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Design Paola Navone

Pavlos Kontomichalos

Conveyor of beauty, guardian of Greece

Traveling the world and living in New York and China has made Pavlos Kontomichalos a passionate advocate for his home country.

“The first thing I want to tell you is that I never expected to become a hotelier.” So says Pavlos Kontomichalos, the jet-setting Greek businessman who became just that when he built the stunning Erosantorini in the Greek Isles. Such a comment immediately makes us smile because it almost always suggests a higher calling. For Kontomichalos, that calling has become a driving force in his life: to help shape, promote, celebrate, and share the beauty and unique treasures of Greece.

At Erosantorini, I wanted people to spend most of their time outside. I always feel that when you are indoors, you could be anywhere.


At Erosantorini, I wanted people to spend most of their time outside. I always feel that when you are indoors, you could be anywhere.


On the surface, Kontomichalos seems more like the perfect guest of a luxury property than the creator of such. After leaving Greece as a young man to study at Columbia University in New York, he went on to work in Midtown Manhattan, beginning what would become a meteoric rise in the corporate ranks, from business analyst, then product manager, and then marketing director at Bristol-Myers Squibb to chairman and president of that company’s entire China division. He also cofounded Profex Inc., a unique skincare-focused company in China. And now his latest global venture as founder & CEO of Hellas Group sees him heading a growing network of synergistic companies, all focused on introducing “The Best of Greece” to a select global audience.


You were comfortably positioned atop of the business world. What led you to make the jump into hospitality?
It was during Greece’s big financial crisis and I vividly remember flying over the country and thinking, “This is such a beautiful place. No one can copy it and you can’t build it!” Greece truly is this treasure of history, of natural beauty, of gastronomy…so I felt I had to do something to bring the best of the country to the right audience. It’s Marketing 101, really—if you have something that no one can copy, tell the world! That’s the genesis of how all this began. I saw the beauty and uniqueness of Greece, yes, but I also looked at it as a product, this amazing product—and we were screwing it up! We have a lot of cheap tourism, all-inclusives with no quality. Greece is small a country, so we should treat it that way, as a boutique property, and not as a place for mass tourism. This led me not only to creating Erosantorini but also Hellas Group, where I formed a partnership with those who offer the very best of the country. That is my passion for Greece!


But your passion for Erosantorini is equally strong.
Oh yes! The first challenge I faced was how to describe the property, because I don’t think of it as a hotel but as a private estate. It only has five suites, which combine the best of a five-star resort with the best of a luxury villa. And yet I also want people to feel as if they were staying at the house of a friend. Again, it was critical that the experience be uniquely Greek. That starts with the location. Erosantorini sits 300 meters above the water and the island’s famous caldera, facing west so as to showcase the sunset. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the sense of experiencing things like a

local, from the fish that our chef serves our guests to the Assyrtiko wine. It’s funny, I’ve had this exact Greek wine in New York, London, Miami, and Las Vegas, and, somehow, it’s just not the same as having it in Greece. In Greece, there’s the air! The smell! The lighting! The sea! The breeze! It’s the sensual environment as much as the wine that allows our guests to literally “taste” the experience of the country.


Speaking of environment, what about the hotel itself? It’s “look” and design? How did that come about?
I chose x2architecture for their vision, but also because they come from Athens and further promote the local vision. For design, I went with Paola Navone. She is Italian, yes, but spends a great deal of time in Greece and I was able to relay to her exactly what I wanted: a compilation of the things in my life that I had seen and liked. Growing up in Athens and on the beach near Athens, I remember that life was always lived outdoors. So at Erosantorini, I wanted people to spend most of their time outside. I always feel that when you are indoors, you could be anywhere. Thus, the interiors at the property are not huge. Yet each of our suites has a big, private outdoor space, both in front and in the back so that when the sun is strong, one can still find a shady retreat outside. I also wanted to ensure that each outdoor space has total privacy—you don’t see other rooms or other guests, only the glorious view. Plus, I wanted the property to include things that are uniquely Greek, including an outdoor wood oven and BBQ. The stone used to build the hotel is the same volcanic stone found across the island, while the white and gray colors echo Santorini’s overall look. We also have an outdoor cinema for 10 people. People love watching films under the stars! The outdoor meals and gatherings—this is what I most wanted to share about Greek life.
When you are not traveling or spending time at your home in Shanghai, where do you like to go?
Actually, I love spending time at Erosantorini. My philosophy "to keep things local" means that in the property’s garden, you can find lemon trees, pistachio trees, fig trees—many trees that are indigenous to Greece. We want people to go pick the fruit. People remember getting a fig from a fig tree and not from a store or their breakfast table. It’s an experience! In fact, when I’m not traveling or in Shanghai, you can often find me right there—in the garden at Erosantorini.

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