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New GM at Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Limassol explains why experience is the new luxury

Part of Marriott’s premium brand of Luxury Collection properties, the high-end and sophisticated Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Limassol has undeniably brought a pioneering aspect to Cyprus’ hotel scene with its state-of-the-art facilities and impressive design.

The resort’s recently appointed General Manager, Yannis Stefanou, explains why more synergies are needed among stakeholders in the hospitality sector and reveals some of his exciting plans for Parklane this summer season.

You have recently taken over as General Manager at Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Limassol. How has your experience been so far and what is your personal vision for the resort?

I couldn’t be more excited! For a couple of reasons, really. First of all, the Luxury Collection is one of Marriott’s premium brands – only a few hotels have been selected to represent this high-end hotel brand, so it is a great honor for any property bearing this sign. There are currently 47 Luxury Collection properties operating in the EMEA region, with Parklane being one of the latest additions. Then, it is the property itself: very well designed from every angle, with state-of-the-art facilities and a scintillating landscape. There are generous spaces in every room and corridor, even in the back of the house areas. A refined sense of art, elegance and sophistication is evident everywhere. Finally, I must give credit to all our associates. They are the backbone of this operation, and their engagement has been at the highest level. They form an important pillar in helping me create a culture of respect, ownership, commitment, innovation, and self-development, and thriving towards excellence. These attributes will form Parklane’s DNA.

At the same time, there is no doubt that Limassol is turning into a prime tourist destination. It is still in its early days, and while most may hesitate to agree with me, I find many similarities with Dubai back in 2000. I think the next couple of years will be critical for the direction this new tourism product will take. Will it be addressed to the masses, to high-end visitors, or to eco-conscious tourists? I personally believe that it can stand out as one of the prime destinations in the Mediterranean but, to achieve that, the hoteliers, the restaurateurs, the local communities and the respective authorities all need to work side by side with a clear strategy. It has to happen in a healthy and organic way with sustainability practices at the forefront. So, my vision for Parklane is to make it one of the top five destination resorts in the Mediterranean region while also supporting synergies with other hotels, tourist businesses, and authorities in order to help boost Limassol’s brand awareness.

You have had extensive experience in the Greek hospitality sector. How does it compare with what you’ve seen in Cyprus?

Cyprus seems to be better organised and structured in employee agreements and relationships between hotels and the Government. I find working in Cyprus less complex from an administrative point of view and this helps me focus more on my day-to-day tasks. Greece, which has a great number of islands, has had more years to grow its reputation as a tourist destination, leading to a more evident presence of international brands there, such as Hilton, Marriott, Mandarin Oriental, One&Only, Hyatt, and Brown Hotels. Cyprus, on the other hand, is just one island but it is also a place of breathtaking natural beauty, steeped in history, with impressive local attractions and mouth-watering culinary offerings. With the proper government strategy and collaboration within the hospitality industry, it has great potential to become one of the most sought-after Mediterranean destinations.

What are the main elements needed by a hotel/resort if it is to be popular and successful?

It requires a culture that encourages a growth mindset with a positive stance towards innovation, training and mutual respect. If a team doesn’t share those attributes, offering a luxurious service paired with curated experiences will not be a walk in the park. On top of that, hoteliers need to challenge themselves and their teams constantly. Continuous evolution is the key here. I walk around and I see areas that could be used to add value to the overall guest experience. Would a Virtual Reality park and an escape room make sense within the resort? I think it would, since we have a lot of teenagers visiting us and we need to provide a place for them to gather and socialize. Innovation has become a major pillar and one that affects the success of a hotel’s product.

How important is the food & beverage aspect of a hotel?

Very important. It is the second-highest revenue generator in a hotel complex, acting at the same time as a compelling reason to visit the hotel. The opening of Nammos Limassol and LPM Restaurant & Bar last year has helped us boost the reputation of the resort. We are constantly striving to enhance the guest experience at Parklane and one of the ways we do this is by refining our food and beverage offerings. This is also important for the food and beverage team. They get excited every time I hand them a new task!

How would you describe Parklane’s clientele? Which countries do most guests come from?

We cater to a high-end, cosmopolitan clientele that has travelled extensively. Apart from Cyprus and Russia, we receive a lot of guests from the UK, Israel, France, the US, and the Middle East. Our guests expect nothing less than the utmost luxury, not only in their accommodation but also in their interactions with our team. Going above and beyond is standard practice, and I am very pleased to notice that the team shares the same level of enthusiasm. For instance, I was asked by a guest to play a game of chess with his son – who was really good, by the way – and it goes without saying that I accepted the challenge. Now, his son will always remember playing chess with the General Manager of Parklane. Experience is the new luxury.

One of the main challenges facing the hospitality industry in Cyprus is seasonality and the lack of a local workforce. What is your view on this and how can it be overcome?

It is the single biggest problem in Cyprus – that, and the lack of accommodation. In our case, we can overcome it by leveraging Marriott’s taskforce programmes, which allow us to bring in associates from other destinations that are entering their low season. However, standalone businesses are suffering. The key is to retain our teams for as long as possible. Another solution would be the launch of well-known hospitality schools in Cyprus, which could provide manpower during peak seasons through internships.

In your opinion, what needs to be done at a state level to enhance the hospitality/tourism industry in Cyprus?

More synergies are needed among all stakeholders. It is a team effort and joining forces will be for everyone’s benefit. Hotels should collaborate, promote one another and create a sense of a premium tourism product. High-end travelers are not willing to spend their whole stay in one place. They wish to move to multiple places, visit nearby resorts and eat in their restaurants. They look for a diverse and immersive experience by visiting the old town and the villages, becoming one with the locals, and blending in with the culture of the place. Through collaboration and cooperation within the hospitality and tourism industry, we can form a lasting bond with visitors that will encourage them to return and recommend our destination to others.

What are your current plans for Parklane? Are there any upcoming projects, events or restaurant openings?

Following the recent opening of Nammos Limassol, we are putting all our focus on the successful launch of premium retail stores in the same area. Additionally, we are planning a series of events at LPM Restaurant & Bar’s terrace starting this month (May), which will provide a wonderful opportunity for guests to enjoy a vibrant atmosphere while taking in the stunning views. The launch of a Pan-Asian concept in The Gallery Bar has been also on my mind for some time now. The team is also working hard to launch a fantastic Italian experience at Il Teatro restaurant this season. Other than that, we are close to announcing our 2023 calendar of Nammos events, with some big names visiting Limassol. I can’t tell much yet but, if I were you, I would get ready to reserve a table almost every day!

(Photo by Giorgos Charal)

This interview first appeared in the May edition of GOLD magazine. Click here to view it.

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