Crete's diversification efforts gain traction

Thomas Cook is launching its new "value-for-money" brand, Cook's Club, on the Greek island of Crete. And while this brand will target the budget traveler, the island’s other 2018 openings are in the upscale and luxury sector as the government looks to expand gaming throughout Greece.  

Crete's Appeal 

According to GBR Consulting, traffic at main airports in Crete increased 7.8 percent year-on-year in 2017, indicating that the tourism season is growing. 

Earlier this year, the Greek government passed a bill to expand the gaming sector in Greece, including authorization for a new casino on Crete. Despite hopes that the move would drive revenue, the authorities in Crete were, as of press time, preparing to oppose the plan amid fears that a casino would change the character of the island. Objections from Mykonos and Santorini drove the government to amend its plans to make casinos seasonal, operating from March to October.  

The local government has, instead, been looking to medical tourism to bolster its fortunes, aided by the Greek Health Tourism Confederation, which is seeking to combining cultural, sports, gastronomic, nature and geriatric tourism with health tourism. The effort aims to promote the country’s healthcare sector.   

Developers are paying attention. In January, Dolphin Capital Investors entered into an agreement to sell its 77.8-percent interest in the Sitia Bay Resort project (the group’s residential resort development in Sitia, eastern Crete) to its minority partner Iktinos Hellas. The project consists of a five-star hotel, operated by an as-yet unnamed luxury brand, an 18-hole Nicklaus Design golf course, an 85-berth marina and residential units. 

Many of the recent and upcoming developments on the island fall into the upper-upscale and luxury segments, with the five-star 287-room Euphoria Resort opening this month in Chania. The property belongs to the Mathioulakis family, which also owns and operates the Minoa Palace Resort in Chania. In Hersonissos, the Nana Princess was due to open with 112 suites and villas. 

Thomas Cook into Crete

The 148-guestroom Cook's Club Hersonissos will open in the Cretan resort of Hersonissos in June. The company plans to open 10 to 15 hotels under the new flag by summer 2019, largely under franchise agreements.  

“Cook's Club will be a new growth driver for Thomas Cook, as we are opening these hotels in our most important markets," said Ingo Burmeister, chief hotels officer, Thomas Cook Hotels & Resorts. "We will concentrate on large hotels, typically with about 300 rooms, which offer modern and young travelers a great value-for-money holiday.” 

The company already has a 65-room Casa Cook due to open this year in Chania. “With Casa Cook, we have successfully established ourselves in the market for beach hotels at the upper, design-oriented end of the market," said Remo Masala, creative director, Thomas Cook Hotels & Resorts. "Cook's Club also offers the combination of design, excellent food and drink, but in a reduced version that focuses on the things that are important to modern and young travelers. Thomas Cook is bringing urban coolness to the beach.” 

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.