This summer, Apollo Travel Group opened the doors to a new sports and fitness hotel in Greece, hosting the Swedish Winter Olympics team the moment Greek tourism re-opened for business. Apollo Sports’ Daniel Giray speaks to Kate Cracknell.
How did you come to host the Swedish Olympic team’s training camp?
We’ve had a strategic partnership with the Swedish Olympic Committee since 2013.
The Committee helps us secure Olympic training standards for our hotels’ sports and fitness facilities, ensuring everything is good enough for an Olympic training camp. In return, we help them with their Top & Talent programme, whereby we host training camps for their existing and up-and-coming stars at two of our hotels: Playitas Resort and Sivota Retreat – powered by Playitas. When it opens in May 2022, Porto Myrina – powered by Playitas will also host Olympic training camps.
“We host training camps for the Swedish Olympic Committee, for existing and up-and-coming stars”
The camps can be week-long pre-camps for the whole Olympic team to prepare for the next Games; cluster camps, where a few different sports come together to train and learn from each other; or individual camps, where between one and three athletes come to use our facilities for pre-season or pre-competition training.
For example, Playitas Resort recently hosted the Swedish handball team for a pre-camp before the Tokyo Olympics. And the full Swedish Winter Olympics team stayed and trained at Sivota Retreat in May 2021, the first week we opened.
Tell us more about Sivota Retreat – powered by Playitas.
We took over management of the hotel during COVID lockdown, renovating the whole of the existing sports infrastructure as well as building new padel courts, a large gym, a group cycling space and a WOD Box for functional-style training. We also refurbished all 151 guest rooms and the common areas, and built a new à la carte restaurant.
The hotel was then relaunched as ‘Sivota Retreat – powered by Playitas’ on 17 May 2021 – two days after Greece re-opened for tourism – making it one of Apollo Sports’ five concept hotels. [See The launch of Apollo]
“We host professional athletes every week. Guests find it inspiring to holiday in the same place as their heroes.”
Sivota Retreat – powered by Playitas offers a wide range of land- and water-based activities that include fitness, padel, tennis, group cycling, mountain biking, road and gravel cycling, waterskiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing, stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and kayaking.
We have three tennis courts, three padel courts, and our location in the mountains means we’re surrounded by perfect tracks for running, hiking and biking. There’s a pool area with separate children’s pool, but the sea is also crystal clear and ideal for open water swimming, SUP and kayaking.
Our fitness offering includes a brand new Casall PRO gym that’s been equipped to the Swedish Olympic Committee’s standards for Olympic training, with extensive resistance and cardio training options.
What about group exercise?
We have a very busy group training schedule, regularly running multiple classes at the same time, so there’s plenty to choose from. We do have space to move things indoors on particularly hot or rainy days, but other than gym-based training, much of what we do is delivered outside. Being outdoors is, after all, why people come to us – it’s a lovely climate to train in.
Classes include functional training, yoga, dance, cardio and group cycling, to name just a few. Our cycling classes are already really popular and with just 15 bikes they’re always full, so we’ve had to add more classes to the timetable and now run several every day.
At Apollo, we have a strong focus on sustainability – including, when not restricted by COVID measures, no single-use plastic – so we’ve installed BODY BIKE OceanIX. These are manufactured using recycled plastic fishing nets, so they’re a great fit for us.
Which of your facilities did the Swedish team use?
This was the Swedish Winter Olympics team, so it was very much pre-season training, building endurance and strength in preparation for Beijing 2022.
They did a lot of group cycling, mixing it up so different sports teams were training together. They loved our outdoor cycling space, enjoying the beautiful views over the crystal clear turquoise sea and green island beyond.
They also did lots of Olympic lifting and technique training, as well as general team-building. By the time athletes get to the Games, they’re so focused. Training camps are the perfect ice-breaker – a chance to get to know your team-mates ahead of the Games.
What’s the balance between elite training and holidaying enthusiasts?
Although we host professional athletes every week – not just the Swedish Olympic team, but all sorts of elite sports professionals – they only make up around 5–10 per cent of our total guest base. They’re also self-sufficient, in that they bring their own coaches and programming, so our in-house coaches can still focus on our other guests.
Occasionally, a team will take over the whole hotel; that was the case with the Swedish Winter Olympics team in May. But generally, elites and holidaying enthusiasts are here at the same time and there’s no problem giving them all a great experience. In fact, guests find it really inspiring to be holidaying in the same place as their sporting heroes.
What’s special about your sports and fitness experiences?
Our guests take their sport seriously, and so do we. There’s none of that animation team stuff, with entertainment organised in the evening. We’re about sport, pure and simple, with high-quality facilities and professional instructors: PTs, group exercise instructors, cycling and triathlon coaches, tennis trainers and so on. We also pride ourselves on our high service levels and great F&B. It all leads to high levels of customer satisfaction.
“Training camps are the perfect ice-breaker – a chance to get to know your team-mates ahead of the Games”
Is it all-inclusive as far as activities go?
Our Sports Inclusive concept – which is enjoyed by all guests – means all activities other than one-to-one training, motorised watersports and premium bike hire are included in the price.
The philosophy of ‘powered by Playitas’ is that everyone who wants to do so can train freely, trying out new sports and sharing the joy of training without worrying about the cost.
Are guests’ expectations changing?
We’ve certainly evolved the formula of our gyms over recent years, moving away from big, fixed gym equipment and towards Olympic lifting and functional training. Our WOD Box is hugely important, for example.
We’ve also put Zwift areas into our gyms in response to guest demand. And ever since COVID, guests are keen to train in smaller groups – even though, with all our outdoor training options, we’re now are allowed to bring more people together. That’s fine with us, though, because smaller groups means more personal attention from the instructor, and that fits well with our premium approach.
Are there new resorts in the pipeline?
In addition to the opening of Porto Myrina – powered by Playitas next May, we will also open another resort – a 250-room hotel in a brilliant location in Europe – in April 2022. That’s all the detail I can give you right now though: it’s still top secret! What I can say is that indoor cycling will absolutely be on the agenda there, too.