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

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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, just as he always believed about himself.

He was born in 1964 in Limassol. He grew up on Megalou Alexandrou street and attended the First Urban School of Limassol. When the family moved to Agias Zonis, he continued his education at the Lanition Elementary and High School. "We witnessed the evolution of our father at work," he recalls. "That was a very intense experience for us. We were not from a traditionally rich family. We were never deprived of anything, but we did all all live in a 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 plumber, with his own small workshop. He moved to Limassol for a particular project he had undertaken at the Curium Palace. He met our mother, married and stayed in Limassol," Christos Mouskis says, having grown up alongside a father who was a natural businessman.

"Giorgos Mouskis was the first to begin dabbling in aluminum, which was considered a new material in the '60s. It was not his area then, but he was restless and on the lookout for something new, so be began importing aluminum. We worked with our father from a very young age . He would take us along with him to work since we were 16 years old. We would spend the summers in the factory working," he recalls.

It is easier for someone to shine today, because the unfortunate reality is that most people are not willing to put in the hard work. 

Growing up with a business spirit

Was your father your role model and mentor?
I believe that the role model for all entrepreneurs is their father. 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?
As I mentioned previously, he started out as a very good technician and managed to become a very successful businessman. Where he once worked with construction, he then proceed to creating the first aluminum plant, which he then followed with 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 working at the time?
I was studying marketing and management in America, with the aim of getting into private business, but I worked in the factory during the summers. When I returned to Cyprus in 1989 however, as the second son I felt that we had to expand to other sectors, since my father and older brother were already managing the factory.

How did you become interested in the hotel industry?
The service industry has always interested me. At that time, the tourist industry in Cyprus had the best prospects. We conducted a feasibility study and consulted with some people as to how they would see consider our entry into the hotel industry. And that is how the Four Seasons in Limassol was born, with much enthusiasm and passion.

How many hotels were there at the time?
We were the last hotel to be built. If my memory serves me, only the Ajax Hotel opened after us. There were other hotels in Limassol at the start of the 1990s, but I watched and studied to see what more we could offer. We tried to present some things that were unique at the time, and brought ideas over from America, things that we thought would take our services a step further. We wanted to introduce professional service that went beyond friendliness and the Cypriot hospitality. This did not exist in Cyprus at the time. I read a lot, constantly observing, as I believe that education is a never-ending journey.

Was this something you were looking for as a customer?
I like consistency and detail in service. Additionally, at the time in Cyprus we did not have anything unique at a design level. Both design and architecture are also my passion. I study and observe how one feels in a certain space and why. Our aim was to distinguish ourselves through design and service. We also pioneered by bringing specialty restaurants to Cyprus within the hotel, and we created the first professional spa in Cyprus, in cooperation with 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. You must first and foremost love what you do, and be passionate. The rest will follow. But you must always keep searching. You need method, but also feeling.

Are stability and detail are the components of success then?
Not exclusively. For example, both the team of associates and the leadership you provide to them is important, so as to ensure that everyone is committed to the same common goal. I always believe it to be my personal success when my associates succeed. We chose people who care to excel and support them through constant care and training abroad, where one can see standards that are much higher compared to what we have in Cyprus, in order to learn from that and move foward. In this way, you keep your associates alert and grounded.

Personally, it's in my nature to appreciate people. I have very strict principles for myself and my work and I demand the same from others, without necessarily having to be strict. If I have to be strict with someone all the time, it means we are not a good fit, and there is no point in insisting on a collaboration with people that do not share your views on how you want your business to operate. There were times when I clashed with people, or had to let people go, but this is inevitable in the business world.

Is there hostility in this world?
If, after the turmoil, one can see the reason why our cooperation ceased, then I don't believe they will feel hostile. We are very fair and consistent in our values and our beliefs.

Being fair, is this something you have learned or is it innate?
It is something that you have within you. It comes from your 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 waver on your opinions, then others appreciate you, even if they sometimes do not like your decisions.

What was the vision when creating the Four Seasons?
I wanted to create a hotel that would stand out from the others, especially in terms of service and gastronomy, within the framework of an investment in Cyprus that will also be sustainable. We created something that can work here, and which has maintained stable value over the years. This is why we are constantly renovating. Anything that is considered 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, and be passionate and constantly searching. 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, but also the small details of your business.

We live in Cyprus and we manage some respectively small businesses. This means you need to stay close and be aware of what is happening, not oversee from far away and assume you know. You need people around you who are dedicated, who  share your goals and vision. People who feel proud of what they do.

Are there opportunities to start something new today?
It is easier for someone to shine today, because the unfortunate reality is that most people are not willing to put in the hard work. Of course, it depends on the industry. In the tourism industry, things are not so easy. Tourism numbers don't incrase substaintially, nor do hotels make crazy profits. Those who do their job well do 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 the sun rise from the sea each morning, while enjoying a cold swim is great pleasure. You need to stop seeking unnecessary things, or too many material possessions...

How did your expansion into the real estate sector come about?
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, 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 offering?
We are starting to. We have a relatively good hotel infrastructure, but the problem is, when you go outside of the hotels, with the exception of the Limassol Municipality territory which has been substantially improved, the overall picture that someone sees falls from 5 stars to 3. These problems have been around for decades and we are tired of talking about them.

Cyprus and Limassol in particular are one of the best destinations for people to raise a family.

Are beach bars / cafés / restaurants important in a seafront city?
The problem is that there are no licenses being granted for creating something good on the beach. There is no vision as to how we can utilize the long coastline in order to offer quality experiences. And so, because many of these venues are still struggling to obtain their operation licenses, nobody is investing in the creation of something good. 

The beach protection zone takes all the infrastructure back 50, 100, 300 or 400 meters from the beach. For this to change, with all the bureaucracy, there needs to be 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.

There are discussions about the creation of a sub ministry for tourism today. Could that 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, as is the fact that all governments somehow find it impossible to change the status quo, which ends up working against us.

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

What would you like to change in Limassol?
The fact that new, large, modern buildings are being built next to old, decrepid ones that are neglected emphasizes the problem of visual pollution. The beachfront promenade is a mess. We can't have these things in a 5 star destination. You can't have broken pavements next to good hotels. We could, in order to make a difference, create a foundation in the sea.

A good development, for example, would be floating platform upon which cafes, restaurants, and other venues could be erected. That would create something unique and impressive. Of course, it would require 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. 

Another bad image is created with the cheap extensions of shops and venues. You cannot give licenses to create a restaurant in a venue of 45 square meters, which technically doesn't even fit a kitchen, and then wonder why people are breaking the law. Should we tear them down? That's one approach. the other approach is to recommend certain materials and a specific design, so as to create a uniform image. Whoever does not comply within a specific time period with this, then their shop will be torn down. This will be fair for everyone.

Amathus has wonderful and valuable antiquities, for example the Acropolis of Aphrodite at the entrance of Limassol, which could even be our city landmark. There was a willingness from universities abroad to help with the restoration process, but these major projects are not progressing. We cannot talk about the same things for 25 years and not move forward.

What do you consider 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 would once visit Limassol, 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 who come back to the island do so because they have created emotional bonds with the place and the people. There is an obvious inability to attract new tourists, and that is the reason we have remained at around 2.5 - 3 million visitors a year. The growth of tourism in Cyprus is not in line with the increase in tourism worldwide. There have been some developments in recent years which have helped Cyprus a bit, but we could have been in a much better position if there was a steady improvement in the image of the public spaces in the tourist areas

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. The incentives given by the government for developments with a higher building coefficient and the measure for acquisition of citizenship with large investments has certainly helped in this respect. This has also kept the prices of property steady, which was very important. The private sector responded with projects that are also slowly helping to decrease unemployment. 

Are there better destinations than Limassol for one to reside?
Cyprus and Limassol in particular are one of the best destinations for people to raise a family.

What do you really like in Limassol?
I love the sea, the morning walks, and many other things. Important steps have been made towards the improvement of the city. The seafront park, as it has been designed, with the docks above the sea, is also something I find to be very special. So is the Limassol Marina, and the old town.

Which city abroad could be a role model for Limassol?
Monte Carlo could be considered a role model, as far as its cleanliness and order around the marina. We could stand to learn from its image, infrastructure, and the interest and care of the public administration.

Where would you take visitors coming to Limassol for the first time?
Certainly to the Marina, the seafront park, the Medieval Castle. Platres is a very beautiful place, though now forgotten. Another area with a nice view is also the archaeological site of Kourion.

Christos Mouskis, the man

What are the flaws of Christos Mouskis?
Professionally, when I believe in something, and I think that it's right, I'm stubborn. I no longer have the patience I once had. When I say something I expect it to be done immediately. At 53, I don't have the patience I had at 35, repeating the same thing over and over. You could say that the expectations I have of people are very high.

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

What would you wish to evolve?
My children. For me, success will be to bring my 2 sons, Giorgos and Minas, into the business and have them be good professionals, as well as good members of society. It is my wish to pass on my knowledge and experience to my children.

Do you have free time?
Usually not. I often find myself involved in many projects at once, which tend to limit my free time.

Swimming and walking in the morning, both in the 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. Both swimming, but also short trips on the boat. I also like quiet time at home, with my family.

'Souvla' or gourmet? Champagne or zivania? 
Both. Sometimes I prefer the one and sometimes the other. The important thing is to be able to enjoy and appreciate both, according to the mood of the moment.

Coffee? Drink?
My coffee is always Cypriot. My drink of choice is usually red wine.

Personally, it's in my nature to appreciate people. I have very strict principles for myself and my work and I demand the same from others.

Who makes up your family?
My wife Kaiti, our daughter Annita, 8 years old and our 2 sons, Minas, 21, and Giorgos, 24 years old, both of whom are studying in England.

Is your wife understanding?
Yes, very understanding. It would not have been possible any other way. The boys are the ones who missed out on the most, however, due to my many hours of my absence from home. They often mention it, but it was a period of a lot of work. I missed out on many moments, the years have gone by too fast, and I feel that perhaps I owe them an apology.

Do you have regrets?
For some things, yes, mostly for what I mentioned above, for the several moments I lost, being away from my family.

What scares you?
Illness and a family misfortune are always things that we fear. Concerns about family matters, about our children, these 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 believe it to be my personal success when my associates succeed. I believe that your employees are a reflection of you.

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

What bores you?
I am bored by the much necessary but non-creative, administrative work.

What have you learned in 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 people is what you will get. I also think that your staff is a reflection of who you are. You cannot blame someone on 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, a 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, such as the luxuries that come with the business. Going home and playing with my daughter, at age 53, or being able to sit down with my wife to have a glass of wine and talk, these, to me, are the special moments. 

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 probably rethink this, because something is probably wrong. Seeing the sun rise from the sea each morning, while enjoying the cold water of the sea is a great pleasure. You need to stop seeking unnecessary things, or too many material possessions.

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