Interview – Yiannis Mattheos: ‘Yachting Tourism Contributes to Santorini’s Image as Year-round Destination’
By Nikos Krinis
“Yacht lovers seek a ‘real experience’ and not just a cruise and this is exactly what the company Caldera Yachting, Santorini Luxury Cruises offers… Our motto — ‘The experience of a lifetime’ — says it all,” Yiannis Mattheos, the CEO of Caldera Yachting, says, adding that the experience his company offers visitors begins from the very minute they arrive on Greece’s popular island of Santorini.
Caldera Yachting specializes in yachting in the area of Santorini and provides a full range of vessels of high standards, including catamarans, motor yachts, sailing boats and traditional boats. The company offers cruise packages that ensure flexibility to its customers, either to choose a group cruise, sharing and enjoying the beauty of the island, or to create their own private program, experiencing a completely personalized excursion.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) caught up with Mr. Mattheos who underlined the importance of yachting tourism to the local economy of a destination as well as the biggest challenges the industry is currently facing. He emphasizes Santorini’s appeal as a unique yachting destination and the fact that the island is an ideal all year round tourism spot. “Santorini can offer significant experiences all the time because I strongly believe that it really does not have seasons, but creates them,” he said.
“The activity of the company has contributed significantly to the economic development of the island, responding fully to the demands generated, especially in recent years due to the extending of the tourist season.”- Yiannis Mattheos
- Caldera Yachting recently received top honors for customer service and strategic initiatives at the Tourism Awards 2017. What has led to these distinctions?
Yiannis Mattheos: This year’s honors of Caldera Yachting are significant, because the company is ranked among those identified for their best practices and initiatives, which strengthen the innovation and the quality of Greek tourism. Actually, the constant effort to maintain high standards of customer services, but also to continuously upgrade services with innovative proposals and initiatives have been rewarded. These assets create a competitive advantage for our company, but also will contribute effectively to the economic support of the island in which it operates. We were distinguished for the third time in a row at the Tourism Awards and this year’s dual recognition is just another important step in the company’s continued growth.
- Where do you think the Greek yacht industry is headed today? What developments do you foresee in the industry over the next five to 10 years?
Yiannis Mattheos: Over the last years, the yachting industry displays an important development. I would say that for Santorini it is one of the most important business activities which supports the local economy. Additionally, I would say that yachting is necessary to be part of a visitor’s travel schedule on Santorini as it has developed into one of the top selections once can enjoy while on the island. The future of yachting in Greece seems favorable as there are opportunities for investment, development and personal involvement for the industry to thrive. But what is essential and crucial for yachting is the issue of infrastructure as well as measures the State should take that would give a significant boost to local initiatives that undoubtedly support the economy. Let’s not forget that tourism is one of Greece’s most important pillars of development.
- What are the biggest challenges that you face in the industry at the moment?
Yiannis Mattheos: I would say that the biggest challenges in the industry today include the uncertain economic conditions that have brought changes in the tourism market and visitors habits. Another challenge is to extend the tourism season but also be able to satisfy the customers demands during different seasons of the year. The intense competitiveness of the local tourist environment is also another challenge.
- What are the company’s key strategic pillars? What is the main direction towards which Caldera Yachting is heading these days?
Yiannis Mattheos: So far, the company has built a robust name in the market and is showing remarkable growth results, given the peculiarities of the economic upswing of recent years. It follows a clear growth strategy that focuses on two pillars:
• Providing high quality services with specialized and personalized programs, offering a full range of vessels
• Attracting and maintaining strategic partners by creating relationships of conformity
Having perfectly identified its target audience, with an emphasis on customer service, our main concern is the focused effort to maintain the completeness and quality in the delivery of ourservices.
- What are some of the experiences that today’s yacht lover is looking for and that Caldera Yachting can offer them? What makes you different from your competitors?
Yiannis Mattheos: The quality of service signs the real experience and this is our differentiation from the competition. The vision is expressed through our motto of “The experience of a lifetime”. The differentiation lies in one key element, creating experience, highlighting all the elements that will give a unique dimension and added value in every minute of customer’s trip. The client looks for this experience that begins from the moment he boards the company’s cars for the transport from the port. From the moment of pick up from his hotel, he enjoys a short tour and learns useful information about the island that creates the mood and expectation for what will follow. From the time of boarding the yacht the customer realizes the uniqueness of this experience and it culminates throughout the journey. The welcome; the tour; getting to know the place, the beaches, the landscape, the sea wealth; the encouragement to seek new experiences; the offered service during the excursion; and the friendly environment, creates an incomparable experience.
- What are your plans and goals in regards to supporting the local economy and society of Santorini?
Yiannis Mattheos: The activity of the company has contributed significantly to the economic development of the island, responding fully to the demands created, especially in recent years due to the extending of the tourist season. In addition, Caldera Yachting strengthens the local community systematically by supporting economic initiatives that highlight the uniqueness of the area, such as fishermen’s associations, sports clubs and events connected with the local culture and tradition. Additionally, we contribute significantly to Santorini by participating in international fairs and assisting in features of Greek and foreign publications and printed or electronic tourist guides.
- The Municipality of Thera is aiming to increase tourism on Santorini during off-peak summer months and has launched the “Santorini: Year-round Destination” initiative in cooperation with the island’s enterprises. Is Caldera Yachting part of this initiative and, speaking as a professional, can the Cycladic island handle being open all year round for tourists?
Yiannis Mattheos: Yachting is a focal point for attracting high-level tourism in the island. The company’s decision to create the appropriate conditions for supporting initiatives that extend the island’s tourism season and thus support and contribute to the economic development of the island, was an important bet. In a season such as winter, visitors are much more demanding because the weather conditions allow for specific and limited activities. We have overcome this and succeeded in offering a structured and complete winter tour package, known as the “Caldera Panorama”, which is affordable in price and is of high quality and exceeded expectations. This initiative was an efficient sales tool for our partners that remained open during the winter, giving them an alternative activity to suggest to their clients.
- What is the yachting season of Santorini at the moment and in your professional opinion what would be the ideal season? Can the season be extended to attract even more yacht lovers to Greece?
Yiannis Mattheos: As I mentioned earlier, the myth that Santorini is a strictly summer destination due to the insular region has been dispelled. The typical season starts in April and ends in October. In recent years, however, there is significant demand which denotes a major challenge for businesses that decide to extend their activities. Santorini can offer significant experiences all the time because I strongly believe that it really does not have seasons, but creates them.
- In regards to fleet development this year what should we expect from Caldera Yachting?
Yiannis Mattheos: The company has a total of 17 yachts, 8 catamaran, 2 sailing boats, 3 motor yachts, a traditional wooden boat and 3 rib boats. The Catamaran with its particular style can promise the uniqueness of the experience allowing peaceful escapes even in the most demanding sea routes, offering comfort in traveling. The category of motor yachts with high-end to safety but also quality, features comfortable and fully equipped luxurious spaces. The traditional boat – with wooden cladding and stylish elements, offers comfort and a unique experience totally in keeping with the Greek reality and tradition. The sailing boat, for action lovers, has a different style while it is also suitable for trips outside the region of Caldera, to islands in close distance of Santorini. Finally, if the client wishes to reach destinations that require speed, the alternative of the rib boat is available, which can quickly reach difficult points of the sea area.
- Is Caldera Yachting considering expanding and offering experiences around other Greek islands?
Yiannis Mattheos: Of course. The customer already has the possibility of “escaping” to nearby islands like Anafi, Ios, Folegandros, Mykonos and other islands, where they can enjoy classic sailing or a luxury getaway with the company’s motor yachts or quickly “jump” there via the rib boats.