THE FASCINATING STORY OF KOSTAS MITSIS, THE KNITTING MACHINE, AND THE SOFITEL ATHENS AIRPORT HOTEL

BY AURELIA

 

Each year when I make my annual pilgrimage to Greece, I begin my journey at the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel.  It is directly across from the airport and, and since members of the staff and I have become friends over the years, when I step through the doors of the hotel, I feel as though I have been welcomed home.

It is here at the Sofitel that I relax for a few days before leaving for one of the islands or for the mainland.  Usually, on one of the staff members has a relative or knows someone at my destination, and I have been put in touch with people who have become almost extended members of my family!!

Being welcomed and accepted in this way is a true advantage of staying at the same hotel through the years.  It is a very warm and a very “Greek” welcome.

Since I know and admire the Sofitel so well, let me share with you some of my experiences and the reason why it is my destination of choice in Athens.

First, I must compliment the first class staff.  It is a testament to solid management when one is greeted by the same employees year after year at the front door, the reception desk, in the dining room for the sumptuous morning breakfast buffet, at the concierge’s desk, and in the Spa.  Many of the employees call me by name.

Secondly, beginning my journey at the Sofitel enables me to sort out my itinerary, charge my phone, and call my contacts on the islands or on the mainland.  This is important for me as I am a travel writer and have to ensure that appointments made are appointments kept. Resting here for a few days enables me to unwind from the plane journey, have my first, authentic Greek meal, and end the night with a steam, sauna, and massage.  I am renewed and refreshed and ready to go with a nice supply of beauty products from the Spa that I am not able to buy in the States.   Bags packed, I find that everything has been taken care of for me; the concierge kindly arranged a taxi or plane transport to my next destination.

The Sofitel is part of MITSIS HOTELS, a hotel industry giant recognized in the industry as the greatest Greek-owned hotel chain.  It was founded by the legendary Kostas Mitsis, who sadly, passed away August 28, 2016. He was born in Kryoneri, a village near Ioannina, into humble beginnings, but passed the admissions test for high school and then graduated from evening school.  An industrious young man, he sold books door to door and then became an avid reader of Tolstoy, Hugo, Karagatsis, Kazantzakis, and many others.

The late Kostas Mitsis

“Reading became the stepping stone of my whole life,” he says, but he also had the mind and ambition of an entrepreneur.  After selling books, he sold clothing door to door, carrying big bundles on his back.

Mr. Mitsis was only seventeen when he decided to get into the knitting industry.   The young man had a vision. He bought a hand-operated knitting machine, his mother would knit, and his father handled the finances.  A business was born. The knitting machine is on display outside his office at the headquarters of the Mitsis Group in Athens. An inscription reads “This is how we started.”

Business went well. The family bought a bigger house they used as a workshop and then a second knitting machine.  They hired two employees, then four, and then 100. Mr. Mitsis worked night and day and had no personal life. “All I thought about was tomorrow,” he said, and soon he was among the most successful businessman in Athens.  His business was ranked among the top five companies in regard to annual revenue and exporting activities. He was twenty-six years old.

Always interested in new and exciting ideas, as the businessman matured, he moved into the winery and construction industries, became the publisher of two newspapers, and occupied a special position in politics before his crowning, life achievement in the tourism industry.

Christine Mitsi, chairman of Mitsis Group of Companies, explains that “More than 400,000 people visit our hotels, resorts, boutique hotels, and spa and city hotels located in the most magnificent Greek destinations of Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Kamena Vourla, and Athens.”  She adds that “These are unique destinations for our guests.”

Ms. Mitsi says her legacy is to carry out her father’s philosophy which was: “Everything needs to be taken good care of, everything needs good will and attention.  Visitors should be treated with care.”

She adds, “My father gained this wisdom during the forty years he stood in front of his hotels, welcoming his unique guests.”

Ms. Mitsi, his daughter, his wife Genny, and his son Stavros, are proud to continue the philosophy of this great man, who started it all with a humble knitting machine.  I and the other “unique guests” are the beneficiaries of Mr. Mitsis’ vision and philosophy.

I arrive May 25 at the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel and am counting the days.

TELOS

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Aurelia is a free-lance writer and the author of A Lone Red Apple, a novel set on Mykonos, Delos, and Rhinia.  Her second novel, Labyrinthine Ways, is set on Mykonos and Crete.  She writes for The Hellenic  News of America and for a variety of travel publications.  Her articles can be found on www.sweetspotsofgreece.blogspot.com