Last updated: 11:17 AM ET, Tue February 03 2015

Small Luxury Properties On the Rise in Greece

Destination & Tourism James Ruggia February 13, 2014

Small Luxury Properties On the Rise in Greece

PHOTO:  The Iconic Santorini boutique hotel was created from the buildings in a village on the edge of Santorini’s famous caldera. (photo by Iconic Santorini)

According to Marketing Greece (MG), 2013 shines a very welcome light from the end of the economical tunnel, as Greek international airports registered some 12.7 million tourist arrivals for a 10.8 percent increase over 2012. Altogether, MG estimated a record 17.5 million total tourists for the year, which puts it ahead of the all-time 2008 high of 17 million arrivals to Greece.

This year also started nicely brightly as Athens made the New York Times Best Places list, especially important as many tourists have been by-passing the capital because of recent civil strife and heading right to the islands.

For such popular island destinations as Mykonos, Santorini, Kos, Crete and Rhodes the growth has been robust with Crete reaching some 3.3 million visitors.

Crete’s success may reflect the emphasis that Greek Tourism Minister, Olga Kefalogianni placed on extending the season beyond the summer months as the balmy weather in Crete stays most of the year.

Kefalogianni’s advocacy for more upscale product and less red tape on foreign investment has stimulated a rash of new hotel product. While large multi-dimensional luxury resorts like the Costa Navarino, a year-round golf destination that opened in 2010 with two five-star Starwood-managed hotels, the market is now seeing more intimate luxury accommodation catch attention.

It all seemed to begin on the boutique side with the opening of Amanresorts’ 38-suite Amazone near Porto Heli on the Peloponnese peninsula, which opened in 2012.

Now comes the Iconic Santorini, a boutique cave hotel that will open in April right on the rim of the ancient volcanic caldera that has left a beautiful setting for so many hotels. The 22-room Iconic Santorini was recreated from actual homes and shops in the whitewashed village of Imervogli, the highest settlement on the caldera. The boutique’s lodgings follow Santorini’s style of high-ceilinged caverns notched into the cliff. Iconic Santorini is a member of the Mantis Collection.

The Skiathos Princess Hotel will re-open in May following an extensive refurbishment to almost half of its rooms. The Santikos Collection invests in the hotel every year to ensure that rooms are kept to the high standards expected from its discerning guests.

So far spending €1.5million on on-going work, the unveiling of the new look 40-room Premier Building and the Bay Building with seven deluxe family rooms in May will be the most dramatic yet.

Both buildings have been refurbished to remain in keeping with the Santikos Collection’s brand essence; offering a blend of heritage and elegance. The Deluxe Family Rooms within the Bay Building offer chic design with soft but contemporary furnishings and modern facilities including flat screen TVs and wireless technology.

The Premier Building offers the widest selection of room categories throughout the entire resort; with seven to choose from across 40 rooms.

Skiathos Princess Hotel will attract families, togethering friends and couples alike once it reopens on May 2.

An even more personal experience of Greece is offered in the country’s growing inventory of villas. The Thinking Traveller is expanding its Greek portfolio with 11 more villas and three new islands: Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos, and growing its supreme villa options on Lefkada and Meganissi.

The villas are operated under the company’s Think Ionian Islands brand, which launched last spring. The company also operates Think Sicily and Think Puglia. The product gives guests access to a team of local hosts who provide such services as restaurant recommendations, supplying villa chefs, access to guides, and more.

An example of the new Think Ionian Islands Greek offering is the Barbati Point House on Corfu. The five bedroom house features numerous terraces for dining and reclining, a pool and sea views. The villa comes complete with daily maid service and cook, with the convenience of tavernas and restaurants just a short walk down the beach. Rates begin at $22,210 per week for up to 10 guests.

Greece has a long way to go before it can restore its economy. Right now the country averages 28 percent unemployment.

According to reports in the Greek press, unemployment among people under 30 is more than 60 percent as no jobs are available to people entering the work force.

Tourism isn’t the only answer for the ills of Greece, but it has to help that an industry that creates as many jobs as tourism is doing so well.

Follow me on Twitter @JRuggia1.