STAVROS MITSIS INTERVIEW – A NEW LANDSCAPE FOR GREEK TOURISM
Greece has drawn global praise for its effective handling of the coronavirus crisis and taught its neighbors in northern Europe many lessons. In your opinion, how did it achieve its success and, as head of the country’s largest privately owned hotel chain, how will Greek tourism benefit from it in the short term?
Greece owes this global praise to its firm and resilient leadership. The government administered bold decisions and communicated openly with the people—managing to obtain public consensus, social cohesion and an unprecedented spirit of cooperation and support from Greek citizens and the private sector. The country’s excellent performance in this crisis will certainly boost tourism in the short term, as Greece appears to be the single safe destination in the region. It will also instill a sense of achievement and pride in the nation after a long, difficult period.
Lockdowns across the world have had a radical impact on life as we know it, creating an entirely new paradigm at social, environmental and institutional levels. How will it impact Mitsis Hotels in particular?
This crisis united the world by putting everyone on the same stance and it helped us discover our best selves through moments of human transcendence and acts of kindness around the globe. The same is true at a corporate level—it has empowered our efforts for progress even more, which was already an intrinsic element in Mitsis Hotels’ DNA.
With our guests’ and employees’ health and safety as top priority, we have drawn up an integrated health and safety plan, specifying detailed procedures for all hotel departments. Aspiring to take care of others as well, we have joined forces with the government and local authorities—we organized a large blood donation in memory of our founder Konstantinos Mitsis and have offered 10,000 nights in our premises to healthcare staff as a way to extend our deep appreciation to them.
Also, we are completing our infrastructure projects that were underway—investments in renovations, modernization and the improvement of all units. We are continuing with all of our organizational development projects as well, to ensure advanced services and unique travel experiences for our customers. We are determined to carry on investing in new infrastructure, advanced technologies and improved services to constantly add value to our product.
The global travel and tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit by coronavirus. Greece is not expecting to reboot its international tourism activity until July at the earliest. What is your assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on Greece’s tourism sector and how will you and your industry peers be working to mitigate this shock?
This unexpected crisis has created multidimensional effects on the tourism sector and, most probably, it will take some time to fully recover. However, it came at a time when Greece has the lead over other countries: our tourism is more mature than ever and is extending its product as a 12-month destination beyond the sea-sun-sand model.
Likewise, it caught Mitsis Hotels on the rise. We have worked intensively over the last three years in implementing a number of large investment projects that have showcased our valuable tourist assets, modern products, quality services and unique experiences that we offer to our visitors, enabling us to reach out to new interest groups and chart a dynamic development path. Now, we need to stay on track: finance our operation for the next 12 months, reduce our costs while maintaining operational readiness and keep on communicating with our colleagues, partners and customers through our business and social networks to update them on our moves.
The severity of COVID-19’s global economic impact has driven governments across the world to launch stimulus packages. At the micro level, what is Mitsis Hotels doing to adapt to the new reality and what innovative solutions have you launched?
Overall, this crisis has further highlighted the unique role our brand plays in the lives of people in Greece. As a trusted partner, visionary sponsor and proud ambassador of Greece, we invest capital, time and expertise in the progress of our communities, we move forward along with our society, we encourage our employees to volunteer, we support initiatives and we care. Technology and artificial intelligence (AI)—offering us creative apps for better services and interactive communication—are our best allies in the development of holistic experiences for our guests and to maximize our group’s competitiveness. Solutions we have introduced include:
- A new user-friendly and multilingual website.
- Live chat tools for immediate communication with our guests.
- A fast and easy check-in process to minimize guests’ waiting time at the front desk.
- Electronic point of sale for online ordering at our restaurants
- Online table reservations for our themed restaurants.
- A concierge platform for the online booking of services and experiences.
- A new loyalty platform with revised structure and redemption for accommodation and services.
- A customer relationship management system for the development of comprehensive guest profiles in one platform.
- Digital signage with multi-projection screens in our hotel lobbies
- We have invested heavily in AI and machine learning solutions, including the OpenText Content Suite Platform that enables optimum data management from transactions, receipts and other documents from the reservations departments, warehouses and accounting offices of all our group’s hotels.
Is there a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis in Greece and specifically for the tourism sector?
This crisis will overturn a lot of things as we knew them but we are certain that brighter days are ahead, fueled by a unique quality in our relationships, life and especially travel. We all need to develop our own piece of corporate social responsibility and show our modern visitor—who has developed social intelligence and environmental awareness—that we care about sustainability and respect human rights. We are now accountable for the impact of our activity on the natural environment and people’s quality of life.
We must all be geared toward local communities and their power to give birth to unique authentic experiences. Let us look for new growth prospects, let us design new brands, let us create new products and services for a new era that is already here. Tourism is one of our greatest opportunities to excel, both individually and collectively. And we are proud that excellence is the key principle guiding Mitsis Hotels’ growth in the years to come.