For a man who has such a firm grip on so many aspects of the hospitality industry on the island of Santorini—Yannis Bellonias is CEO of a group that owns three hotels here, he runs a separate hotel management company, and he arranges on-island excursions, car rentals, and more—it must have come as a quite a shock to him to discover that his firm grip held nothing more than air. To be fair, Bellonias’s discovery had nothing to do with the solidity of his business ventures—those were and are still rock solid. Rather his sudden, empty-handed surprise came on the roof of his then-under-construction Vora hotel. “I saw a wire hanging down and I went to grab it, and I slipped,” he explains. The result was a bad fall, a broken hip, and newfound respect among competitors who determined that Bellonias is a man who would literally risk his life for one of his hotels!
Santorini is everything for me. All the childhood memories, my grandparents, the smell of the island in the summer time, summer holidays, my family, my cousins. It’s home. It’s my life!
Yes, and a love for hospitality. My parents owned a tourist office and also built and rented bungalows in the 1980s. One of those bungalows was our home, so I practically grew up in a hotel. In a way, I was trained in all roles in hospitality without knowing it. And at this time, you could still find a pure kind of Greek hospitality. I remember my mother treating our guests like family members, cooking for them, talking with them all day, having the door to our house always open. I remember as a kid playing with my brother and hearing my mother say, “Shhhh! You will disturb the guests! Be quiet!”
I have always loved design and architecture; they are my hobby and passion. So, with all my projects, the main thing I try do is find the perfect balance between the island’s tradition and contemporary design.Yes, I am driven by the local ways and the nature of Santorini, but I also feel strongly that the past should be blended with the now. I am not creating a museum, after all. I am creating contemporary looks upon the old-world stage of Santorini.
No, I felt I would fit better in the business environment, but in life you can’t always make plans. My father got sick and died, so I took over the family business, started changing it, and slowly growing my own companies on the island, all of them related to hospitality, and all promoting the island in its best light. My grandfather taught me that if you love and respect Santorini, then Santorini will be generous to you as well. That’s why I promote local cuisine and products, as well as the culture, architecture, and local ways of doing things.
Vora doesn’t try to appeal to the masses. It’s small; it’s intimate. Thus, I can put an incredible amount of energy and effort into the details, its elegance, and the guest’s privacy. Everything and every experience here is tailor-made.
I want them to leave with a sense of the Santorini that I know and love. I want them to experience the island far from the masses and commercial stuff that is offered elsewhere to the crowds. I want guests to know the Santorini that my parents showed me, the still-secret locations, the smells, and the food that I grew up with. I want them to get to know the island as I know it, so that they will love it forever.