Friday, 28 April 2023, 14:19
I never tire of the view when flying. I'm always happy to pay a little extra, just to feel the excitement that always accompanies the unique perspective offered by the aircraft's diminutive oval window. This time, my destination was Greece, always a treat, since the plane typically comes in to land over pine clad landscapes and bays of azure waters.
I was arriving in Thessaloniki, the second city of Greece, and pretty much the country's most lively cultural hub. Much of the historic centre was destroyed in the fire of 1917, so the city does not have much architectural charm on first impressions. Yet it is one of the most vibrant, friendly cities I have visited this year, with interesting shops and a dynamic restaurant and bar scene. And the reason I was there, is that it happens to be home to the airport serving Sani Resort, a hotel and leisure destination that is proving to be a popular holiday choice for families splurging on prized post-pandemic travel.
Found on the sandy Halkidiki shores of the Aegean Sea, Sani Resort promises to offer the best of all worlds to guests of all ages: a haven of both excitement as well as tranquillity set on a stretch of coast surrounded by pine forests and wetlands, where five upscale hotels and more than two dozen restaurants make up an award-winning sports, leisure, and lifestyle resort. I was arriving with a mission - to better understand the art of a successful family holiday.
Probably at this point I should make a confession. Despite being, in my humble opinion, an excellent uncle, I am not a parent. I don't travel regularly with my family's kids. My experience of family travel is the kid kicking the back of my seat on the plane, or the baby in the row opposite bawling as the plane takes flight.
However, I do know a thing or two about hotels, and I'm intrigued at how fancy resorts, once focused almost exclusively on couples, are now going all out to embrace families too. Parents want the same memorable stay they enjoyed as a childless couple - and the hotel industry has taken note.
Catering for this market makes good business sense. If hotels can keep their younger guests happy, this always makes for delighted parents and relatives, creating loyal guests that are far more likely to return.
On the sun-soaked peninsula of Kassandra, Sani Resort appears to have been built from the ground up with parents and children in mind. Yet my first impression was not of a family resort. With a sophisticated design, impeccable presentation, and a choice of hotels, including properties that are clearly targeting couples, the resort certainly has a wider appeal.
There's fine dining too, with the Over Water restaurant by Chef Stephanie Le Quellec (who has a two-star Michelin restaurant) and El Puerto by David Ibarboure (who has a one-star Michelin restaurant) and Fresco by Ettore Botrini (another one-star Michelin chef), while for younger families renowned child nutritionist Annabel Karmel MBE has designed the children's menus for many of the resort's 27 restaurants.
Talking to guests throughout my stay I realised just how much families are willing to invest in a memorable holiday - many were confirming they were happy to spend many thousands of euros for the perfect week. For that they get chances to have fun together, but to enjoy some time apart too. Here that's made possible with the nanny services and kids club, as well as the beachside babysitting, with the so-called 'Babewatch team' caring for the little ones in the shallows, so parents can have time to themselves to enjoy the beaches.
The five luxury hotels and marina of Sani Resort share a secluded setting surrounded by nature including a 1,000-acre ecological reserve, 7km of Blue-flagged beaches, over 20km of forest trails and 270-acres of wetlands. It is with this luxury of space that Sani Resort has really excelled, with the creation of world-class academies that can appeal to all ages, and levels of fitness from active families to athletes.
There's the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre where this summer, during days in July and August, guests can meet Toni Nadal (former coach of Rafa Nadal and Head Coach at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca), as well as Carlos Moya (current coach of Rafa Nadal and Tennis Director at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca).
Also, in July Ashley Cole will be visiting the resort's Chelsea Football Academy, bringing a touch of star quality.
There's also a whole new take on the family holiday survival guide. Bear Grylls, said to be the world's sexiest adventurist, has opened the Bear Grylls Survival Academy at Sani Resort, teaching families authentic survival skills, like navigation, spear making, stalking, and tracking.
So next time you book a break with the young ones, check out the scope and availability of activities and facilities for kids and teens - it really could make the difference between simply surviving the time together compared to making joyous memories as a family.
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