Tuesday, February 19, 2013

For the Love of Paphos - by NAN MACKENZIE

I would like to thank the Cyprus Mail for this fantastic experience to share my views and ideas. Of course without Nan Mackenzie this interview would have been boring. It is great to share thoughts with a journalist who gets to the depth of your brain. Again thanks Nan for standing me for so many hours.

 A dedicated group of volunteers is determined to make Paphos’ declaration as European Capital of Culture 2017 a success. NAN MACKENZIE meets one of their key members Few people have the talent to really engage with people, to spur them on and to both educate and entertain. Petros Mavros is such a man, and he comes across as having exhausting nervous energy that fairly snaps, crackles and pops in the air around him. He is a genuine polymath, a believer in the teachings of 14th century Italian humanist Leon Battista Albertione, architect, poet, linguist, author, lawyer and mathematician, who subscribes to the view that “a man can do all things if he will”.

One area of passion for Mavros is what he calls the most human of industries, which makes it such an important national resource, where people grow with knowledge and training, and are then able to offer a truly positive customer experience. He is describing the human face of the Cyprus tourism industry, and after watching him in action during one of his company training courses it is clear that here is someone who could easily take apart an old Skoda, surround himself with all the greasy bits, and then put it back together as an XR3i.

 Petros moved with his Spanish-born wife and family to work in the Spanish hotel business. Returning to his hometown of Paphos, he now runs his own company mixing training in the hospitality sector with work as a consultant and a web master. And, like the ‘shark’, he has to keep moving forwards, constantly trying out new systems, thriving on mental challenges, testing out the validity of what he calls his “light bulb moments”. 

When asked if he could pick any time in history to be born which period would he choose? “Now. I truly love this time, no question about it, it’s an exciting period in history with the tectonic plates of technology moving so fast we will be seeing mammoth changes in the way businesses will be run in the future and how our lives will be changed. That’s coming from one who was born at a time when if you wanted to make a phone call you had to be indoors. We now have the opportunity to change things for the better but to never ever forget that at the same time, life can only really be defined in the present tense”.

Talking about changing things for the better, Petros is a key member of the team of volunteers behind the successful bid that saw Paphos named as European Capital of Culture for 2017. The volunteers – who all work on an equal footing – were responsible for putting together the successful bid. They are still very much involved in what will be staged in the town during the celebrations and changes that will need to be made in order to host it. So how does Petros see his beloved Paphos rising to the challenge of 2017? “Hope that the powers that be will come to recognise both the enormity of the challenge and the positive long-term effects this title can have not only on Paphos and its people, but Cyprus as a whole will stand to benefit. “We have an enormous opportunity here to provide a legacy for our children and our children’s children, and it cannot ever be construed as a big, one-year party that fades away after 12 months so no-one can remember it come April 2018.

Another great thing that has happened is the emergence of our band of volunteers - these are men and women who live and work in Paphos and are genuinely passionate about their town and its long-term future with the title of European Capital of Culture. Without the unstinting contributions given by our volunteers we would not have won the title, they gave up their time and worked unpaid in order to ensure the title will indeed serve as a catalyst for the cultural development and the transformation of the city. It’s their enthusiasm and commitment which we have to build on now to have an excellent, well thought out outline programme. We will as a team be able to showcase Paphos and so lay down solid foundations to build on for the future.”

When Melina Mercouri in 1983 conceived and proposed the programme of the European Capital of Culture she and the French Cultural minister Jack Lang strongly advocated that direct political involvement should not be present within the core management of any cultural capital organisation and this was endorsed within the European Union, which each year designates a city to hold the title. But how is Paphos handling this limiting of political power? “The ‘bid book’ - the bible of action to be taken - also confirms this very important point that political dominance was not in the interest of the project. Experiences within other cultural capitals have shown that a board heavily weighted on the political side invariably ends up being hijacked by political interest at the expense of cultural interests, and it then becomes a battleground for conflicting political interest, priorities and egos. “If the politicians ruled the roost, so to speak, with 2017 then we would surely be placed in a situation whereby we have a group of blind men trying to describe an elephant. One will hold the trunk and say it’s a snake; another will grip a leg and say it’s a tree; another will stroke the ear and say it’s a banana plant. They will all say different things because they cannot ever see the whole thing.”

Obviously a man capable of inspiring others, I have to assume that Petros is a born leader. Once 2017 has passed, would this lead to the natural development of seeing him run for a political post? “Every morning I join a group of friends and regardless of the weather, we go for an early morning swim in the sea. I often lie on my back and float for a time, trying to clear my mind of any stress. Sometimes I close my eyes and dream that one day gravity will cease to exist and I will just float upwards adrift over Paphos and be slowly carried by gusts of wind out to sea. When I look down from the clouds I always see the politicians who despite the loss of gravity are the ones who still cannot gain any lift”. That’s a no then.

 He is more interested in working with those in the hotel industry, giving value to people working at all levels – which is what he does when not concerning himself with the Paphos of 2017. “If our tourism business is a pyramid then the base has to be rooted in the experience enjoyed by the customer, chambermaids are, after all, the people who change your sheets and clean up after you. Of course they first walk into the training room and wonder why the hell they are there, being faced by a big fat hairy man spouting on about tourism marketing when all they can think about is how many rooms they still have to clean. But after a time they begin to realise how important they really are to the overall running of the hotel. Their work is probably the first indication a customer gets on how caring and professional an establishment really is. “My belief is that tourism is a natural resource that needs to be managed as such, with people growing with knowledge, and that knowledge being transmitted into training which not only assures working skills but most importantly human skills. It’s not important if a waiter serves wine from the right or left, what matters is the ability to transmit enthusiasm and knowledge when serving the wine, otherwise all wines will taste the same to the customer. With this philosophy front and centre within the tourism industry we can hopefully recover some of our lost ground and grow with a bit more confidence and knowledge and so assure jobs and income for people in the long term.” And driving our tourism industry forward requires the big bosses appreciating the human force and harnessing it for the power of good. “It’s important for them to understand that people have personal power or they have positional power. Positional power means I have power over you because I am the chief executive and you should fear me because of who I am. And then there’s personal power, which is what’s inside all of us, and believe me the dishwasher in a restaurant or hotel can have more personal power than someone who is a manager because they have that innate quality. In other words, being a manager doesn’t equal being a leader, what does, is in the way you treat people and how you lead, and that is part of what I subscribe to”.

 Petros comes across as a thoroughly nice guy and this too is something he underlines in his training. “Being nice is important in any job, it’s not a soft unfashionable word it’s an important one, as being ‘nice’ is as important as having passion for your job. None of us want to work for people who aren’t nice, that’s not being selfish that’s just an absolute essential in the service and hospitality business. Life is just too short to be dealing with people who aren’t ‘nice’. Give me someone who is nice and who is passionate and I can teach them everything else”. Now in his 40th year, Petros graduated in hotel management from the renowned Swiss Hotel Association Hotel Management School Les Roches, before going on to work in Europe. He is a fine writer; and as a cook lays claim to making the best paella this side of Barcelona; he relishes good wine; is fluent in English, Spanish, German and French, also speaking Catalan as well as native Greek. Married to a Spanish teacher he is father to teenage twins (boy and girl) and the family live in a multilingual multicultural home in Paphos but, he does however admit to being a somewhat difficult man to be married to. “I am a bit self absorbed, impulsive and I do like to have my own way and my work sometimes is put above my family, but I am fortunate in that my wife really does understand me and she supports me but, what I really do badly at is saying no to things”.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for you comments, they are very valuable to us.