Our Family Story
There is something about a family business, that synthesis of heritage, loyalty and emotion, that accounts for the strength of some of the world’s great portfolios. This lies at the heart of the Myconian Collection’s success.
“Our parents built the Myconian Collection from the ground up and my brothers and I are as proud of our roots as we are of how much we’ve grown”, says Vangelis Daktylides, referring to the hospitality empire that includes nine of the leading luxury hotels on Mykonos. Three of them are among the five Relais & Châteaux members in all of Greece.
The Mykonos of George Daktylides’ youth was very different from that of today. The island ran a barter economy well into the 1950s. “Our mother will tell you that, along with everyone else who lived off the land, they traded their cheese, sausages, cured fish and produce with the townsfolk against imports such as sugar, flour, coffee and spaghetti, not to mention cigarettes, sold singly from a big box”, explains Panos.
The island was a well-guarded secret until the yachts of the 60s high society began to drop anchor on their way to the
magnificent ruins of Delos.
How Dreams Became Reality
George returned from military service with large dreams, including that of winning the hand of the young Eleftheria from Delos. To support them, he drove a bus that transported men and materials from town to the barite mines. He convinced his brothers to invest in a vehicle, and before long, with a fleet of 25 buses, they ran the island’s only public transport network. “As kids we sold tickets on our dad’s buses, which was a little boy’s dream”, says Marios.
George decided that it was time to build the first hotel on Mykonos outside of town. Markos recounts: “He came home one day on a Caterpillar 920 that he had picked up second-hand. It dug the foundations to our first four hotels and was his favourite set of wheels, long after he could have any car he wanted.”
He became the island’s third hotelier when the 25-room Kohili opened in 1979. Set high above Alefkandra habour and looking directly onto the famous 16th-century windmills on the edge of Chora, it commanded sweeping views of the Aegean and was an instant hit: Korali was built a year later doubling the room count.
Sacrifice and Hard Work
Success was built on the back of hard work. Eleftheria made breakfasts for all the guests, did the housekeeping and laundry, and provided meals for the 40 construction workers busy erecting the new hotel. She was also raising four sons. During their summer break, they were expected to help out at the hotel, serving breakfast trays, setting and clearing tables and learning the trade. “I can still smell the cake she baked in our kitchen for the hotel”, Vangelis recalls. “She gets emotional when we talk about those times; they hold bitter-sweet memories. Our parents sacrificed everything to create opportunity for us. Dad worked from morning to night and invested all the profits back into business, and our mother had one good pair of Sunday shoes that she only slipped on before she entered church.”
Personal touch and attention to detail resulted in a loyal clientele and a reputation that spread by word of mouth. Six years later, Kyma and Kalypso joined Kohili and Korali. “Our father’s original plan was to give each of his four sons a hotel when he retired,’ says Marios, ‘but he loved driving that Cat so much that he went on to build six more, starting with the first five-star hotel on the island.”
In anticipation of growing demand for luxury destinations, George bought land in 1986 on the south coast. The best plot had sweeping views of Platis Gialos Bay but was dominated by large granite boulders. These were integrated into terraces to ensure sea views from every room. This hotel, the first luxury establishment of its kind on the island, is of course the Ambassador.
A Family Dynasty
“By that stage, our parents realised that we needed an international management education.’ All four sons in turn attended the world-renowned École Hotelière in Lausanne. ‘There was never a question in our minds about whether this is what we wanted to do.”
Once all four sons were back on the island, they agreed with their father that it was time to expand again. They bought the first sloping field above Elia’s sandy beach and built a second five-star hotel, the Royal in 2000. Year after year, they secured more fields and added to the Myconian Collection with the Imperial in 2002, the Villa Collection in 2012, Utopia in 2013 and Avaton in 2014.
“We’re not just planning for a financial year, but also for the next generation.”
Renovation and Innovation
In 2015, the Ambassador was renovated: (read more) Vangelis commissioned the acclaimed architect Galal Mahmoud to undertake the transformation of this popular Relais & Châteaux hotel. “We learned from our parents who’d always striven to improve themselves and the business. They taught us about the need to grow and innovate.”
In 2016, work began on Kyma, Korali and Naia.
Even today, five years after stepping down as CEO, George Daktylides stays busy. His idea of relaxing is to get involved in the new projects, as well as to ensure that all nine grandchildren have a steady supply of ‘real’ food. He does his rounds once a week in a Toyota Hilux with trays of farm eggs on the passenger seat,
homegrown lamb and goat’s meat in the back, as well as cheese and cake made by Eleftheria.
“As you see, we’ve got our own retirement cut out for us already”, says Panos. “It’s a good thing that we are four brothers, because theirs are very big shoes to fill.”
“Someone asked me once what advice our parents gave us along the way. My answer was short: they led by example. In French, they have a term for it, l’éducation silencieuse. We are each other’s most honest critics and loyal allies. When we balance the pragmatic demands of a competitive business with deeply rooted emotions, we’re not just planning for a financial year, but also for the next generation.”
“As locals there is a mutual dependence with the people and the land of Mykonos.”
Guests enjoy a unique taste of the island through the hotel’s exceptional relationship with suppliers. “In our father’s day, our fresh fish came from Nico, whose sons now supply us. The best of fresh local produce is grown exclusively for our gourmet restaurants. Many are informal suppliers, like our father’s old friend Panagiotis who catches octopus in the waters around Delos solely for his family and our chef. And naturally, the lamb and pork are our father’s own.”
“There’s a real sense that we are all connected. As locals,’ says Markos, ‘there is a mutual dependence with the people and the land of Mykonos, and with the rest of the world through our guests.”
Many guests return year after year, not just for service excellence, but also in anticipation of the element of surprise. “We need to keep moving. Great hospitality is like sustaining the romance in a serious relationship.”
Therein lies the secret: true luxury cannot be conveyed by exclusivity, precision and aesthetics alone.
To experience the real thing, you need to encounter family connectedness and a shared ethos.
“We need to keep moving. Great hospitality is like sustaining the romance in a serious relationship.”