Stella Fyrogeni

Interview: Maro Voulgari

Paros as an all-inclusive destination

Stella Fyrogeni has long been engaged in the tourism industry. She has been a member of the tourism committee of the Municipality of Paros for over 10 years, occupying various positions and representing a number of associations, and is the owner of the Margarita Hotel in Ambelas. The challenging current situation and the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic in the tourism sector has mobilized her creatively…

She started viewing related international websites and videos. Along with Saint George Hotel’s Katerina Vitzilaiou, they thought of setting up a closed internet group so that the island’s entrepreneurs could exchange information and support each other. Before long, the closed group opened up on fb under the title “Paros Tourism Enterprises’ Business Networking”. The group has now reached 614 members, including academics at Greek and international universities, who submit valuable specialized knowledge in the fields of economy and tourism.

“It was not enough for us to be an informal, non-institutionalized internet group, though,” Ms. Fyrogeni tells us. So, last April, we took the initiative to send a request for cooperation to the Municipality of Paros. I also participate in the Tourism Department of the Cyclades Chamber of Commerce. If there was a solid and sturdy committee on the municipal board of directors, we would not need to take these actions. So, we tried to fill in this gap. Imagine that we are still unaware of who and how many persons make up the tourism committee of the Municipality. We don’t even know when they meet. But, in any case, even if the Municipality was to function perfectly, it would need professional support. So, we kicked off our first meeting, and, along the way, all the stakeholders turned up – and our team keeps expanding. We also invited MTC GROUP, the tourism consulting company catering to the Municipality of Paros, who every so often used to launch highly inventive promotional campaigns, currently providing PR and blogger outreach support. Well, Mr. Martakis, its CEO, made a noteworthy comment: “That we should all see Paros as an all-inclusive destination offering guests a holistic travel experience.” Therefore, all we, entrepreneurs, need to be connected and focused on maintaining a quality standard and pulling each other up. Next, we started thinking about how to provide added value to our services.

Especially this year, those who choose us do us a favor, as they select us out of dozens of destinations. They could be staying at home and avoiding taking risks or spending their little money since we are literally experiencing a crisis within a crisis.

How can we be eligible over others then? Everyone should think about one’s own business as well as what could be the extra mile that, especially this year, we need to go to ensure a comparative advantage. The idea is not necessarily to shortchange quality, but to beef up our product offering in the market adding amenities and benefits. Thus, a network began to take shape, and the third consecutive Zoom online meeting was held, which was the starting point for the launch of discovermyparos made possible with the kind help of Nikolas Stephanou. Aspasia Kovaiou, having related studies, helps us manage our social media and content, Mina Kakania handles our communication, Nadia Ragoussi kindly designed our logo. Dimitra Kritikou and Vicky Bafiti are at the hard core of this project, along with Athena Perantinou, Stavroula Tricha and Maria Chanioti. Parola magazine, too, enthusiastically endorsed our idea and offered to become one of the main communication vehicles of this collective effort. If we succeed, then, as University of Piraeus’s professor Ms. Zouni said in a speech, we will create news, and news is more penetrating than advertising! A business consulting team set up in the same university willingly offered to carry out our strategic planning. welcomed its first members and was introduced to the business community and visitors to Paros with the following text:

We are the people of Paros. The people of the hospitality and restaurant sector who work to ensure an optimal travel experience for our guests. We are your hosts and your holidays. We are here to highlight unique aspects of the island, to guide you across its paths, to bring our history to you so that you can create your own. Every business featured in the discovermyparos team adds another brushstroke to the picture that is Paros, upgrading the hospitality experience offered to our guests. Paros is all of you, temporary locals and visitors. Live with us the authentic Paros experience. Come with us and discovermyparos.

Visitors on discovermyparos will be asked to fill in a form listing all the deals offered by its member entrepreneurs, with links to their webpages. We are also trying to construct an interactive map for travellers to click on and find out the participating businesses. Local entrepreneurs can, even before their guests have even arrived at their property, let them know via email about the extra components the area has to offer, namely, the getaways, short cruises, guided tours, activities, and services they can enjoy, so that visitors can be informed in advance and plan ahead. The same goes for possible discounts offered by nearby businesses. Added to that, the companies will internally cooperate with each other at yet another level, such is the protocols, informing one another, since there are well-known gaps in responsible information dissemination. We are, therefore, moving forward taking steady steps, without rushing, because we are now in the middle of the season. We also notice similar movements taking place on other islands – such as Chios, Corfu, Milos, etc. – and try to envision the future that lies ahead for Paros, not in the next season but in the next decade, embracing “competition” as a new word in our vocabulary.

Summer 2020