It may be surprising that someone so involved in shaping the future of Mykonos wants to talk about the past. But for Marios Daktylides, the next chapter of this idyllic Greek island was written generations ago. “Mykonos was originally made popular many years ago by the locals,” he explains. “You see, in the old days people would come to the island and the residents here would give their houses to visitors and simply sleep on the beach.”
Indeed, of all the Greek islands, Mykonos is the one most driven by locals. Their involvement in all facets of a visitor’s experience is what gives the place its authentic, timeless feel. “The level of the service cannot be compared to other Greek islands because this is the only one where the businesses are almost all locally owned,” says Daktylides. “On other islands, 70 percent of businesses are run by outsiders. And this matters. Visitors can go downtown and be greeted by shop owners whose families have been here for generations. The island has been developed a lot since I was a boy, but it has the same character that it had 50 years ago.”
As a hotelier, this sense of localism is critical to the experience Daktylides strives ceaselessly to provide his guests. “Everyone we buy from, be it fishermen for the day’s fresh catch or farmers for figs, grapes, and tomatoes, are locals my family and I have been buying from for years. They are people we know personally with top-quality products that we trust.” Family is a word that pops up a lot when Daktylides talks about hospitality. “My father, George Daktylides, along with the great support of my mother, Eleftheria, built their success on hard work and ‘meraki,’ which in Greek means passion.
He became one of the first hoteliers on Mykonos when he opened a 25-room property in 1978.” That hotel was an instant hit that led to more, as well as to Marios’ and his three brothers’ desire to enter the business. “My brothers and I all attended the world-renowned École Hotelière in Lausanne. There was never a question in our minds about whether this is what we wanted to do,” says Daktylides. “It was in our blood.
When he returned from Switzerland in 1998, Daktylides joined his brothers who had graduated ahead of him. Together, they began to build hotels—literally! “We were on the construction site,” he explains. “Our father owned the construction company, so as the buildings went up, we were always there, taking on everything, banging in nails. We built them with our own hands."
When asked if there are things a good hotelier should know that couldn’t be learned at hotel school, Daktylides again cites his father. “He was always telling us that you never say no to a client. There is always a way to make them happy. Try to do things as if you were in their position. At Myconian Kyma we tell our employees to treat our visitors not as guests but as if they were their mother or father.” This is a perfect sentiment for a man whose own father shaped the island’s past and continues, through him, to shape its future.