The Story of Kivotos. The First Boutique Hotel in Greece
An interview by Yvan Vermeesch

The XO Private Founder, Yvan Vermeesch, sits down for the exclusive interview series with, Philip Michopoulos, Owner of the amazing Kivotos Hotels located in Santorini and Mykonos. The story of these beautiful properties starts with Philip and his brother Jason's father, who envisioned the creation of the first boutique hotel in Greece. Being a forward thinker, Spyros Michopoulos made it his mission to enrich the hospitality offering on his beloved island, embellishing the properties he owned until his dedicated sons took over the reins of the business and continued its legacy.

It all began in 1993, right? How did Kivotos Mykonos come about?

The story behind it is, indeed, funny and, at the same time, inspiring as it shows the unexpected turn things can take in our lives, sometimes for the better. You see, the land now housing Kivotos Mykonos was initially purchased by my father and godfather (each one contributed with a 50% share), who wanted to build two summer houses for their families. Just two folks wishing to construct a summer residence somewhere in Mykonos. However, Spyros Michopoulos, my father, always being a forward-thinker, saw a new perspective and decided he wanted to build the first boutique hotel in Greece instead of another house. That was absolutely pioneering (and quite risky) at that time. Guess he had a strong vision about it, which, obviously, turned out pretty well! So, he bought my godfather’s 50% of the land and started working on his new mission. You know the rest! As for the name KIVOTOS, it means Noah’s Ark. The idea was to build a place where Mykonian travellers could rest and rejuvenate from the excessively vibrant nightlife and the vivid party scene Mykonos has always been so notorious for!

Over the years, you have always ensured that your property remained at the forefront of new industry trends and fashions. How would you describe the DNA of Kivotos Mykonos today?

The fact that it has always been owned and run by family members plays a vital role. We are all 100% aligned with my father’s vision and try not to deviate from it. Instead, we enrich his initial ideas and adapt to the constantly changing market needs with new services, features, and amenities. Without us totally loving what we do, though, none of this could have happened. So, I guess it is that undimmed flame burning inside us all that keeps us going. Plus, our strong family ties, of course.

Which are the most unique experiences available to your guests both on as well as off property?

How much time have you got? Just teasing! Kivotos Mykonos comes with its own private beach. Privacy is hard to find in Mykonos, given how crowded the island really gets, especially during the summertime. So, our guests have the chance to enjoy the shimmering Aegean Sea, the Mykonos cobalt waters, and the warm Mediterranean sun away from the crowds. We can also arrange for them to have a romantic beachfront dinner for two and appreciate the idyllic landscape with their significant other.
Kivotos Santorini, on the other hand, offers guests the opportunity to focus on pampering both their mind and body with 8 hours of non-stop spa experiences in our Kivotos Villa featuring Hammam, indoor heated pool, facial treatments, couples treatments, hot tub, and more. 
 "Without us totally loving what we do, though, none of this could have happened." - Philip Michopoulos  | Picture of Kivotos Santorini
Philip Michopoulos, Owner Kivotos Hotels & Villas Mykonos & Santorini

Kivotos Mykonos
Being an entrepreneurial family, a stunning sister property was opened on the island of Santorini albeit with a different look and feel. Can you tell us more about Kivotos Santorini?

Up until 2019, all Santorini properties had this flat and boring character. They all looked and felt the same. Therefore, we saw a gap in the hospitality market being offered at that time and wanted to step in with a different plan – something more eccentric and sensual.

Opened in 2019, Kivotos Santorini is built using a unique dark colour, paying tribute to Santorini's black-volcanic surfaces and treats guests to super high-tech features not seen elsewhere. For example, the suite’s interiors can change based on guests’ favourite colour or mood via automated scenarios.

Also, hidden speakers meticulously placed around the suites or villas play guests’ favourite playlists to infuse a relaxing, inviting, home away from home sensation. That’s just a small taste of what to expect.

And, in between everything else, an extraordinary yacht was added to the family portfolio. What lies at the origin of Prince de Neufchatel? Can it be combined with both properties?

Absolutely! In fact, Prince de Neufchatel @yachtprince (on Instagram) does not only offer unique sailing adventures between the two islands and Kivotos Hotels & Villas guests.

It can also be booked by individuals looking for extraordinary endeavours. The Prince can easily accommodate two couples and a crew of four while also providing opportunities such as remote beach BBQ, onboard sunbathing, dining, and massage, scuba diving, and the likes. 

Which are your most important markets today? Which new markets are you seeking to enter?

At this given moment, the majority of our guests are from the UK, the US, France, Italy, and Germany – the markets of our primary focus. However, we see huge potential in the Asia and Latin America markets as well, which is why we are planning a stretch over there.

Hopefully, this will happen shortly as we are already taking the required steps for such an endeavour. 
Philip Michopoulos, Owner Kivotos Hotels & Villas Mykonos & Santorini 
Kivotos Mykonos
The industry has changed significantly over the years. What trend or similar has impacted your operations most?

That would be the remote villas market. Although we notice a trend there affecting hospitality as a whole in the two islands, we do not feel worried. The reason behind this optimism is that irrespective of the hotel facilities offered on remote villas, they will never be able to reach the level of service and amount of amenities (or facilities) a guest can find in a 5 Star hotel in Mykonos or Santorini.

So, you only get “something like a 5* hotel experience” (at the same price as a luxury hotel), but not quite like it. In addition, Kivotos has villas in both properties which do feel private. For example, our Noah’s Villa in Mykonos is the only luxury property on the island with its own private beach!

Could you share a most inspiring or hilarious anecdote that happened under your watch?

That’s a bit tough. There is always something beautifully extraordinary or hugely interesting taking place at Kivotos Hotels & Villas! I remember this UHNW guest, though, quite vividly, now that you have asked. He is the owner of one of the wealthiest horse breeding operations worldwide and had a totally impromptu pool party with his friends, our staff, and other guests in Kivotos Mykonos. The party went absolutely crazy, with no words being able to describe it sufficiently. That was years back but pops up whenever I am asked to recall one of the most fun moments in my career at Kivotos.

You have been operating in Mykonos for many years and in Santorini for a couple of years now. How have these destinations developed over the years and what are the USPs of these islands into the future?

We have seen a major shift in the Mykonos entertainment options. The bar has definitely been raised quite high up over the last years in this respect. Guests are now more and more looking for beach-on alternatives to have fun, and request to be spoilt with even more services and facilities while enjoying the sea, the sun, and the Mykonos shores. As for Santorini, it seems to have gone the extra mile in regards to its food options. Travellers now get to choose from an impressive range of dining experiences.

What would be your most important piece of advice to anyone about to open a hotel?

Be prepared to dedicate all your time to it. Entering the hospitality industry is somewhat easy. Remaining competitive is an entirely different thing (and the major challenge). You need to get ready to put your 24/7 in the game and, of course, be a people person. What is equally important, though, is to ensure you also find some “me time” to help recharge your batteries and prevent yourself from being drained of your inner resources. This is probably the biggest struggle – to find balance.

Jason Michopoulos, Owner of Kivotos Hotels & Villas Mykonos & Santorini 
Kivotos Santorini
Yvan Vermeesch
A Belgian by birth, Yvan Vermeesch grew up across Africa before heading to the Caribbean followed by the stunning city of Prague before calling the Mediterranean island of Mallorca home. Always looking to innovate across the board and with a clear penchant for everything experiential in travel, Yvan Vermeesch takes great pride in connecting the finest players in bespoke travel around the globe.