Agapi Sbokou is the owner and co-CEO of the Sbokos Hotel Group, a leading, privately-owned company of six multi award-winning resorts in Greece. Blue Palace, Resort and Spa in Elounda, Crete, is the flagship property of the Sbokos Hotel Group.
Simon Wittenberg caught up with Agapi to find out more.
LM: You hold an MBA from the Cass Business School of City University and a BA in Law from the University of Athens, plus you can speak English, German, Italian and Greek. Have you always enjoyed studying and languages?
AS: Growing up in Greece in a time when tourism was blooming, it was a given that I had to learn foreign languages. Having said that, I have always found languages fascinating myself. It is the surest and fastest way to another culture. My dream is to find some time in the future to learn French and Arabic. None is an easy task if you want to learn it properly; and so, we will see!
LM: You previously worked in banking. What made you move into the hospitality sector?
AS: My father was adamant as my sister and I were growing up: “Find something that you like. Unless you love it, you will not be good at it”, he used to say. So, I went to law school and worked in investment banking to gain some experience outside of our own company. Until then I was not at all sure about ending up in the hotel business. It all became clear during my MBA. Product development made my heart tick. And what a better platform to do that than with our own business? Hospitality was changing at the time, because with the internet, the competition was on an international level. This different benchmarking suddenly made it challenging enough.
So, when our father was about to start construction at the Blue Palace and called to ask if I would like to be part of this right from the beginning, I jumped on the opportunity!
LM: What are the unique selling points of properties within the Sbokos Hotel Group?
AS: My passion comes from the desire to create a brand that tells a great story. It is the thread that connects Crete’s culture of authentic heartfelt hospitality, my father’s uncompromised dedication to warm, personalised service, respect for the local community and our staff. Our company also has a long-standing dedication to ecological responsiveness with our strong desire to offer our guests authentic memorable experiences that speak of a truer, more timeless Greece.
Each resort tells a different story, yet they all speak of the same values.
LM: What does Crete offer visitors looking for a luxurious experience?
AS: Crete offers some of the most breath-taking beaches in the whole of Europe; a cuisine with the richest tradition all over Greece and a significant cultural heritage: the Minoans, the first European Civilisation, the palace of Knossos, the myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur; the birthplace of Zeus; two towns with a Venetian built historical centres and a third with the longest Venetian walls existing today. There are also buzzy island towns and some of the most unspoilt villages.
Crete speaks to the heart of the sophisticated traveller – to the ones who feel strongly about luxury found in authentic experiences.
At Blue Palace, it is all about enjoying the perfectly mixed cocktail at a brilliantly-designed beach club; it is about having the freshest local langoustine right at the water’s edge; it is about waking up to unparalleled views of the island of Spinalonga, a few meters away; it is about sailing in our traditional boat and experiencing a Cretan wine tasting.
These are the stories that we want our guests to take back with them, because these are the things we love sharing with our own friends.
LM: How is the Greek tourism sector doing after a difficult time for the economy?
AS: Greek tourism has proven itself to be extremely resilient during the crisis and has helped the country with a direct contribution of more than 10% of the GDP and by employing 17% of the workforce. It is not by coincidence. Greece is a safe country. People love the sun and the beautiful sea, the islands, the food and the culture. It offers a unique combination of unique natural beauty, amazing places to stay and extremely varied experiences for those that want to discover more.