Greece - famous for its sunsets, ouzo and warm hospitality. How does sustainability fit in?

We invite Carolina Alkalai to an interview, the co-founder, manager and sustainability officer of the Kallichoron Art and Boutique Hotel. Looking back on more than 10 years of working experience in renewable energy sector, Carolina considers herself a people’s person. The opportunity to create experiences, as well as a comfortable environment that will allow guests to relax completely, made her become part of Kallichoron.

 

eco suites: Why did you decide to work towards sustainability in your hotel and how do you manage being a sustainable destination and still creating a unique travel experience at the Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel?

Carolina Alkalai: Simply, because we believe in it! Ethical and sustainable travel is the way forward, and trends show us that’s also what guests are after.

Every business has a purpose and values to adhere to. At Kallichoron, and as we grow as a hotel business, we are driven by our collective and individual commitment to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner, and in line with our values. The trust our guests, local community and our staff puts at Kallichoron, alongside our high standards to ethical behaviour, is fundamental to our actions.

We encourage our guests to explore Astypalea and immerse themselves in the culture by mingling with the locals, enjoy the local cuisine to celebrating regional festivals. It’d be a shame not to!  We use local produce for our breakfast and food baskets, and organic choices from our own garden where possible. Collaborations with respectable and equally environmentally conscious companies (such as TAF coffee) are vital.

Besides, today’s travellers want to know that the food they’re consuming is as healthy as it is delicious, organic and locally produced where possible, as well as special diets can be addressed.

How do your guests embrace your concept and what kind of travelers come to Kallichoron Art and Boutique Hotel?

Stellar customer experience has always been our core principle, reflected on everything we do. From the initial contact and reservation to the end of the journey we aim to make the guest experience as enjoyable as possible. Ultimately, a great service will most likely result in a returning visitor.

Our guests are mainly couples or solo travellers predominantly from Greece. Then the majority visit from Europe and the USA, all looking for an authentic and a “live like a local” travel experience.

The feedback we receive, online and in person, but most importantly the smiling faces show us that we’re doing something right!

 

 

“Grandma´s Breakfast” is an award-winning idea and provides guest with a special start to the day. How did you come up with the idea for it and what changes need to be made to implement it?

It became an idea, and one of the unique services offered since the beginning and the hotel opening in June 2014. To be honest, our setup was never perfect to accommodate a buffet breakfast, which we weren’t really fond of, while at the same time we knew that personalization is key, so we thought outside the box and made the best of it.

Greek Breakfast plays an integral part in Kallichoron’s hospitality. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are used and restocked daily to ensure we provide our guests with a tasty and unique breakfast meal, made with care, as one would enjoy at home. Our foremost priority is to serve a well-balanced and enjoyable meal to each and every one of our guests. That is one of the reasons Kallichoron collaborates with the dietitian – nutritionist, Mary Micheli (MSc) who curates our breakfast list and can assist any guest that might have special dietary needs. The breakfast list changes seasonally, when fruits and vegetables are at their ripest, to make Grandma’s Breakfast truly satisfying and of the best quality.

So, the breakfast tray with the assorted choices of each guest is brought daily and served at the room at no extra charge. If preferred, there is also the option to be enjoyed at the hotel’s breakfast hall. Post COVID-19, we have also added the contactless breakfast delivery, as well as the Grandma’s Breakfast in a Basket option, where the freshest ingredients are delivered at your room so that you can prepare your breakfast yourself. There is also the Grandma’s Basket option for those who wish to enjoy a late breakfast or brunch by doing a picnic by the seaside.

​Breakfast can be ordered through Kallichoron’s App (available for Android and iOS devices), through the tablets found in every room or for by filling in the breakfast list in paper form for those who prefer it. As you can tell, we love breakfast! It’s important to mention that any edible and organic leftovers are not thrown out but feed our hens, which in turn give us eggs – we keep in line with the principals of the cyclical economy.

​​Lastly, Kallichoron received the Green Marketing Excellence Award 2015 for “Grandma’s Breakfast”, as an innovative way to achieve sustainability and adopt green practices in the Hotel Industry. Notably, Kallichoron is the only hotel in Greece that has received this recognition. Also, Kallichoron has been awarded in the Best Greek Hotel Breakfast at the Hospitality Awards 2019 for its unique personalized breakfast offering.

 

 

Do you expect the market to change? Do you think exclusive destinations will embrace becoming more sustainable?

The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, and travel and tourism have been the worst affected of all major economic sectors.

There’s nothing good about the coronavirus, but with lockdown, closed borders and a ban on travel, we witnessed a positive change to the environment when we were largely absent for the first time. Overtourism is just another form of overconsumption and we can admit that the normal we knew before coronavirus was not really working. Whilst in quarantine, trends show people seeking new cultural and travel experiences from their homes and we sincerely hope that this continues, when we are out of it.

So, I expect mass-tourism to reduce and quality and experience travel choices to increase, where people seek and research the destination they want to visit better, get to know the local culture and traditions and make a positive impact versus contributing to overcrowding and pollution.

What is your own favorite spot in the Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel?

Definitely watching the sunrise, from any of our balconies! There are no words to give this feeling justice and one that should make everyone’s bucket list.

Link to the hotel-

Picture credits: Kallichoron Art Boutique Hotel

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