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Christos Mouskis: The owner of Four Seasons declares to be happy, but not for the reason you expect!

Christos Mouskis balances between methodology and emotion, luxury and simplicity. With nearly 3 decades of a flagship presence in the hotel industry, he owes his success to the fact that he never rested on his laurels. He wants to see the city changing and there are many things that still bother him and often disappoint him. He never imagined that he could live somewhere else, apart from Limassol, but he knows that it can do much better, as he always knew so about himself.

He was born in 1964 in Limassol. He grew up at Megalou Alexandrou street and went to school in the First Urban School of Limassol. When the family moved to Agias Zonis, he continued to Lanition Elementary and High School. "We have witnessed the evolution of the father at work," he recalls. "Those experiences were really strong for us. We were not a typical rich family. We were never deprived of anything, but we were living in 1 small home." The roots of Mr. Four Seasons, one of the most successful businessmen of the island, is something he admits he will never forget.

"My father worked very hard and started his career as a technician at a small workshop. He moved to Limassol for a particular project at the Curium Palace. He met our mother, married and stayed in Limassol," Christos Mouskis says, having grown up on the side of a father of businessman nature.

"Giorgos Mouskis was the first one who started dealing with aluminum, which was a new material in the 60s. It was not his area then, but he was looking for new things, he was restless and began importing aluminum. We worked from a very young age with our father. He would take us along with him to work since we were 16 years old. We spent the summers in the factory working," he recalls.

Today it is easier for someone who wants to shine, because most people, and unfortunately this is the reality, are not willing to work properly. 

Growing up in a business spirit

Was the father your role model, your mentor?
I believe that the father of all entrepreneurs is their role model. He showed us the importance of hard work and how to take risks, if and when you feel that you have to take them.

Was he an entrepreneur?
I mentioned previously how he started and managed to become a very successful businessman. He moved to creating the first aluminum plant, then proceeded to the processing of anodized aluminum and later on he created the aluminum extrusion plant, which was a model plant for all of Europe and a major development for the aluminum industry in Cyprus.

Were you at work then?
I was studying marketing and management in America in order to go to private business, but I worked in the factory during the summers. When I returned to Cyprus in 1989, being the second son, I felt that we had to expand to other sectors, since the father and the older brother were already managing the factory.

How did dealing with the hotel industry come along?
The service industry has always been something that interested me. Back then, the tourist industry in Cyprus had the best prospects. We did a feasibility study and we consulted some people about how they would see our entry into the hotel industry. Thus we started, with much enthusiasm and passion, the Four Seasons in Limassol.

How many hotels were there then?
We were the last hotel built. After this, if my memory is correct, Ajax was the only one that opened. There were hotels in Limassol in the beginning of the 1990s, but I watched and studied what more we could offer. We tried to show some things that were unique at the time, ideas came from America, things that we thought would get the services 1 step further. We wanted to introduce professional service, besides the friendliness and the Cypriot hospitality. This did not exist in Cyprus then. I was reading a lot, constantly observing new trends in the industry internationally, I believe that education never ends.

It was something you were looking for as a customer?
I like consistency and detail in service. Also, in Cyprus we did not have anything unique at the design level. Design and architecture, is also my passion. I study, I notice, how one feels in this space and why. We said that we must be distinguished through design and service. Also we pioneered by bringing to Cyprus specialty restaurants within the hotel and we created the first professional spa in Cyprus, in cooperation with the French company Phytomer. I always admired companies that made a difference. Like Apple for example, which changed the way we all live.

Indifference and mediocrity, especially in the professional field, annoy me. First you must love what you do, be passionate. Then the rest will come. But you always need to be researching. You need method, but also feeling.

Stability and detail are the components of success, then?
Not exclusively. For example the team of associates and the leadership you provide to them in order to have them committed in a common goal, is important. I always thought it is my personal success also to see my people succeed at their positions. We chose people who care to excel and support them with a lot of training, especially abroad, where one can learn from those that are way better than us.  

Personally I appreciate people. I have very strict principles about myself and my work and I demand from others to be the same, without having to be strict with them all the time. There is no point in insisting to maintain a collaboration with people that do not share your views on how you want your business to operate. There were times when I collided with people, that I had to let people go, but this is inevitable in the business world.

Being fair, is it something you learned or you bring with you?
It is something that you have. Both from family and from your DNA. You cannot teach someone to be fair. I think that when you communicate clearly and people are aware of your expectations and you do not change opinion, then others appreciate you, even though sometimes they do not like your decisions.

What was the vision when you made Four Seasons?
I wanted to make a different hotel that would stand out from any other, especially on service and gastronomy, within the framework that allows an investment in Cyprus, which will be sustainable. We created and maintained stable value over the years. We are constantly doing renovations. Anything pioneering and any innovation that will have a positive impact for our customers, we are the first to introduce it.

Yes, I am lucky. I have my health, a lovely wife and 3 children, and I was born in a family who showed me the right path in business and in life.

What does a good entrepreneur need to succeed?
First you must love what you do, be passionate. You always need to challenge the status quo. You need method, but also feeling. You also need to know what is coming, how are things changing and move accordingly before it is too late. It is important to see the big picture, and the small details of your business, too.

We live in Cyprus and we manage some respectively small businesses, so you need to have a close look and be able to know what is actually going on, not to think that you know. You want people around you who are committed, people who share your goals and vision.

Are there opportunities to start something new now?
In tourism, things are not so easy. The number of tourists does not grow much nor hotels make crazy profits. Those who do their job well, yes, they have profits, but is not the most profitable job you can do. There are many opportunities for investments in technology and in energy. Property is also a sector that can be profitable, if one invests carefully. 

Seeing every morning the sun rising from the sea, while enjoying the cold water, for example, is a great pleasure. You need to stop looking for unnecessary things, the many material possessions...

For you, how did the expansion in the real estate sector emerge?
We felt that there was an opportunity, due to the incentives given to create some apartments and suites to expand the hotel. In total, there are 16 apartments, out of which a small number has been sold to our customers. The rest will be rented through the hotel.

Limassol through the eyes of Christos Mouskis

Does Limassol have a good tourist product, after all?
We are beginning to have one. We have very good hotel infrastructure, but the problem is that when you go out of the hotels, with the exception of the Limassol Municipality territory which has been improved, the picture seen by someone, falls from 5 stars to 3. These problems have been going on for too long.

Cyprus and Limassol provide one of the best destinations for people to raise their family.

The beach bars / cafés / restaurants are important part in a city with a seafront?
The problem is that no licenses are granted for doing something good near the beach. There is no vision about how the long beach front we have could be used in a good sense,  in order to provide high quality experiences. So, in most of these venues that are still struggling with operation licenses, nobody invests in order to do something good.

The beach protection zone takes all the infrastructure 50, 100, 300 or 400 meters back from the beach. For this to change, with all the bureaucracy, it needs a very large and coordinated effort. There is no leadership in tourism, nor vision, and this is a pity because we see how much more ahead we could have been.

Today there are discussions about the creation of a sub ministry for tourism. Could it help?
If they do not recycle the same people and procedures, if it works properly, this could help. Otherwise it will not make any difference. It is obvious that the existing system does not work.

There is an undue resistance from those who do nothing, to stop those who want to do something... Solutions are many. The point is to have leadership.

What would you like to change in Limassol?
The fact that large new modern buildings are created next to unpainted old ones, emphasizes the visual pollution. Old buildings have to be maintained. Also basic infrastructure such us sidewalks, green areas and the beachfront pedestrian walk have to be improved. We could make a difference, for example, with floating developments above the parallel breakwaters created in the sea, with nice lighting, cafés, and restaurants.

That would create something unique and impressive. Yes, this needs funds, but the authorities need to understand that they cannot just receive income from the tourist industry. After all, I think that if we ask hoteliers to contribute for such developments in front of their hotels, they will probably accept. A very bad picture is also created by the extension of existing shops and restaurants with cheap materials.

Amathus has wonderful and valuable antiquities, for example the Acropolis of Aphrodite at the entrance of Limassol, which could even be our city landmark. These are valuable treasures which remain unutilised for too long.

What is quality tourism?
Quality tourism consists of visitors who stay in 4 and 5 star hotels, and spend about €150 - €200 per day. Some very wealthy tourists passed from Limassol in the past, mainly Russians, who now found more exotic destinations. Cyprus was among their first destinations. It helped back then that Cyprus was the only European country that would not require visa from the Russians.

As for the destination Cyprus, we must understand that there are better destinations. Surveys show that we are not among the top 10 options for seaside tourism in the Mediterranean. We observe, that visitors will come back again in the island, having created emotional bonds with the place and the people. There is an obvious inability to attract new tourists, that is the reason we stayed around 2.5 -3 millions visitors a year. The growth of tourism in Cyprus is not in line with the increase in tourism worldwide.

We wanted to introduce professional service. This did not exist in Cyprus then. I always admired companies that made a difference.

Are things better for the economy?
We are recovering slowly - slowly. The incentives given by the government for developments with a higher building coefficient and the measure for acquisition of citizenship with large investments has assisted a lot.

Are there better destinations than Limassol for one to reside?
Cyprus and Limassol provide one of the best destinations to work and raise a family.

What do you really like in Limassol?
I love the sea, the morning walks, and various other things. Important steps have been made towards the improvement of the city. The seafront park, as designed, the docks above the sea, is also something really special. So is the Limassol Marina, which is a very nice place.

Which city abroad might be a model for Limassol?
A model could be Monte Carlo. Its cleanliness and order around the marina could be a good example for us. It should be an example in terms of image, infrastructure, public administration.

Where would you certainly tour someone coming for a few days in Limassol?
Certainly at the Marina, the seafront park, the Medieval Castle. Platres is a very beautiful place, though now forgotten. An area with a view is also the archaeological site of Kourion.

The man, Christos Mouskis

For me success is to bring my 2 sons into the business and be right at work and right with the people in the society.

What are the flaws of Christos Mouskis?
Professionally, when I believe in something, and I think that's right, I'm stubborn. I no longer have the patience I had once. The expectations I have from people may be very high.

Do you make mistakes?  
We all make mistakes. I like to analyze my mistakes and learn from them. Generally I'm very strict with myself.

What do you want to evolve?
My children. For me success is to bring my 2 sons, Giorgos and Minas, at work and be right in the business and right with the people in the society. It is my wish to convey my knowledge and experience to my children.

Is there free time?
Usually not. Several times I start too many things at once, and my free time is limited.

Hobbies?
Swimming and walking in the morning, winter and summer. I also like to read a lot about new trends in management, marketing and design. I especially like the sea. It relaxes me. Swimming, but also short trips on the boat.

Meat on the spit or gourmet? Champagne or zivania? 
Both. Sometimes I prefer the one and sometimes the other. The important thing is to be able to choose between both, according to the mood of the moment.

Coffee? Drink?
Coffee is always Cypriot. I think it is the best there is. The drink is usually red wine.

Personally I appreciate people. I have very strict principles about myself and my work and I demand from others to be the same.

Which is your family?
My wife Kaiti, our daughter Annita, 8 years old and 2 sons, Minas 21 and Giorgos 24 years old, studying in England.

There was understanding on the wife’s part?
Yes, a lot of understanding. It could have not be otherwise. The boys were the ones who missed the most, because of the many hours of my absence from the house. Sometimes they say it, too, but it was a period with a lot of work. I lost many moments, quickly fled the years and I feel that maybe I owe them an apology.

Regrets?
For some things, yes, mostly what I mentioned above, for the several moments I lost, away from my family.

What scares you?
The illness, a misfortune in the family is always something that you fear. Concerns about family matters, for children, will always be there. In the meantime, I am very concerned about what will happen to our national problem.

What annoys you?
Indifference and mediocrity, especially in the professional field.

 I always thought my personal success to have successful associates. I always believed that your employees are your own mirror.

What was the most difficult period in your life?
A very difficult period was 2002 - 2006. On a personal level, the death of my father in 2002, at age 66, after a health problem that lasted 1 year, was a big loss.

What bores you?
I am bored with a lot of necessary but non-creative, administration work.

What did you learn in your life?
That what you project to others is what you get. Clearly this is not the case with everyone, but I believe that, in most cases, what you show to people, this is what you will get. I also think that your staff is your mirror. You cannot blame someone in your team, if they are not good enough, it is your fault.

Do you think you're lucky?
Yes, I am lucky. I have my health, 1 lovely wife and 3 children, and I was born in a family who showed me the right path in business and in life.

Are you happy?
Yes. But not just for the reasons one can imagine, like the luxuries of the business, for example. To go home and play with my daughter, at 53 is a big deal. The same is to sit with my wife, to drink 1 glass of wine and talk. These are special moments to me.

Without money, would you be happy?
Happiness is in the small things. If you always ask for more and only expect to get satisfaction from materialistic goods, then you should start wondering, because something is probably wrong. Seeing every morning the sun rising from the sea, while enjoying the cold water, for example, is a great pleasure. 

Interview: Eva Giannoukou
Photos Credits: Stefania Papayianni & Mad Rocks Team
Photo Editing: Workshop Creative Agency


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