“New Faces” is a column by GTP that introduces the young professionals of the Greek tourism industry. In each column, the Greek professionals refer to issues related to their profession, the travel & tourism sector and Greece as a destination.
“Greece itself is still ‘the best kept secret’ of the tourism industry… It is very important to get the word out that Greece welcomes visitors all year round…”
Stephanie Anastasiou is the Founder and CEO of the Greek travel group Ask2travel and a member of the Board of Directors of Lino Group, a company that creates value in 2D & 3D printing technologies and software for e-business traveling communication.
Working in parallel with her studies, Stephanie has over 12 years of professional experience in accounting, finance and business. She holds a BSc in Business Administration and MSc in Accounting and Finance and her expertise focuses on Management, Strategic Planning, Customer Service and Marketing.
Ask2Travel was founded in 2011 as a travel office and developed into a group of companies in the region. Its IATA-accredited main office in Athens serves online more than 300 sub-affiliate travel agencies and branches in Palio Faliro, Kifisia, Heraklio (Crete), Istanbul and recently in Thessaloniki. In 2015, Stephanie co-founded the site Yachts-sailing.com, which was awarded by Google during 2016-17.
Currently, she is working on the projects of Top Notch Travelers for Luxury Travelling and Ask4Beds for incoming tourism. Those projects are based on the Entrada professional booking platform, which is operated and supported by Lino Group.
- What are the things you like best about your job and how would you describe your hospitality and tourism management philosophy?
The fact that I am part of the most important “industry” of our country fascinates me. I like that Greece is one of the best — if not the best — international destinations. A reality and a fact that creates a limitless growth perspective. Moreover, I meet and associate with people from all over the world at the best moments of their life, which is during travel for either business or leisure. Managing and meeting all these demands is challenging, interesting and opens my mind. It shows me a lot about the world we are living today.
My hospitality and tourism management philosophy is included in the two phrases: “customer satisfaction above all” and “employment of the edge of technology in management”.
- Have you had to face any challenges in your career to get to where you are today?
Many challenges had to be faced from the early days since I had to start from scratch only a few years ago. We had to establish ourselves as brand name Ask2Travel in a competitive environment such as the travel market. We also had to do this in the midst of the financial crisis, which was — and still is — the greatest challenge. Coming from a different background, mainly from technology and business, we had the challenge and opportunity to combine the merits of the tourism industry with technology. This provided a competitive advantage and helped establish Ask2Travel as an important player in the Greek tourism market in only a short time period. Of course, main factors include loving what I do, working hard and focusing on our vision. All of this gives me energy and power.
- In regards to hospitality, where do you think Greece needs to improve the most?
There are still many challenges ahead for the Greek hospitality sector and they are well known, i.e. airports, yachting marinas and of course legislation and bureaucracy in all aspects. Serious issues involving the accommodation sector, concerning privately rented rooms and apartments via Airbnb, has to be made transparent and controlled by legislation. It is unfair that licensed owners that pay their taxes have to compete with this unclear legal situation regarding the short-term rentals.
Moreover, in general, I believe that rates and prices should be more consistent and competitive, especially in sea travel, as well as food and beverages, which means we need a lower and smoother tax and VAT approach.
- What 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?)
For people that have had the chance to travel around the world either for holidays or for business, it is very clear that even today Greece itself is still “the best kept secret” of the tourism industry. Of course there are nice places around the world as well, but to an objective opinion none combines unique merits such as natural beauty; weather conditions and sun; culture and history; food and natural resources; and hospitality and high spirits. The combination of the aforementioned is unique and my belief is that in the coming years, Greece will reveal amazing new opportunities. Just think, we haven’t even seen the 50 percent of the beauty on the islands or mainland yet.
- If you could pass on a message to the hospitality industry about Greece, what would it be?
To have full confidence in our tourism industry and to focus on the top quality we can offer. Greece has much more to offer. There are so many unique places to visit. Tourism in Greece shouldn’t be just for the popular and well known islands and some big cities like the Greek capital Athens/ Greece truly has impressive destinations, in every corner and every aspect. It is very important to get the word out that Greece welcomes visitors all year round as it has forms such as alternative tourism, mountain tourism and even “snow-skiing under the sun”. These are tourism forms that are still unexplored.
- What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future include continuing and intensifying what I do, growing the business, exploring new possibilities in niche tourism and travel industry applications, implementing technology even more in our business and passing the message about Greece to a wider market geographically, besides just our region.
- If you didn’t work in the hospitality industry where would you be?
This is hard or impossible to say! Working in hospitality and tourism is something very natural for me and fulfills my ambitions to the maximum. I do not have time to think of anything else!
Connect with Stephanie Anastasiou on LinkedIn