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Interview – Vassilis Lapanaitis: ‘Square Lime has a Vision for the New Era of Hospitality’

Liostasi Ios Hotel.

“I’d like to think of us as a company with a vision for the new era of hospitality,” says Vassilis Lapanaitis, the owner of Square Lime, a premium hospitality management company in Greece.

Founded in 2015, Square Lime’s portfolio consists of hand-picked luxury properties around Greece that have the potential to evolve into strong brand names that reflect world-wide hospitality values.

“We are not a mass production company, and for this reason we are quite selective about the properties we represent and include in our portfolio,” Vassilis tells GTP Headlines.

Square Lime offers its partner hotels strong expertise in all fields of online and offline sales, yielding, marketing, branding and reservations; and frequently presents and sells the USPs (unique selling points) of each one of its properties to an extensive network of premium travel agents all over the world.

“Square Lime has reinvented the scope of business of a hotel management company, by adding the task of creating signature feelings/experiences for our guests as an important part of our job as a management company with a vision to the new era.”

– Vassilis Lapanaitis

An interesting fact is that this year, keeping in accordance with the current conditions due to the Covid pandemic, Square Lime is also approaching “digital nomads” to experience its properties.

GTP Headlines caught up with Vassilis and found out about the company’s next plans, which include adding new boutique properties to its portfolio very soon and also focusing on new markets.

  • GTP: Vassilis, please share some career highlights with our readers.

Vassilis Lapanaitis: My academic studies commenced with a bachelor degree in the Marketing Department of Athens University of Economics & Business, followed by a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Cardiff Business School in the UK. After working for some years in Moran Hotels, a boutique hotel chain of London, as well as in one of the biggest FMCG companies – Colgate Palmolive – in various managerial positions both in Greece and abroad, in 2006, I undertook the project of establishing our own family business: a boutique hotel on the Greek island of Naxos. In 2015, I launched Square Lime with its first three boutique hotels and villas.

  • GTP: Please “introduce” Square Lime to us. What was your inspiration for the company’s focus?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: Square Lime is a premium hospitality management company with an absolute focus only on premium villas and boutique hotels in Greece. We are not a mass production company, and for this reason we are quite selective about the properties we represent and include in our portfolio. Square Lime has a holistic approach on the management of its properties, as I strongly believe that we cannot divide the various commercial tasks of a hotel and be involved only in certain parts of it. Strong expertise in all the fields of online and offline sales, yielding, marketing, branding, reservations is a de facto prerequisite and a vital asset for us that we share with our valuable partner boutique hotels and villas. Finally, Square Lime has reinvented the scope of business of a hotel management company, by adding the task of creating signature feelings/experiences for our guests as an important part of our job as a management company with a vision to the new era.

Kouros Hotel, Mykonos.

  • GTP: Do you have a specific screening process in order for a property to be added to your portfolio? How many Greek properties are currently in Square Lime’s portfolio and where are they located?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: Square Lime supports luxury properties in order to evolve into strong brand names that reflect world-wide hospitality values. Our strict selective strategy concerning the properties that make it to our portfolio, goes hand in hand with personal direction and professional consultancy for all our property owners. The location and the architectural/design identity are the 2 basic factors that we screen. Once we approve a property based on those criteria, there is a plethora of minor factors that guarantee our decision of adding a property in our curated portfolio of boutique hotels and premium villas. Right now, Square Lime has the management of 25 unique properties around Greece in many destinations such as Naxos, Paros, Ios, Mykonos, Tinos, Athens, Crete, Ioannina and Mani.

  • GTP: Which markets abroad does Square Lime cooperate with? Are their plans to target other markets this year?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: Square Lime has an extensive network of premium travel agents all over the world. We are constant exhibitors in ILTM Cannes, the most influential luxury B2B travel show around the world.  Every single day, our sales department conducts new meetings and contacts with new premium partners from all the continents (Europe, America, Asia, Middle East e.tc) in order to present and sell the Unique Selling Points for each one of our properties. Before the Covid pandemic, we used to travel abroad in order to arrange agreements with new agents. During the current Covid status, all these meetings are taking place through online meeting platforms, and we hope to be able soon to meet personally once again with all our partners agents around the world. This year, we had focused on approaching “digital nomads” to experience our properties and emphasized on new markets globally in accordance with the current conditions.

Amani Villa, Mani.

  • GTP: Does Square Lime work with both online and offline channels?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: In such periods of uncertainty, it is vital to be both flexible and able to target various markets, online and offline, all the continents and various type of travellers (leisure, digital nomads, experience seekers e.tc). It is quite important for everyone to understand that you cannot disconnect your online strategy from your offline. Both online and offline strategies should be aligned in order to achieve the maximum RevPAR. Also, it is crucial to “protect” your online presence (content, rates, policies) from the many mistakes that take place in B2B cooperation by many hoteliers.

  • GTP: Ever since Covid-19 came into our lives, tourism and hospitality have been up against many unprecedented circumstances. How did the pandemic affect your business?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: 2020 was a year like no other, as the travel restrictions and economic downturn brought on by the global pandemic devastated the entire travel industry. The way we used to formulate our policies, our rates and our markets had changed. But with vaccinations now underway, there are promising signs that a gradual recovery is just around the corner. But, we can do more than just sit back and wait for recovery. The smart use of data presents a unique opportunity to shape the recovery and make it even better. Combining guest intelligence with revenue performance insights will allow us to do just that.

  • GTP: Regarding Greek tourism and taking under consideration that this season is expected to be very challenging as the Covid-19 crisis is not over, what is your view for 2021?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: During our recent discussions with all our agents-partners around the world, they always mention the strong interest of their clients to travel to Greece once this situation becomes better. The brand name of Greece seems to be quite strong, and we really hope to capitalize on this. However, it seems that once again this year the majority of our reservations will take place on a last-minute basis, and we need to be alert on responding to any news regarding opening/closure of borders between countries. Forecasting will be a challenging task again in 2021.

Villa Kampani, Mykonos.

  • GTP: What are Square Lime’s future plans? What is your next focus?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: Square Lime will add 6 new boutique hotel and villas in various destinations to its portfolio next month. We are focusing on our sales department in order to achieve a widespread distribution for all our properties, as well as focusing 100% on the day to day revenue management tactics for each one of our hotels and villas. We are also scheduling which luxury travel fairs we will participate in 2021 and 2022, focusing on totally new markets. Furthermore, we will start creating the “Signature Feelings” session in each one of our destinations in order to be able to propose a tailor-made Grecian chic escape – resort solution for all our guests. Square Lime will also continue to invest in its team and people, maintaining the good reputation of attracting the most qualified and with high expertise people in the market.

  • GTP: What would your message be to Greek hoteliers/property owners in these times?

Vassilis Lapanaitis: In such difficult and challenging times, my suggestion to all the hoteliers is to focus on three pillars: 1) Building Trust with their guests and partners: Empathy & Integrity; 2) Innovation: We need to rediscover the way we used to do our tasks and to find more creative solutions for each aspect of our business; and 3) Attention to detail: It is important to understand that each one of us represents the Greek tourism product abroad and these difficult times are the ones that could provide a strong competitive advantage for Greece, if we keep on striving for excellence both in operational and commercial level.

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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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