A 4,000-square-meter pool that has a lake-like effect in and around Olea All Suite Hotel is but a first hint at the surprising and stunning details found throughout this Greek property. It seems fitting then that owner Christos Xenos was at sea for many years of his life and passed on his love of travel to his daughter Venia Xenou. Known locally as the “Captain”, Christos saw Greece’s potential for tourism early on and now owns 12 hotels on his native Zakynthos island—the largest group here. For Venia, hospitality runs in her blood, and her contemporary touch is giving new voice to Greek hospitality.
Christos Xenos: I saw it more than 20 years ago—a land of unique beauty that we had to make ours. Our initial thought was to build a family home, but we then decided that such a special place must be shared with the world. And that’s how Olea was created. I came up with the idea of the all-encompassing element of water and felt it was something that had to be part of the hotel when we started developing it.
Venia Xenou: It is a very popular, unspoiled plot of land that gives you 360-degree views of the island. You are close to the action, but you have privacy and tranquility. The olive trees on the plot (which inspired the name Olea) are 100 years old and among the first on the island. Guests love being able to walk under these trees.
CX: Encountering extremely bad weather during a trip from the United State to Japan when I was working in commercial boats. We had people suggesting that it was too dangerous to sail, yet it was decided to do it. The captain did not say a single word during this hard, dangerous journey. Surviving this gave me the courage to pursue almost anything in life, it made me fearless in a way.
VX: The island has hundreds of secret beach spots. My favorite is Korakonissi. It’s a natural lake with crystal clear green water. It’s a bit difficult to get to and you have to walk, but it’s amazing. Also, there is a village called Loucha where my father’s ancestors come from. It is UNESCO heritage-listed because of the old houses and buildings here—very different from the rest of the island. Go for an afternoon stroll here and drink some Greek coffee with the locals.
CX: The marriages of my three children and the arrivals of my grandchildren—hopefully they’ll be more than 10 in the near future!
VX: A big challenge for Greece is that we have a new generation of expats who’ve returned because there are new opportunities here now. They are bringing fresh ideas from where they’ve lived, and they will help us to restore the country the right way. This is giving me hope.