As the Northern Hemisphere slips into summer, our daydreams turn to potential vacation escapes for the coming months: idyllic islands settings, dips in the ocean between bouts of sunbathing and gleaming white architecture set against endless blue skies.
“The retreat is described as a ’boutique hotel with a bohemian spirit’, though we’re inclined to simply call it paradise.”One of these dreams turned into a reality when we were invited to stay at Casa Cook, nestled into the hillsides of Kolymbia on the Greek island of Rhodes. The brand new 90-room retreat is described as a ’boutique hotel with a bohemian spirit’, though we’re inclined to simply call it paradise. Eager to find out more about the story behind the hotel, we settled back into a deck chair and spoke with Remo Masala, Chief Marketing Office at Thomas Cook Group about the concept and design behind the hotel, the Greek attitude towards welcoming travelers, and the search for authentic experiences that transcend the tourist trail.
Thomas Cook offers a wide variety of vacation experiences, but Casa Cook’s profile is slightly different from the other hotels in your network. How does it stand out from typical summer resorts?
First of all, I think it’s important to mention that with Casa Cook, we have just moved to another level of individualized hotel offerings. Understanding data, working together with the right people and having a good sense of style all come together to make this hotel the next development in our hotel strategy. [Thomas Cook] has around 200 hotels around the globe, and five different brands. Casa Cook Rhodes is the first in this series of individual concept resorts, which we developed together with the owner of the property. We are already planning future Casa Cook projects around the Mediterranean – the next stop will be Majorca.
Rhodes is quite a popular tourist destination. What are the alternatives for the people who want to veer off the beaten track?
“Wherever you go in the world, you find treasures – if you keep your eyes open and talk to locals.”The question is what is the classical tourist path, because everyone is actually a tourist when in another place. The bigger the island, the more options. We have a list of atypical activities – we know where to get local food, and have connections to creative people doing interesting things. It is important for us that guests do not spend all their time at Casa Cook, so we need places that fit the brand, where people can have fun and experience the island in different ways. Wherever you go in the world, you find treasures – if you keep your eyes open and talk to locals. I spent my whole life traveling and asking for directions instead of using Google Maps. To me, it is very important to talk to the locals – it is the best first point of contact with the country.
How does the traditional, historical character of the island correspond with the contemporary style of Casa Cook?
“There is a word in Greek: Philoxenia, which means love to strangers, an act of hospitality and welcome.”Casa Cook and the Greeks have a lot in common: both are laid back, accept everybody, and have a special interest in living in freely. The concept of ‘be as you are, come as a friend, eat as a friend’ is typically Mediterranian, and especially Greek. There is a word in Greek: Philoxenia, which means love to strangers, an act of hospitality and welcome. It is what the locals live by. We also try to embody this concept at Casa Cook.
You describe the style of the hotel as “bohemian”. What kind of holiday experience does this represent for your guests?
I would not call it a holiday experience. Casa Cook exists to invite travelers rather than typical tourists. The traveller will experience more than just staying in a resort and going to a beach for two weeks and flying home. A traveller creates a collection of memories and treasures. Casa Cook offers a laid-back atmosphere with focus on style. We want it to be honest, and reflect the individuality of every visitor. I am very happy that our visitors and staff exchange stories and learn from each other.
What are the signature architectural and interior design features of Casa Cook? Who stands behind them?
“We wanted to bring together travelers of the world with timeless, down-to-earth design.”Together with the architect Vana Pernari, interior designer Annabell Kutucu, and concept developer Michael Schickinger, we created a bohemian style for Casa Cook. This year, we’re celebrating 175 years of the company, and so this project was also an homage to the founder, Thomas Cook, who was known for his innovative ideas. We chose Michael and Annabel as they’re known for their exceptional architectural style. We wanted to bring together travelers of the world with timeless, down-to-earth design.