Interview – Vagelis Arapis: ‘homm Can Become a Great Partner to any Hotelier’
As tourism professionals we aim to light up the way to the new era of hospitality management in Greece, says Vagelis Arapis, the managing director of homm, a Greek hospitality management company that deals with vacation rentals and boutique hotels management.
Founded in 2004, homm’s portfolio consists of more than 200 properties in Athens, Mykonos, Syvota, Serifos, Evia and Arachova. The company’s portfolio includes modern apartments, spacious villas and boutique & apart hotels.
This year, despite the appearance of the Covid-19 pandemic, homm managed to add more properties to its portfolio and also see profits rise.
“Throughout the past period we have managed to not only maintain our portfolio, but also further expand it,” Vagelis told GTP Headlines, adding that the company’s performance in the post-Covid-19 environment saw occupancy up by 84 percent and profits higher than 2019 for the same period.
“Having more than 20,000 reviews in total and with 3,885 stays this year, homm’s reputation has exceeded Greek borders, with leading foreign and Greek travel agencies recognizing the company as one of the biggest accounts in Europe,” he said.
In this interview, Vagelis introduces homm and shares the company’s next goals, which include plans to create one of the biggest retirement centers in Europe.
- GTP: Vagelis, please tell our readers a bit about yourself.
Vagelis Arapis: I was born in Piraeus and a graduate of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a major in Physics. But for as long as I can remember, I was drawn to having a career in the hospitality and tourism industry. I have attended several certified training seminars in the area of Hospitality, Digital Marketing & Real Estate, both in Greece and abroad. My work experience in hospitality began in 2010 as a project manager in an apart hotel in Piraeus. In 2014, I met Dimitris Rizos, the founder of homm, and instantly shared with him a strong friendship and a mutual passion for the vacation rental and hotel industry. Dimitris at that time had the vision of making homm a significant Greek hospitality management company, so we began working hard to achieve that goal. Now, six years and 20,000 reservations later, homm is bigger and stronger than ever looking towards the future of hospitality with optimism.
- GTP: How many properties are in homm’s portfolio and where are they located? Which destinations are you targeting next?
Vagelis Arapis: We have managed to create a portfolio consisting of over 200 properties/hotels in Athens, Mykonos, Syvota, Serifos, Evia and Arachova. With regard to our portfolio, I’d like to mention that throughout the past period we have managed to not only maintain, but also further expand it, posting an impressive 24 percent increase. Our expanding strategy does not focus on specific locations. We invest in diversity, as it creates challenges.
- GTP: What are homm Hospitality Management’s future plans? What is your next focus?
Vagelis Arapis: homm is widely recognized in Europe as a successful vacation rentals account. Our goal is to expand more in the boutique & apart hotel industry. Apart from further expanding our portfolio – adding even more hotels and destinations – we would definitely incorporate the key learnings and experience of the past season, so as to further improve our services, providing added value to our customers.
The vacation rental and hotel industry can learn a lot from one another. The two industries need to find a common ground in order to survive and evolve. Adaptation, flexibility, partnerships and extroversion is the new normalcy.
- GTP: Just how powerful is social media and digital marketing?
Vagelis Arapis: At homm we invest a huge monthly budget for online marketing. Our company uses all modern means of digital media. Social media marketing is a necessity in these times for businesses of all sizes to reach prospects and customers. Contemporary customers are already interacting with brands through social media, and if you’re not “speaking” directly to your audience through social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin, then you’re left behind. Companies that lag behind in communication through such platforms should seek assistance from an expert to accomplish their goals.
- GTP: As a “vacation rental” sales company, homm offers services to a select number of hotel units. Does this mean that your services are only available to hotels of specific categories or are all hotels welcome?
Vagelis Arapis: homm can become a great partner to any hotelier. We work with villas, boutique hotels or apart hotels, even holiday rentals. The most important factor for us is the relationship built with our partners and a hotelier/property manager that is able to adapt in changes.
- GTP: What do you think would be the next Greek big thing when it comes to hospitality and real estate?
Vagelis Arapis: Greece is a “swiss knife” country – as I prefer to call it – and its climate plays a major role in that. Retirement programs are a great new model to attract foreign income to Greece. New Greek laws have made this kind of investment even more attractive for foreigners to invest in properties or in agricultural plots since the tax is significantly decreased. homm is already discussing a cooperation with a big real estate company for the construction of 3,000 houses in Evia that will be exclusively managed by homm aiming to create one of the biggest retirement centers in Europe. The project is at the licensing stage, but the estimated launch date will be early 2023.
- GTP: In your opinion, how much has the hospitality industry changed since the Covid-19 pandemic? Which would you say are the three main challenges hoteliers/property managers will likely face over the next few years?
Vagelis Arapis: Major OTAs have been hit hard due to the pandemic, forcing them to lay off up to 40 percent of their personnel, meaning that they cannot handle supporting thousands of individual owners. The future of Greek hospitality lies in the hands of big organizations-accounts that can handle the digital sales or the management of the properties professionally. Online reservations will dominate, while traditional travel agencies and tour operators will slowly fade away if they do not follow the flow of the new reality. Travel trends are changing as well. Travelers are searching to book direct and hoteliers have to follow these trends too and they better do it fast. Hoteliers/property managers have to become proactive and more creative.
- GTP: You previously mentioned that major OTAs will shrink. Do you think that there will be more space for new players to enter this market?
Vagelis Arapis: I do 100 percent and that is what we are planning too. homm has created its own booking platform for exclusive properties, hotels and villas in Greece and it’s doing great even in its early stage. Regarding the benefits, all interested owners/hoteliers are able to register and upload their property and instantly benefit from homm’s 28,000 direct clients database, provided that it is fully renovated and meets all the necessary standards for hosting guests in the areas where the company operates if they are looking for a 360° solution or as digital sales agency anywhere else in Greece.
The homm reservation system is easy to use, fast and functional. Its is a unique tool in the hands of every user who wants to discover special properties with top features and book them easily from the comfort of his or her home.
- GTP: What would homm’s message be to Greek hoteliers/property owners in these times?
Vagelis Arapis: “Aim for new partnerships with professionals and seek for stability.” homm Management can become a valuable partner for our clients, providing them tailor made services along with high-end marketing and sales strategy tools. Our expertise, flexibility and out of the box thinking mentality have already brought successful results to our existing portfolio. We are looking forward to discuss, ensure the trust and build partnerships with new hoteliers/property owners in order to help them navigate through this new era for the hospitality and travel industry and together build the best plan for their successful operation in the days to come. Until then stay safe / stay homm.