Greek investor and entrepreneur Petros Stathis on revitalising and investing in the Balkans as he prepares for work to commence on a new EUR 50 million resort in neighbouring Coatia.
The Aman Sveti Stefan is a shining star in the Balkans, one of the most photographed sites in the region and an increasingly attractive destination for high end tourists. Now owner, Greek entrepreneur Petros Stathis, has set his sights on neighbouring Croatia, where work to build a new luxurious resort will commence at the end of the year. The EUR 50m Aman Cavtat at Dubrovnik on the beautiful Croatian coast will represent the very pinnacle of refinement. The resort is expected to set a new standard for excellence in hotel design and will be built on the site of the former Hotel Macedonia and will include 43 luxurious suites with seven supreme suites.
The design represents a synthesis of architectural styles, working with the grandeur of the landscape, built with local materials. The resort will be transformed into an observatory, framing the city of Dubrovnik, with the terrace of each suite providing a unique view of Cavtat’s bay and of the Adriatic coastline. “When I look at Croatia, I see huge opportunity. Our objective here is to create the very best and to leave a lasting, positive legacy the country can be proud of. That has been my ethos for every country in which we have invested. “We want to do build the most beautiful resort, in harmony with the environment and local infrastructure so we create jobs and use local materials.” “I really believe that it is Croatia’s time to shine brighter on the world stage and we want to play a key part in that story.
Originally from Greece, Stathis has build an enviable track record in hospitality and real estate. His business interests have expanded to include banking, media and the food industries. The Sveti Stefan resort is built on the existing foundation of a 16th-century village and is run under the ownership of the Aman group. The regeneration of the hotel is widely considered the impetus for Montenegro’s revival in the luxury tourism market. “Sveti Stefan was about reigniting a star that in some ways had faded. It is now back where it belongs one of the leading lights of the Balkans and a magnet for visitors. “We wanted to focus on perfecting every tiny detail we have created one of the world’s most premium hotel experiences, showing other potential investors what can be achieved.” The luxury tourism market in Montenegro has grown exponentially since Sveti Stefan re-opened, earning comparisons with Monaco and the French Riviera.
The World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that Montenegro will receive €10 billion in investment over the next decade, with 36%, or €1.9 billion, of GDP coming from the tourism economy by 2021, rising from 17% in 2017. Projects such as Porto Montenegro have followed Sveti Stefan’s lead, offering a yacht and superyacht marina with 850 berths, a five-star hotel and shopping village, luxury villas, a helipad and a museum. The estimated investment to date in Porto Montenegro alone amounts to over €450 million, providing a huge stimulus for the local economy. “I’m a firm believer that a single high-profile, high-quality project such as Aman Sveti Stefan can lead by example and set the standard for the growth of an entire industry to the benefit of the country as a whole,” says Stathis. “As a foreign investor, the successful completion of any project rests almost entirely on gaining the support of the local authorities and ensuring it benefits the local community,” says Stathis.
Construction of Aman Sveti Stefan was consistent with Montenegro’s low-density tourism development strategy rather than mass tourism, and is complementary to the World Bank's on-going Sustainable Tourism Project. Sveti Stefan island is a protected monument of culture of II category in the country, and the refurbishment work fully complied with the relevant regulatory requirements and was conducted under the supervision of the Institute for Cultural Monuments Protection.
Due to its high visibility, Sveti Stefan’s public-private partnership structure has set an example for further tourism privatisations in the region. Stathis and his team worked closely with the local government throughout the project, and its impact is widely considered to have reached beyond Montenegro’s borders and set quality standards for the tourism industry in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region.
Aman’s skills development programme has provided training for locals in the area surrounding Sveti Stefan, creating hundreds of jobs and providing the basis for future careers in hospitality-related and managerial positions. “Resorts like Sveti Stefan can provide the basis for huge economic growth in the local areas in which they’re based,” says Stathis. “It’s absolutely critical that business owners ensure their success goes hand-in-hand with the interests of the local community, and a close partnership is maintained with all the relevant local bodies.”