Creating a Business That Feels Like Family

Tourism is one of the industries that has been hit hard by the Corona crisis. Countries completely dependent on foreign tourism were closed for months, losing revenue and employees.

In this interview Stephanos Fandridakis from Crete tells us about his hotel, philosophy as an owner, and how their business slowly is coming back to everyday life.

Written by: Victoria Wæthing

19.08.2021

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Chania is located on the north-western part of the island of Crete, one of the most popular destinations for Scandinavian tourists. Stephanos Fandridakis is the owner of Stefan Village right outside the city, known for its waterfront restaurants and narrow streets.

The owner of this hotel takes great pride in having created a place where guests become friends and employees are family—the main reason why this hotel is thriving again after 18 months of devastating Corona regulations.

Born and raised in Chania, with a particular love for the local cuisine, Stephanos brings me to a small village in the mountains nearby the hotel where we are offered saganaki, tzatziki, lamb and snails soaked in rosemary oil. In typical Greek fashion, we all share the food that is served while Stephanos tells me the story of the hotel and how 2020 influenced business.

Boardwalk of Chania.

First hotel in the area

When Stephanos Fandridakis opened Stefan Village together with his father and younger brother back in 1987, there were almost no hotels along the coast of Chania. This was the latest area of Crete where tourism would manifest.

Starting a hotel there in 1987 was a completely new venture with little competition. Today the area is one of the most popular destinations for Scandinavian tourists. And—as tourism has grown—so did the hotel.

When the hotel first opened, they had 9 rooms and 20 beds. Today they have 126 rooms and 525 beds. People come back to Stefan Village, where the guests feel at home and the hotel-owner considers their returning guests a part of a larger family.

Security for employees

The hotel being dependent on a steady flow of tourists, the Corona crisis would change their everyday life and business from one day to the other.

Photo of Stephanos, owner and operator of Stefan Village.

With a 2020 revenue of only 20% of the previous year, the hotel suffered great losses that could not be covered by the financial assistance from the Greek government. However, the hotel managed to keep all their personnel and kept the hotel afloat.

“By keeping all our personnel, we gave our employees a sense of security—even during a crisis they would have an income and a job,” explains Stephanos.

Many of the employees at Stefan Village have been working at the hotel for several years. A bit uncommon in an industry based on seasonality, not able to offer twelve months of steady income. Yet, quite a few of the current Stefan Village employees have stayed with the hotel for eight and nine years. In previous years, some of the employees have been there for almost 20 years.

“I believe our bartender has his own group of followers,” laughs Stephanos.

Returning customers

Most of the guests at Stefan Village come back to the hotel each year. It is a small village composed of several houses in pink and yellow with several pools where parents feel safe to let their children play throughout the day.

“Our customers have become family. They are our friends, and we know them,” explains Stephanos.

The sense of home that Stephanos has created for his customers may very well be the most important reasons why the hotel is filling up through the summer and autumn, even with corona regulations still posing challenges for the industry.

The hotel owner is optimistic. “We managed well so far. Now, it can only get better, and we look forward to welcoming all our guests back to Stefan Village,” he says with a big smile. •

Photo of the winding streets of Chania.