Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2018
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Grande Bretagne Hotel, Athens; Piraeus Theoxenia, Greece; Theoxenia Palace, Kifissia, Greece; Creta Palace, Crete
- Athens, Greece
- Bachelor of Arts, International Hospitality and Tourism Management, and MSc, Tourism Marketing & Planning, Bournemouth University; Swiss Higher National Diploma, Hotel Management, IHTTI School of Hotel Management; Certificate in Hotel Operations, Alpine Center
- Greek, English, French, German
“The concierge lives to enhance the experiences of guests,” says George Vournazos, Chef Concierge of Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, adding for emphasis, “in any way possible.” The responsibilities of his team go well beyond mere planning of itineraries and securing reservations, he continues. “Those are really just the start. We’re friends, advisors, entertainers and confidants to guests, and given the circumstances, we can actually get quite involved in their daily routine. Our goals are for them to trust us, and for us to make certain their memories are pleasant.”
A typical guest in Athens will reach out to the Concierge Desk five or six times over a weeklong stay. George oversees a team of 10 divided between the Hotel’s two buildings. He staffs based on personality and behaviour instead of experience. The result is comforting – for guests, as well as himself: “The one thing I never worry about is if my team is getting along and working together. I know they will.”
Personalisation is key: Concierges take detailed notes on guest requests; offer better suggestions, based on their own experiences, if they have them; and follow up to track successes for future clients to enjoy.
In keeping with the “service through friendship” code of the profession, George knows that his team can also rely on concierges from across Athens and beyond should they require assistance in satisfying a guest request. “We’re a big community,” he says, noting his membership in the local chapter of Les Clefs d’Or – “keys of gold” – the international professional organisation of concierges. “We always help others in need.”
Growing up in Athens, George spent time in nice hotels as he and his family joined his father, a navel architect, on business travel throughout Greece. What always amazed him was the way hotel staff would treat him as they treated his father. “Even as a 10-year-old, they were always respectful to me. I thought, ‘This is where I need to be.’”
After finishing school, he embarked on a path to get there, starting with a degree in hotel management despite his father’s hopes that he would take over the family business. “I like working with people too much,” George recalls with a laugh, mentioning that his twin sister, an artist who later became a pilot for a well-known airline, also chose her own path. “We’re a crazy family, but our father is fine with it. No one has ever regretted our choices.”
The Hotel’s seafront location offers a lot of options for Concierge to create pleasant memories. George always recommends visiting islands scattered off the coast – “it’s like going to another country” – with speedy tours available via helicopter. There are also sailboat tours and sunset cruises that launch from in front of the Hotel, and Athens proper has many options for ancient cultural wonders, Michelin-starred restaurants, and high-end shopping.
Can’t guests just as easily tap into Google to find such things on their own? George acknowledges the convenience of technology, but counters that the Internet lacks “the human factor and personal experience” that his Concierge Desk provides.
“We’ve experienced everything that we recommend. We’re often the first to try new things, and we stay on top of developments.” For instance, while a slap-dash comment online might frame the Old City of Athens as too touristy, George would counter: “Only if you want to see it that way. There is a lot of wonderful architecture, and I can recommend scenic areas right near the Acropolis that even locals don’t know about.”
George used to be a rock star, touring outside of Greece with his band Athorivoi – that’s Greek for “Soundless” – playing on lead guitar and singing vocals the whole way. While requisite military service brought the band to a halt, he still records on his own.
Meantime, even off the job, he is always on the lookout for new experiences for guests, a task made easier by his love of motorcycles and photography. “If I see something new, I just check it out,” he says, wistfully mentioning that he used to own a Harley, but now gets around just fine on an equally powerful scooter. “I’ve been told I have a good eye for imagery. Between my motorbike and photography, I always have something new to show guests.”