On a recent trip to Santorini I was sipping a glass of rosé at Katikies, a swanky boutique hotel, when I glanced down and noticed that my sandal had created an unsightly scuff mark on the pristine white terrace. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask my waiter a question I’d been pondering all afternoon. “How often do you paint this place? Is it done once a season, or…?”
He laughed. “We actually repaint it every single day.”
Whether you’ve visited Santorini or simply ogled photos of the immaculate whitewashed village in the Aegean Sea on Instagram, you’ve perhaps also wondered how they keep up appearances.
It turns out, for a property like Katikies, that image of perfection is the result of a carefully curated effort—and a whole lot of money. The Greek hotel spends approximately $29,392 a year on paint for its white exterior. It’s not a bad investment. Katikies, which charges around $1,000 per night for one of its rooms, sees the paint as a crucial aspect of their success.
“It’s the first thing you notice when you step foot on the property: the stark white steps in contrast to the bright blue sea. That moment is our opportunity to make a strong initial impression,” explains Nikos Georgiadis, the hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing.
Several years ago, Katikies decided to hire a full-time painter who spends eight hours a day adding fresh coats to the hotel’s 34 rooms, two pools, and various common areas. And for a small boutique that regularly operates at full occupancy, that’s no easy task.
Each morning at 6 a.m., Savvas, the property’s painter, receives a list from the maintenance department that details exactly what needs to be painted—and, more importantly, the specific window of time he has to complete each job, so as not to disturb hotel guests.
“The majority of the work needs to be done before everyone wakes up,” says Georgiadis. “During the day it gets really tricky. He has to know exactly when a guest has checked out so he can quickly paint their room before the next guest arrives.” Luckily, thanks to a combination of strong winds and sun exposure, most areas only require a two-hour drying time.
For Katikies, maintaining a flawless facade isn’t just about impressing the guests who’ve already checked in—it’s also a way to drum up new business via social media. The hotel’s Instagram account has over 50,000 followers, and that’s not including all the guests who posted perfect shots on their own accounts.
“Instagram has changed everything for us,” says Georgiadis. “People used to book based on word of mouth, but now it’s based on photos…and that’s powerful.” At the same time, it also means that hotels are being held to higher standards, since everything they do is on display for the world to see.
Georgiadis admits that before Instagram, big improvements would often take years to make happen. And now? “We can’t afford for the hotel not to look perfect,” he says. “It’s really challenged us to rise to the occasion.”