MEET NATASHA MICHAELIDES
In this exclusive interview, we are delighted to meet Natasha Michaelides, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at the Thanos Hotel Group, who own and operate the Annabelle, Almyra, Aloe and Anassa Hotels. She lives in Nicosia with her two children, Athena and Christos, but spends a lot of her time in Paphos.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.
I was born and brought up in Nicosia, and still live here today. Originally my father started his hotel business in Famagusta, where he rented a hotel from the Church. After the invasion in 1974, he was forced to leave. He later opened one of the first hotels in Paphos called the Paphos Beach Hotel in 1975.
Today, the hotel is very well known as Almyra. As a family, we lived in Nicosia, but spent a lot of our childhood in the hotel in Paphos. During the 1980’s the land next to the Paphos Beach became available and he built the Annabelle, which was the first five-star hotel in the city. It was in 1998 that he opened Anassa, just as I returned from my studies abroad.
I studied Communications and Political Studies in America gaining my Masters. After a year spent working in communications in London, I returned to Cyprus and started working for the Thanos Group of hotels.
I was fortunate at this time as Anassa was just becoming operational and I was able to have input into the branding of the hotel right from the start.
Anassa was the first hotel in Cyprus to charge such a high room rate, and the challenge was to specifically position Anassa as the destination, as opposed to Cyprus. We were bringing a new luxury market to Cyprus that had never been experienced before. Guests were attracted to the hotel and the extensive facilities it offered.
TELL US ABOUT THE HOTELS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE THANOS GROUP.
It was about fourteen years ago that we totally changed the look and name of Paphos Beach Hotel. My brother, Thanos Michaelides, my sister, Anna Michaelides and I, decided to relaunch the hotel to a new market which was designer led. The hotel had a unique style of architecture from the 1970’s which we did not want to lose.
At Almyra we offer the whole experience from stylish interiors to the latest trends in food. There is a particular clientele who want this lifestyle on holiday.
Just over two years ago we bought the Aloe Hotel in Paphos. We have big development plans for this hotel and look forward to announcing these in the near future.
Last year we finished an eleven million euro renovation at the Annabelle Hotel, which included adding an additional floor. We created duplex suites, with views over the castle, a roof top bar and restaurant, and a new spa with an indoor pool complex. All the interiors were designed by an interior designer from Paris, Joëlle Pléot.
Almyra closed in December 2019 for a 3-month renovation. The main focus will be to refurbish all the bedrooms and the lobby. It will reopen again in March 2020. The style will remain the same and we do not intend to change the contemporary design concept of the hotel.
WHO HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE DURING YOUR LIFE?
My children have been the biggest influence in my life. Other than them, there are certain people I have encountered in life who have inspired me, and experiences I have had along the way have had a profound effect on me, and made me the person I am.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY SCHEME WHICH YOU OPERATE AT THANOS HOTELS.
We started this a few years ago. We developed a team of people, within the company, who were tasked with endeavouring to find ways to increase our energy-efficiency and at the same time, protect the environment. We also wanted to tackle waste management. From there, we created our own scheme and extended it into other areas of the group.
For example, we have now removed all plastic straws from the hotels. Going forward, we would like to be as plastic- free as possible. We need to be aware of our waste. When you have a large company, you need to be responsible for the area around you. Your business is in a neighbourhood and you need to look after it.
Earlier this year we did an event where children were encouraged to put plastic waste into a large fish designed container. We paraded this, from Almyra to the Paphos Castle, to raise public awareness on World Environmental Day. Our aim is to look after our community.
The Thanos Group also supports staff members who participate in athletics events in either Cyprus or abroad. We believe that, in our hotels, the most important people are the staff – if they are happy – then our guests will be very happy.
HOW DOES ART FIT IN WITH THIS SCHEME?
In addition, we created a plan whereby we wanted to try to support art in Paphos. We wanted to give artists a platform to exhibit their work so that they could get publicity. We cover all the costs and do not charge the artist for work that is sold. At the same time, we are bringing our immediate community into the hotels to see the exhibitions.
We also offer workshops for children and adults. This ticks multiple boxes, as people today want experiences in their exciting lives rather than just owning objects. To come and meet an artist, experience a workshop, equals a new experience.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHARITABLE WORK.
For us here at Thanos, giving back to the community is very important. We support multiple registered charities which wisely spend the money we raise for them. We have done many events for Pasykaf, Alkionides and the Sophia Foundation.
Every year at the Almyra we have a team of staff members who take part in the Paphos Marathon to raise funds for Pasykaf. Four years ago, when we started, we had just twenty runners, but this year it had grown to over one hundred! Regular “Coffee with Love” events are also held to raise further funds for Pasykaf.
We are also very involved with the creation of a fund offering scholarships to those wishing to study for a Masters degree. I am President of the committee together with the Round Table 7 of Paphos. We offer scholarships, which are available to anyone from Paphos. This year we have two students who are doing their Masters through this scheme. One is studying in London and the other in Cyprus.
Through the Sophia Foundation, we have recently started supporting a scheme that is designed to provide cooked meals for deprived children and we are funding this at a school in Latchi.
Two years ago, we were presented with an award from the President of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, for our volunteering activities.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CHANGES IN PAPHOS?
I actually live in Nicosia but after my children have finished their schooling, I would love to move to Paphos. During the summer, as a family, we spend a lot of time in Paphos and really enjoy it. After 2017, a lot of impressive work has been done in the city. It has certainly changed for the better. We are looking forward to the beach development and improvements in front of both Annabelle and Almyra.
WHERE DO YOU GO ON HOLIDAY?
I love the Mediterranean and often head straight to Greece. Every year I try and go somewhere new. This year I have been so busy I have not managed it, but before the end of the year I will visit a new destination. Last year, as my new place, I went to Africa with the Sophia Foundation.
At home and abroad, I really enjoy running and cycling.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THE CYPRUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA?
I was appointed earlier this year as the Treasurer for the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Foundation (CySO). I like the concept of managing the arts and was very happy to accept this position. The CySO Foundation encompasses two orchestras – the professional one and the Youth Orchestra. As the only professional symphony orchestra in Cyprus today, the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra has evolved rapidly into a modern, dynamic orchestra with a strong presence in the musical life on the Island. At the same time, it is a national symbol representing Cyprus in Europe and beyond. Our duty is to promote classical music and culture in Cyprus and to support the musicians and to help them grow.
The Orchestra employs the most gifted musicians in Cyprus and from abroad, and I strongly believe that we are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy such fine orchestras, and their concerts are not to be missed. Our 2020 programme is very exciting and very different to previous years. It is a treat to look forward to.
WHICH ARTISTS DO YOU PERSONALLY ADMIRE?
On an international level, I was recently fascinated by the mysterious artist – Banksy. I especially like his latest work “Devolved Parliament”, which portrayed chimpanzees in the role of members of the UK House of Commons. It sold at auction at Sotheby’s for 12 million dollars.
Closer to home, I admire the work of Polys Peshlikas, as he is a great example of an artist of the old school who paints on canvas. I also like Yiannis Sakellis, very creative and always on trend, the sculptor, Arsentiy Lysenkov, whose sculptures are out of this world, and work by Charalambos Margaritis, a very gifted and special artist.
The photographer I particularly like is Michael Kouloumos, who does beautiful black and white photographic work. We are looking forward to having his photographs in all the bedrooms at the Almyra as part of the refurbishment. We are very sure that our guests will enjoy his work.
THE RAISON D’ETRE of THE THANOS GROUP IS –
“To create a deeper connection, with a unique humane passion, while achieving growth and profit, being light-hearted and celebrating life”.
Written by Sarah Coyne
Portrait Photography by Tolis Photography Studio