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Interview – Felix Shpilman: ‘RateHawk is Moving Full Speed Ahead in the Greek Market’

RateHawk has launched a fully localized version of its platform for the Greek market.

RateHawk has launched a fully localized version of its platform for the Greek market.

“The Greek market is one of the most important for us – the tourism industry here is mature and developed, and both outbound and domestic organized tourism is growing, with demand rising.” – Felix Shpilman, Emerging Travel Group

RateHawk, a global innovative online travel booking service for professionals, is moving full speed ahead in the Greek market, almost a year after launching operations in Greece.

RateHawk is owned by Emerging Travel Group, an online travel group that operates four brands.

Emerging Travel Group CEO Felix Shpilman

Emerging Travel Group CEO Felix Shpilman

“By the end of the third quarter of 2019, we had tripled the number of our Greek partners compared to the first quarter,” says Felix Shpilman, CEO of Emerging Travel Group, referring to a “great achievement” that is driven by the product’s competitive strengths and the efforts of RateHawk’s local Greek team.

RateHawk has partners in over 100 countries globally and cooperates with over 10,500 travel agencies. The company provides travel professionals with a supply of over 1.2 million unique properties globally sourced from more than 85 world’s best hotel suppliers.

Moreover, RateHawk in September introduced a fully localized version of its platform to the Greek market, offering its services in Greek language to travel professionals.

“We have already received lots of positive feedback from our current partners, so we are very optimistic,” Shpilman said.

In this interview, Shpilman gives GTP Headlines the latest on the company’s activities in Greece, future plans and also provides interesting data on new trends and tourist behaviors in Greece.

GTP: We met back in March at the ITB in Berlin when RateHawk was just starting out in Greece. Eight months later and having raised $10 million, where does RateHawk stand?

Felix Shpilman: We have definitely experienced very busy months recently – we have worked relentlessly on our product RateHawk, a B2B hotel-booking platform, to meet the specific needs of Greek travel agents so that even more travel professionals in Greece can take advantage of the convenience it provides. In September we introduced a fully localized version of RateHawk to the Greek market. The whole system – including search pages, hotel profiles, the booking form, booking confirmations, and transactional notifications – is now available to travel professionals in their native Greek language. We believe that this improvement will make it easier for our Greek partners to make bookings, carry out payments, check information, and make changes to orders. We have already received lots of positive feedback from our current partners, so we are very optimistic.

GTP: RateHawk has been working in Greece for over a year now. How did the Greek market receive RateHawk, did you manage to make your way here?

Felix Shpilman: Today RateHawk is used by over 10,500 travel professionals in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Africa. The Greek market is one of the most important for us – the tourism industry here is mature and developed, and both outbound and domestic organized tourism is growing, with demand rising. A wide range of travel agents are working in Greece, and many of them are already using RateHawk. By the end of the third quarter of 2019, we had tripled the number of our Greek partners compared to the first quarter – that is a great achievement which is driven by the competitive strengths of our product and the outstanding efforts made by our local Greek team. It is not enough just to sign new contracts and bring new partners on board, it is important to guide them throughout the customer journey and to teach them how to use the system in order to benefit from it. Therefore, we dedicate lots of time and resources to onboarding our partners, holding online and offline workshops and educating them to gain the most profit.

The RateHawk team at the World Travel Market (WTM) 2019 in London.

The RateHawk team at the World Travel Market (WTM) 2019 in London.

GTP: Are there any new trends or tourist behaviors you are seeing in Greece?

Felix Shpilman: We clearly see that both outbound and domestic organized tourism is showing growth in terms of hotel bookings. Based on the demand we received from our partners over the first 10 months of 2019, the top domestic destinations for Greek travelers in terms of bookings are Athens, Santorini, Thessaloniki, Heraklion and Mykonos.

The leading choices for outbound trips are Spain (Barcelona and Madrid), Italy (Rome), France (Paris), the UK (London), Germany (Berlin), and Belgium (Brussels).

The most active months in terms of the number of stays are May, June and August, followed by September and October. Normally, Greek travelers book hotels the same month the trip is planned for, or 1-2 months in advance, but they rarely book accommodation earlier than 3-4 months in advance.

As for the length of stay, Greek tourists generally prefer shorter trips across Europe and book hotels for 2 to 3 nights. The longest stays are recorded in Tunisia (7 nights), Seychelles (6 nights), India (6 nights), Bali (6 nights), and the USA (5 nights).

To sum up I would say that the tourism industry in Greece is growing and we believe the trend will continue in the upcoming years.

GTP: From your experience in Greece, what requirements of Greek travel agents can you identify? Do they differ from the needs of travel professionals in other countries?

Felix Shpilman: We have dedicated teams in over 30 markets who work day-to-day with our partners. From our experience we can see that the global needs of most travel agents are quite similar – they all want the best possible hotel supply and the most competitive prices. They seek a quality service able to meet their needs, and they want the paperwork to be simple and transparent. All these requirements are consistent with the needs of Greek travel agents, and these are exactly the areas we are concentrating most of our efforts on.

GTP: What is at the top of your agenda for next year?

Felix Shpilman: We are focused on further scaling RateHawk and strengthening our position in European markets and beyond, acquiring new partners, activating existing ones, implementing API integrations and other technical solutions. Our particular focus is further growth of our team and hiring – we are searching for passionate professionals to join us in Greece to help us grow even faster. And of course, we will keep working on our product, developing new features, building a better UX, and ultimately providing an exceptional booking experience.

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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