Ioulia Mavrelou works in her family’s hotels. One, the ESPERAS, is a dream destination on the beautiful island of Santorini, with its black volcanic beaches, its town perched high above the sea and its stunning views. The other, the MYRTO, in the old quarter of Athens, Plaka, is at the moment undergoing renovation. Ioulia’s husband works alongside her and they have three young children.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Athens by a rather conservative family. After school, I left to study Hotel Management at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. I also have a BA in Tourism and Hotel Management from Surrey University in the UK and an MBA from ALBA University in Athens
After my studies I worked in prestigious hotels in Europe and the USA, and I also taught Operations and Administration for Hotels at BCA University in Athens. In 2001 I returned to Greece full time, and became the Managing Director of my family’s HOTEL ESPERAS in Oia, Santorini, and later a VP of Operations at Hotel Myrto in Athens.
What were the major difficulties you’ve faced in the last five years?
It’s been hard, for reasons both economical and psychological. The fear people had of traveling to Greece due to the unstable economic and political environment meant we’ve had to face and overcome financial problems. Decisions made by Greece’s politicians result in continued uncertainty and distrust, so it’s a constant psychological roller coaster.
Did anyone in particular inspire you or help you?
During the last five years, my father and my husband have been the inspiration that drives me forward. My father taught me about hard work, and to be patient; to wait and to act at the right moment. My husband inspires me to pursue things until the end and not to give up.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I hope that the economic situation in Greece will become stable and that we will have the opportunity to grow our company.
What are your hopes for Greece? What changes would you like to see happen?
In my opinion radical changes need to be made in order for the country to survive. Unfortunately I don’t believe that any Greek government is willing to implement those changes in areas such as education, pensions etc. or to allow privatizations and implement measures to help entrepreneurship and allow the country to move forward.
Have you considered leaving? If so, where would you like to go, and why?
We are considering leaving as a family and moving to an English-speaking country since we feel that the adjustment will be easier, especially for our children. Of course, the fact that we work in our family business plays a major part in this decision, making it particularly difficult.
If you have already decided to leave, what would make you stay?
A complete and radical change in Greece, which would force the Greek people to change their ways as well.
Are you actively doing anything to help with the situation? Is there something more you would like to do?
I feel that I am – and have been all my life – doing my part as an entrepreneur by paying all my taxes and creating jobs for honest folks.
Tourism is a major source of income for Greece. In spite of all the difficulties, last summer was a reasonably good season for us and bookings have remained steady for 2016.
How do you see Greece in 5, in 10 years?
Unfortunately I see my country in the same situation if not worse than today. Observing the measures taken so far does not allow me to be optimistic.
How do you cope with obstacles and frustrations in your everyday life?
I am blessed to have a loving family and friends I can count on, who have been next to me when needed.
What are the positive sides of living in Greece? Have you had any good experiences lately?
The climate, our extended families and all the assets we have in Greece are the biggest reasons for staying. The summer vacation I spent with my family were exactly what holidays by the sea should be…
Ioulia kindly agreed to be the Guinea pig for this feature, so any comments about improvements are welcome. If you want to see the site of the stunning ESPERAS HOTEL, just click on the name.