“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.
“I sometimes feel like a tech-oracle seeing the future of the tourism industry. In a couple of years, AI and self-driving vehicles will change the way we think about travel.”
Born in 1979 in Athens and raised as an Athenian, but with origins from Sparta, George combines the fighting spirit and the thirst for knowledge from both tribes. Holder of a Bachelor on Tourism Management he has worked for companies such as Intercontinental Hotels Group, Hotel Beds Group and TUI and now serves as Head of Business Development at Welcome Pickups, a Greek tech company offering insight tools for hotels, travel agents, cruise and airline companies, for optimizing their performance and offering personalized guest experiences. According to George, as the highest customer-rated travel brand, surpassing Airbnb and Uber, Welcome is becoming the new standard for in-destination travel services and recorded an amazing growth of 300 percent year-on-year reaching 270k travelers in 2017.
- What are the things you like best about your job and how would you describe your hospitality and tourism management philosophy?
The most amazing thing about my job is that it has an actual impact and improves the day to day life of my partners drastically. I am learning new things every day and always aware about the new technologies. Actually, I sometimes feel like a tech-oracle seeing the future of the tourism industry. In a couple of years, AI and self-driving vehicles will change the way we think about travel.
- Have you had to face any challenges in your career to get to where you are today?
I am still working in the tourism business, which was and always will be my biggest love, but moving on to a tech company was maybe the wisest move I could ever make. My career was a roller coaster ride full of challenges and crossroads. My first steps as a professional were in the hotel industry and then I switched to travel planning, cruises, tour operating, events and now I’m in the tech field. I feel blessed that the path I have followed has given me a great experience and an all round knowledge on my sector.
- In regards to hospitality, where do you think Greece needs to improve the most?
We have an amazing country with breathtaking landscapes, but the biggest need is to improve the infrastructure that we offer as a destination – from the basics like road networks and ship-hospitals covering our islands to the most advanced like fiber optic network all over the country. We also need to create synergies between the public and private sector in order to have a solid destination branding abroad, promoting growth in all regions.
- What would you say is Greece’s best kept “secret”? (In other words, what shouldn’t be a secret in your opinion and should be promoted more abroad?)
This is a tough question as I have so many places in mind, like the amazing “undiscovered” islands of Skopelos, Alonissos, Kythira and Elafonisos; places like the castle-city of Monemvasia; or the amazing sandy coast of west Peloponnese from Pylos in Messinia up to Kyllini. These are some of our best kept secrets.
- What is your favorite place/city/beach in Greece and why?
There is a small sea village named Gialova, placed between Pylos and the astonishing beach of Voidokilia. It is a picturesque village and within a short distance you can visit amazing waterfalls, swim in turquoise waters and enjoy authentic flavors with products that are harvested from local farmers.
- If you could pass on a message to the hospitality industry about Greece, what would it be?
That they should not miss out on the momentum for sustainable tourism investments that our country now has gained. It is not by chance that some of the biggest firms are now investing in multiple sectors across Greece as the potential for growth is huge.
- What are your plans for the future?
Alongside with “Welcome” I want to change the way people travel and we are already a big part of that change. As a person I want to always be one step ahead of competition and keep the balance between my personal life and work. My motto is that “perfection lies within simplicity”.
- If you didn’t work in the hospitality industry where would you be?
Retired at my country house in Itylo, growing my own food.
Connect with George Liakakos on LinkedIn