very positive about tourism in Greece. I think luck comes into it a little bit as nobody expected this post pandemic growth but, as everyone in this business knows we go through cycles and hopefully this upcycle will continue for many years to come. We are optimistic. We see there is a younger generation of hoteliers like me and a lot of people that we know and work with who really love their country. They love what they do, and they just want to do things better. In the city center of Athens, we see wonderful brands coming like The Four Seasons, The One and Only, and the Conrad Hotel, at the ex-Hilton site. I cannot wait to see the amazing things that property is going to do there.

We are also constantly improving. We are currently refurbishing our Roof Garden restaurant in the Grande Bretagne and are also in the process of planning our next steps for a whole property renovation in order to remain competitive in the market. So, if the government gets its act together, which I am hoping it will, I think we are on the right track and moving in the right direction. Athens has a lot to offer, including in the winter. Some of the islands share that mindset and if we all think positively and work hard, we will be on the right track.


What would be your final message to the readers of USA Today?

Visit Greece and you won’t regret it. There is such beauty and so many wonderful things here. The food is fantastic, and the service is even better. Come to Greece and have a fantastic time.