that forged tourism
The Louis Group constitutes one of the top tourism companies in Southeastern Europe. The first steps were taken in 1935 by Louis Loizou, widely considered to be the ‘father of tourism’ in Cyprus. The Group’s activities today include the ownership and management of 23 hotels, 18 in Cyprus and five in Greece, as well as three cruise ships.
Louis Loizou: The ‘father’ of tourism
The Louis Group today constitutes one of the top tourism companies in Southeastern Europe. It was founded in 1935 by the dearly departed Louis Loizou, who is widely considered as the ‘father of tourism’. The Group’s activities include the ownership and management of hotel units both in Cyprus and Greece, cruises, IATA travel offices in Cyprus, catering services, goods transport as well as aircraft and passenger services at the Larnaca and Paphos international airports.
During the 1930s and even in later decades the word ‘tourism’ and the expression ‘tourism development’ were foreign to the overwhelming majority of Cypriot citizens.
Born in Limassol, Louis Loizou, an innovator and visionary, set off with the goal of putting Cyprus on the global tourism map. Back then, Cyprus was still a British colony.
In 1935, Louis Loizou, forging his vision, set off on a mission, making his first bold business move: creating ‘Adelfotis’, a transport company that initially offered services between Limassol and Nicosia and then extending to other cities.
The ‘Adelfotis’ then grew to an excursion operator, taking visitors to thermal spas, historic monuments and summer resorts, thus promoting the idea of internal tourism in new, comfortable vehicles.
The first tourist office
The great success of his first venture provided impetus to the ‘father of tourism’ and in 1942, he established, during tough times,
‘Louis Tourist Agency-Louis Tourist Offices’. This was the first purely tourist business in Cyprus, but also, importantly, the first time the word ‘tourism’ is utilised as a trademark for Cyprus. The company was involved in organising trips by Cypriots to neighbouring countries and foreign tourism to the island.
Hotels, airlines, cruises
Post WW2, Louis Loizou, who promoted Cyprus abroad at every opportunity, launched his hotel management business, with ‘Semmering’ in Saittas, the ‘Grand Hotel’ in Platres and later on, the newly built ‘Louis Hotel’ (City) at the heart of Nicosia. In parallel, the company becomes a representative of Finnish airline KARAIR, Egyptian MISR and Israeli travel company PEL Tours.
In 1947-48, the company becomes active in chartering ships for Cyprus travelling to the United States, Australia and South Africa, quite a risky venture at the time, which did however prove to be the precursor of the company’s involvement in the cruise business.
From the early years of their establishment, the Louis Tourist Offices become members of IATA, representing foreign airlines.
Meanwhile, the emergence of new tourism opportunities with ships creates the conditions for cooperation with other shipping lines, with the company becoming General Representative in Cyprus.
The first tourist guide
In the early 50s, Louis Loizou publishes the first tourist guide for Cyprus: a quite exquisite and comprehensive edition, with rich content, illustrated by the great Cypriot artist Tilemachos Kanthos.
He annually took part in the Global American Association of Tourist Agents (ASTA) Conference, as well as other international tourist organisations meetings and travelled extensively, circulating brochures with the slogan ‘Visit Cyprus’.
Post Cyprus independence in 1960, the company’s international activities rise dramatically. Known as ‘Mr.Louis Tourist’, now becomes the main representative of the major tourist offices. In addition, within the framework of developing mountain resorts-a persistent aim of Louis Loizou-the Group takes over ‘Pinewood Valley’ hotel. A few years later, in 1969, the company’s chain of hospitality establishments will come to include ‘Ledra Palace’, the capital’s legendary hotel.
Alternative forms of tourism
Post 1960s, the ground has been set to develop organised tourism in Cyprus. A major part of the Louis offices local activities during this time is renting cars and organised excursions for foreign tourists, as well as special interest group outings, such as wine, mines and geology, historical and religious tourism.
The company was so ahead of its time than even today, these alternative forms of tourism are at the top of the list for tourists visiting Cyprus. The decade closes out well for the company with the establishment of its first office in London by Costakis Loizou son in 1969.
Louis Loizou dies
On October 11 1971, Louis Loizou dies at the ‘Ioannis Metaxas’ clinic in Piraeus, aged 57. The news shocked Cyprus and reverberated abroad. The business is taken over by his eldest son Costakis, along with his brother Vakis.
One of the innovations introduced to tourism by Louis Loizou was the idea of establishing the Hotel and Catering Institute. At a political level, he served as tourism advisor to Archbishop Makarios, Tassos Papadopoulos and other emblematic personalities of Cyprus.
1979-1981 is a landmark period for the company that sees the establishment of Sunotels, with more than 30 hotels in Cyprus. This kind of success leads to the establishment of Louis Hotels in the 1990s and expansion to Greece, taking over the management of ‘Creta Paradise Beach Resort’ in Chania, Crete, in 1992.
Building on this successful foundation, Louis continued its expansion to the Greek islands, mainly through the acquisition of existing hotels in Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Zakynthos and Mykonos.
A major stepping stone for Louis hotels was the sale of five hotel units in Greece in 2019 to the property hedge funds managed by US firm Blackstone. The value of the transaction was agreed at 180 million euro, a deal which marked the completion of the target set by the company to reduce hotel ownerships and turn to strengthening the business.
Today, Louis Hotels, member of the Louis Group is one of the leading hotel chains in the southeastern Mediterranean with 23 hotel units in Cyprus and the Greek islands.
The Louis Group responsible company is private firm Clin Company Ltd, owning 66.5% of Louis plc shares, trading at the Cyprus Stock Exchange. Louis plc owns Louis Hotels and Celestyal Cruises.
A quite important landmark in the group’s history was going into the cruises business in 1986, with Louis Cruises. Since then, the Group has made rapid steps in organising cruises on company owned ships across the Mediterranean and other destinations. The Group went on to establish Celestyal Cruises, that’s become the dominant cruise force in Greece, running mainly through the Greek islands and the Eastern Mediterranean. The company owns three medium sized cruise ships.
2003 sees the opening of the Group’s first restaurant, Akakiko, followed by the Greek style Elliniko, with both expanding to other cities. The Group’s franchise restaurants complement the international, thematic restaurants inside the Group’s hotel units, offering truly refined culinary options to visitors.
Part of the Group for 13 years, LGS Handling provides ground aircraft, passenger and cargo services to more than 80 airlines at the Larnaca and Paphos international airports.
The Group’s hotels, restaurants and its range of services as a whole, are annually honoured with awards by the top travel agents internationally, as well as authorities both in Cyprus and Greece, for the high quality of hospitality that they provide, as well as satisfaction levels, evaluated by the company’s clients. One notable example is the award received in 2020 by Louis Infinity Blu Hotel, selected by TUI, the biggest travel organiser, as the best in the world for 2019.
In September 2020, Celestyal Cruises was honoured for the 2nd year running in the internationally acclaimed MedCruises Awards.
In June 2020, for the 7th successive year, Celestyal Cruises won in three categories at the Tourism Awards, the biggest and most distinguished competition of the tourism industry.
In February 2020, Celestyal Cruises received honours at the Cruise Excellence Awards for its ‘Four Continents’ cruise as the best cruise itinerary for 2019.
Upgrading against the tide of the pandemic.
The Louis Group went through plenty of uphill struggles, whether they concerned the country, the economy, Cyprus or external factors, and always came out stronger through the crisis. So with the pandemic too, it truly believes it will overcome all the difficulties and maintain its leading position.
Constantly upgrading its hotels and cruise ships, the Louis Group is always renewing its product, surpassing its clients’ expectations. A major landmark for Louis Hotels was the completion of revamping work at Hilton Nicosia and the renovation of Louis Phaethon and Louis Imperial Beach hotels in Paphos. Beyond that, it also took over the management and transformation of the five star Louis Asterion Resort and Spa and launched collaboration with Sofiana Resort & Spa in Paphos.
Costakis Loizou contribution recognised
Beyond the business unit awards, the Group’s management and officials are also recipients of annual honours. The Louis Group CEO Costakis Loizou has been acknowledged with multiple distinctions for his contribution to the state, society and the economy, both in Cyprus, Greece and internationally.
In 2005 he was awarded the ‘Innovator in European Tourism’ award by the International Association of Tourism Advisors.
Τhe Cruise ship Owners and Shipping Bodies Union honoured him in 2014 ‘for his great contribution to the growth of cruises in Greece’.
But the epitome of this recognition was Costakis Loizou receiving the Special Recognition Award in 2018 by TUI, the biggest tourist organisation in the world, for his major contribution to the development of the sector.
The award was presented to Mr.Loizou by David Burling, CEO and member of TUI’s Executive Board on a special gala hosted by TUI for over 300 selected associates globally, at Savoy Hotel in London.
In his award speech, Mr.Burling referred to the exemplary cooperation of TUI with the Louis Group over 55 years, noting that its CEO was the most important official in the Group. He further stressed two landmarks in TUI’s history.
He talked about the first differentiated product offered by TUI 35 years ago through Louis Nausica Beach Hotel in Protaras, which marked the launch pad for the huge development of this very successful product.
‘Our successful cooperation’, he added, ‘does not just involve hotels but also cruises, as we would not have been where we find ourselves today without the support of this invaluable associate, which 22 years ago, through their massive experience in cruises, helped TUI develop this sector in England’.
It is worth noting that this honour has only been conferred upon very few individuals in the history of TUI.
- The Louis Group was founded in 1935 by the dearly departed Louis Loizou, widely considered to be the ‘father of tourism’ in Cyprus.
- The first business venture is the establishment of the ‘Adelfotis’ transport company.
- 1942 sees the launch of ‘Louis Tourist Agency-Louis Tourist Offices’. It was the first purely tourist business in Cyprus.
- In 1945 the company takes on hotel management and airline representation for the first time.
- During the period 1947-48, the company becomes active in chartering ships.
- In the early 1950s, Louis Loizou prepares and publishes the first tourist guide for Cyprus.
- Post 1960 Cyprus independence, ‘Mr.Louis Tourist’ as he is characteristically known, becomes the main representative of all the major tourist offices.
- The legendary ‘Ledra Palace’ is added to the great family of company hotels in 1969.
- The 60s end well with the establishment of the company’s first office in London.
- Louis Loizou dies in October 1971, aged 57 and his sons Costakis and Vakis take over the reins of the Group.
- 1979-81 is a landmark period for the Group, seeing the establishment of Sunotels, a company which owns more than 30 hotels in Cyprus.
- In 1986, the Group goes into the cruise business, introducing Louis Cruises. At a later stage, Celestyal Cruises is established.
- In the 1990s, Louis Hotels is founded and the Group expands to hotels in Greece.
- The Group’s first restaurant, Japanese cuisine Akakiko, opens in 2003.
- Just before the end of the 2000 decade, LGS Handling is established, providing ground services at the Larnaca and Paphos international airports.
- A Louis Hotels landmark was the 2019 sale of five hotel units in Greece.
The Group that forged tourism
«We’ve been through a multitude of both happy and difficult experiences, but we never caved in»
« Beyond any other considerations, our utmost respect is to the individual entrusting their holiday to us»
The Louis Group constitutes one of the top tourism companies in Southeastern Europe. The first steps were taken in 1935 by Louis Loizou, widely considered to be the ‘father of tourism’ in Cyprus.
The Group’s activities today include the ownership and management of 23 hotels, 18 in Cyprus and five in Greece, as well as three cruise ships.
The Group’s CEO Costakis Loizou offered his thoughts on past, present and future.
What’s it like to be leading a group with such history and a name so significant as to essentially be considered the father of tourism in Cyprus?
Well it is true that being responsible for the management of such a long standing traditional group has both pros and cons. What you need to think about is that you shoulder a great responsibility and you really have to manage it the right way, because that’s what you inherited. As I had the good fortune and blessing of inheriting this group, I am obliged to pass it on to the next generation. This requires a great deal of care. But in any case, I am proud of the work we are doing and I consider it a great honour, a blessing and a challenge that I’ve been given this role. I believe I must fulfill it successfully to the utmost of my abilities. Since childhood I’ve never considered anything else than to go into the family business. This is why ever since I was I student I became active in the office and the company. I grew up in this environment.
Innovation, passion, respect
Through its course and history, every organisation forges a culture, a DNA. What’s the culture and DNA of the Louis Group?
It is none other than the culture developed by my late father Louis Loizou, built on two pillars: one of them is innovation, leadership and new ideas and the other is passion and love for what you do, in this case, providing travelers the best possible service, either foreign visitors to Cyprus or Cypriots travelling abroad.
That’s the Group’s DNA and culture-respect the individual, respect the client. For someone who’s on a trip for a week, taking a holiday, that week is precious to them and you must make sure that everything is set out perfectly for them.
A smile on his face
What memories do you have of your father? Something you always carry with you
My father was a man who always had a smile on his lips. In spite of his health issues, he always wore a smile on his face. He was peaceful and calm, rarely lost his temper, and above all else, he had humility. That’s his heritage. Whether we managed to put it to practice or not is up for debate, as every person is different. But I do believe that these three characteristics which formed my father’s personality and philosophy are a recipe for success in everyone. Speaking for myself, I try to implement them.
A life story behind Ledra Palace
What’s one personal story with your father that will always hold a special place in your heart?
My father was always very strict on me. He never showed me or led me to believe that I would easily become a successful businessman. At the same time however he gave me every opportunity to build the necessary qualifications. He sent me to the American College in Athens as a live in student, which proved to be the most amazing experience. It was a brilliant, highly competitive school with the best students in Greece. Being a live in student at 14, in Athens, I had the opportunity to become street wise at an early age.
I will never forget an incident connected to Ledra Palace when the hotel was put up for sale in 1969. Back then, my father owned a small 30 room hotel, the Louis hotel on Ledra Street in Nicosia. I was 25 and I proposed that we should make a bid to buy the hotel.
‘Why are you flying so high in the clouds son? How are we going to buy the Ledra Palace? Really now, sometimes I don’t know what to tell you’.
I said that ‘we have to look into it, run with it, not just let it slip’. That was the last of our discussion on the matter, but without telling me, he did start looking into it. He ended up buying it. This incident is really characteristic of what I said earlier. While appreciating what I did, he was always trying to keep me in check, keep the reins back.
Tears of joy and pride
Personally wise, what was your outstanding moment in the Group?
I had quite a few of them. Both happy and tough moments, we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. I don’t know if I could really pick one as being the happiest. But what I can tell you is that one of the few times I was moved to tears was in 1985, when we bought our first cruise ship, the Princesa Marissa.
I have to say that when the ship was delivered to us in Stockholm and I found myself on the boat sailing to Cyprus, was just a staggering moment.
My father had been involved early on, as did we, with representing shipping companies. But from the outset Ι wanted control in this sector, acquiring our own ship. It was a really tought ask, as it wasn’t easy to find the money and invest in this market. But when it finally happened and it sank in that a vision had turned to reality, I shed tears of joy.
On the other hand, there were many difficult moments both in the past and the present. 2013 was a tough year, but obviously the toughest of all was the Turkish invasion of 1974.
My father passed away in 1971 when I was 27. We then took a number of blows from certain of our competitors. They would write to the companies we represented, asking them to leave us because Louis had died. They were trying to persuade them that the company ‘had closed’ upon the death of its founder, so I had to fight to keep our clients, saying that everything was in order and I could manage.
I was lucky because my father left me with brilliant associates who stood by me through these times, as we collectively managed to keep the company going successfully. But just as we had overcome the issues following the death of my father and started to grow, the 1974 invasion happened and we were left jobless.
It took a lot of thinking about how we would proceed and we considered taking work beyond Cyprus, in Britain and Greece. We tried to make that happen and also expand to other sectors, other industries and so on. But I realised that investing in other activities lost us money. That made me understand that at least personally, I should be doing something I understand, work that I love and is interested in, not just a profit making job. As I said before, the road to success is passion, coupled of course with sacrifices, a great number of them.
A really tough situation
And how about today. Before the economy had a chance to recover from the haircut, the covid pandemic was upon us. The main characteristic of this crisis is hitting hard on tourism, your sector. How do you see things unfolding?
It’s a really tough situation today. There was massive loss in 2020 as ships remained tied to the docks, hotels were shut down for most of the year and even when they did reopen it was on really limited capacity. Income tumbled as expenses kept running. There was assistance from the state but it was much lower than the crisis funding of other businesses in Europe. Greece supported its companies a lot more in comparison to Cyprus-we also got assistance for our activities in Greece. All in all, state support to businesses in Europe has been much higher. Cyprus did not have the means to offer more, as it would go into huge debt and the government wanted to avoid such a situation.
What mainly happened was the subsidising of employees’ salaries, something that would in any case go ahead to a great degree through the unemployment benefit.
At this point I would however like to stress that we made a conscious decision not to let staff go on any of our activities. We kept all our employees simply because our product has to do with the individual. You cannot afford to miss people who’ve worked for you such a long time and are so experienced in their field. These are the people who will support you, who will get the job done.
So to get back to the point, beyond subsidising wages, we’ve had no other substantial state assistance. It was only a small token.
The state guarantees that should have been provided a year ago, only recently received parliamentary approval. We are the only European country without a timely introduction of this measure, indicative of the mentality in Cyprus.
What’s also characteristic of this mentality is the slogan that state assistance should go to the self-employed as well as small and medium sized businesses, not large firms. And what should we do with these major businesses? Let them collapse? Is it really so hard for authorities to realise that such companies are employing tens of thousands of people? That mostly large businesses are the ones essentially supporting a country’s economy? Don’t they understand that it’s game over if we don’t support large businesses?
A huge stroke of luck…
What’s your take on the next day?
Well we basically got lucky and I personally believe that I was blessed by my grandfather, the late priest Papacostas, also an archdeacon at the Saint Lazarus church in Larnaca. He was a devout man, a saint. He must have left me with a great blessing, as two weeks before the pandemic broke out, in January 2020, we concluded the sale of five hotels in Greece, which brought in an income of around 180 million euro, with a net profit of 84 million. That money allowed us to borrow a lot less and was a great help in responding to our obligation during this tough period of the pandemic. It was such a happy coincidence to close this deal just two weeks before covid started spreading.
On the other hand, I do believe that if not today, at some point, whether its two months or a year, this kind of framework, covid will come under control-it won’t go away, but it will not be an issue anymore and tourism will come back stronger. People who’ve been restricted by lockdowns and other measures for more than one and a half years, want to go out, move freely. And this is a trend on all the relevant indicators and research. This is why I really think that tourism will re-emerge, not just for Cyprus or Greece, but all destinations.
So we need to be ready for the competition; that’s why we’ve utilised all this shut down time to upgrade hotels and rented other establishments. We now have 23 hotels available, 18 in Cyprus and five in Greece, fully prepared for the post-pandemic day. Last July we also bought a third cruise ship, in excellent condition, at a really good price.
11 Limassol Ave., 2112 Nicosia,
P.O.Box 21301, 1506 Nicosia, Cyprus
P.C. 2571 Nicosia, Cyprus
+357 25 22818140