Face of the Week: Katerina Santikou, Managing Director at Hospitality Recruiting Company ‘Workathlon’
“Face of the Week” is GTP’s weekly column that introduces the young professionals of the Greek tourism industry. Every week, a young Greek professional will refer to issues related to their profession, the travel & tourism sector and Greece as a destination.
“My philosophy is that learning never stops, no matter the industry. A great professional is one that is at the forefront of changes and innovations.”
Katerina is the Managing Director at Workathlon, an exclusive hospitality job portal and recruiting company.
Having grown up in her family’s hotels — Santikos Collection — and heading their HR department, she decided to tackle one of the industries biggest problems.
Katerina graduated from Georgetown University with a double degree in Government and History and in her free time is involved with various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Greece.
- What are the things you like best about your job and how would you describe your hospitality/tourism management philosophy?
Founding and leading a company has taught me to be humble and really listen to what others have to say. Our sector is an ever-changing one with technology acting as a tool for the improvement of both the services we provide and also the spread of knowledge. My philosophy is that learning never stops, no matter the industry. A great professional is one that is at the forefront of changes and innovations.
- Have you had to face any challenges in your career to get to where you are today?
Having studied Political Science and History and having worked in NGOs and Think Tanks, prior to entering the hospitality industry, my thinking was always critical rather than analytical. My challenge was to incorporate financial models and analysis in my thinking and for the numbers to guide my decisions. Its like having learned to walk forward and then teaching yourself that sometimes you have to walk backward as well.
- In regards to hospitality, where do you think Greece needs to improve the most?
Education. Our sector is highly fragmented and lacks executive education programs for mid-level professionals who are seeking to extend their knowledge base. Workathlon is seeking to create training master classes for professionals on specialized fields such as yielding management, public relations and hotel revenue management. It is also pivotal to change the culture education in Greece and encourage students from a younger age to see education as a driving force for development and teach them how to constantly learn outside the formal educational institutions by using the Internet, books on specialized fields, talks and seminars.
- Which is your region’s best kept “secret”? (In other words, what shouldn’t be a secret in your opinion and should be promoted more abroad?)
Unfortunately, very few destinations are truly known abroad. Ask any foreigner who has visited Greece one or two times and the destinations they know are pretty much the same. Mainland Greece is a “secret” amongst all Greeks, whether that is Pelion or Mani or Zagorochoria. I once took a journalist to the village of Vizitsa in Pelion and he ended up writing a page spread for Grazia on the beauties of the mythological mountain. Other “secrets” are the smaller islands like Alonissos and Kimolos that boast national marine parks. The list is endless…
- If you could pass on a message to the hospitality/tourism industry about Greece, what would it be?
First, I would recommend hoteliers to introduce trainings on the job. The results they will see will be phenomenal. Second, I would highly encourage hotels to introduce activities and experiences for visitors during the low season: hikes, culinary routes, wine tasting and wellness activities are all activities that hotels can introduce, no matter where they are located. Incorporating the activities that the destination has to offer, on their websites and brochures has no cost and informs the visitor that there is more to do. With a high service standard and activities for all ages, Greece could extend its season and provide value to the customers.
- What are your plans for the future?
I would like to see Workathlon grow and improve, while at the same time help the sector improve the educational level of hospitality professionals. Being involved in NGOs in Greece I am also aiming to help hotels become an integral part of societal improvement. As for me, while I keep learning it’s unknown what the future holds.
- If you didn’t work in the hospitality/tourism industry where would you be?
Our sector has so much to offer that one can be involved with every other sector through hospitality should they wish to. So I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. No other field provides you with the options as this one does.
Connect with Katerina Santikou on LinkedIn