My Life in Travel: Stelios Haji-Ioannou
'The first thing I always do is ask the concierge for a good restaurant'
Saturday 02 October 2004
First holiday memory?
When I was growing up in Athens in the early 1970s I used to visit my grandparents in Cyprus during the summer. In those days, the better-off Cypriots would holiday in the mountains where it was cooler, in a resort called Platres. We used to go there too for the hiking.
I don't do holidays any more - I do long weekends or combine them with business trips to long-haul destinations. I suppose I am a workaholic. I've got a boat in the Greek islands so, if I have time, I'll go there. If I want somewhere lively I'll sail to Mykonos, or Kea for somewhere more laid-back.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Central London. I am an urban type of guy. I like the buzz and the cosmopolitan nature of the city. Everybody is always made to feel very welcome even if they are not born in the UK.
What have you learnt from your travels?
How little of our world we truly understand.
Ideal travelling companion?
Other than my Blackberry for picking up e-mails? Ha-ha...
Greatest travel luxury?
To have local friends to show you around. I feel at home in Athens, London and Monaco, because I have friends there. You get to see a city in a way no business traveller ever would.
I have to admit that I don't read many books. When I travelled to Shanghai recently I read a book on the city, but usually I like to sleep on long-haul flights.
Better to travel or arrive?
I like to get there as fast as I can, but I never stay longer than a couple of days. I have a low boredom threshold, which you can no doubt see from the rate at which I have been creating new businesses over the last few years.
Worst travel experience?
I have travelled three to four times a week for the last 20 years, but nothing stands out other than a few delays. I have been very lucky.
There have been too many to mention!
The Raffles in Singapore. It's a combination of colonial tradition and excellent service standards. They look after guests in a way that probably isn't cost-effective in the West.
Driving a convertible along the Cote d'Azur from Nice to Monaco.
Best meal abroad?
The Club 55 in St Tropez for lunch. It's a great place to have sea bass and watch people.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Ask the concierge for a good restaurant.
This month I have just visited Shanghai for the first time. I don't speak Mandarin, but it certainly fulfilled my dream trip. Its dynamism is certainly on a par with New York's.
New York. I really admire the "can-do" attitude that people have there. It's quite normal to have a meeting at 6am and work right through the day, then go out at night and have fun.
I am in the car on my way to Luton to get on a plane to the south of France to discuss the launch of easyCruise. This is going to revolutionise the way people see the Med, in the same way that easyJet has changed the way we fly. It will allow holidaymakers to book for as long or as short as they like, with prices starting at £29 a night, for a range of destinations around the western Med.
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