Humans of AHA – Nikos Katsounotos
We met Nikos Katsounotos 7 years ago when he came personally to recruit students from American Hotel Academy. The group he represented, Atlantica Hotels and Resorts, had already been working with our students for the previous 3 years.
At the interview, he looked at the students, and from simply looking at them and asking them some questions, you could see he knew exactly what hotel location suits them best. Some were more suitable in a family hotel, with children and a lot of noise, others would better fit in an adult-only resort or a boutique, some in the front office, others in food & beverage. Some alone, others would be more suitable for teamwork. Although his position was high-ranking (currently Group Operations Manager), he never felt he was doing something below his position, as he always understood the importance of hand-picking talent.
First, he appeared rather cold than friendly, but when we sat at a table and he asked the waiter to put the food in the middle so that everybody could share, that was when he was starting to reveal his open, kind character. It was all about trust with him. He invested trust in everyone around, but he permitted no errors. Always charismatic, Nikos likes to joke but takes his job very seriously, a true professional. He talked with a lot of caring in his voice about his family, wife, and daughter. “A man who loves his family that much is a man with principles.” we thought.
At the interview, he looked at the students, and from simply looking at them and asking them some questions, you could see he knew exactly what hotel location suits them best.
Nikos is a man with high principles and because of his way of being we have a strong partnership with one of the greatest and luxurious group of hotels and resorts in Greece and Cyprus. He is a true Human of AHA and this is why we wanted to ask him, in the current context, how does he see the evolution of the hospitality industry in the future.
His answers, wise as always, gave us hope and confidence.
How do you see this industry recovering this year and the next one?
A very difficult question that nobody knows the right answer to.
We want to be positive-thinking and we believe that after the middle of May things will go back to normal, slowly. We expect a very busy August and autumn with a probable extension of the season to November or even December in destinations where the weather is good.
How will this reflect on our students and your interns?
As we stand today, all our hotels are opening on the 1st of May, at the latest. We will recruit staff and trainee staff as normal, probably at a lower number at the beginning.
“We want to be positive-thinking and we believe that after the middle of May things will go back to normal, slowly.”
How affected has your chain been and what have been your general strategic steps regarding the pandemic?
Our company was affected the same way as all other hotels in the world. The world of Tourism is not the same anymore.
Hotel Operations are not the same anymore. We have to operate following strict protocols. We had to adapt our procedures from welcoming the guests to their departure with safety and hygiene as a top priority.
During the crisis several Tour Operators, Airlines, Travel Agents went bankrupt. Hence, we needed to renew our partner list so we could recover the lost volume.
Many Hotels are facing financial problems. Fortunately, our company has managed not only to survive but to take advantage of the closure and do some renovations. With positive thinking, we are looking forward to a new start.
During 2020 we have successfully placed over 250 students in various hotel departments. Students came only from the local schools due to the relevant Covid restrictions.
How do you generally consider AHA students and how suitable are they for the hotels that you operate?
AHA students are usually among the best ones. Most of them are mature and they understand the importance of the training. Some of them show impatience sometimes, however, this is rather normal at this age. The AHA students are placed in different hotel positions such as at the Front Office, Kitchen, Guest Relations, and F&B service.
“Fortunately, our company has managed not only to survive but to take advantage of the closure and do some renovations. With positive thinking, we are looking forward to a new start.”
What should a future student take into consideration when coming to Atlantica in Greece or Cyprus?
They should consider the training as an integrated part of their studies and take advantage of it. It is an opportunity to see how the real world is, gain knowledge from professionals, see how real customers are and how they behave, operate under pressure, and deadlines, etc.
For many often it is also an opportunity to be away from their parents’ care for a limited time. That gives them the chance to face the pressure of taking care of themselves, professional pressure, and generally make decisions that will allow them to mature.
They need to be patient and fully enjoy/take advantage of this opportunity.
Students should take advantage of this internship as it offers them the possibility to see the hotel’s operations in full before they start their professional life. A real-time internship can help them decide if the profession they have chosen to follow is right for them or not.
Our goal is to offer professional positions to our students and help them grow within the Atlantica family.
Are there new rules after the pandemic? How did you manage to adapt?
The new rules have to do with the personal protection of our clients and our staff. We have created a Covid protocol which is based on Government’s and WHO instructions and even more. We follow it without any exception. We have been inspected several times during the operation period of 2020 by Local Authorities but also by experts of the Tour Operators.
Our staff and trainees received detailed training on the Covid protocol and we plan to apply it to the new staff and trainees for 2021.
Do you have a message for the parents that have their children attending internships with Atlantica?
Parents need to allow their children to grow. They have to understand that training is part of their studies. All our hotels are in safe destinations. Inevitably some problems might appear from time to time. We are here to sort them out. Their intervention doesn’t help the situation, on the contrary, it complicates it. It is normal, that students’ accommodation is not to the standards of their home.
“Students should take advantage of this internship as it offers them the possibility to see the hotel’s operations in full before they start their professional life. A real-time internship can help them decide if the profession they have chosen to follow is right for them or not.”
Additionally, they have to share their room. These life experiences are very useful to each of us. The management team of each hotel is close to all our students, trying to help them adapt to their new environment and routine. All supervisors make a great effort to offer a detailed induction to the students so everything is clear for them. Of course, we are always available for any questions they might have.
Please, tell us, when do you consider coming and recruiting directly from AHA, in Brasov? 😊
As soon as possible!…. 😊