How to create a powerful tourism start-up, by Nikos S. Morantis
Nikos S. Morantis talks about the new trends in hospitality, Destsetters, and his personal involvement with 100% Hotel Show
Over the past seven years, the team of Destsetters and its co-founder, Nikos S. Morantis personally, have developed some of the most successful tourism start-ups, focusing on the hotelier market. Among these projects, the most successful ones are Travel by Interest and Hotelier Academy, as well as the involvement in the strategic development of 100% Hotel Show, the Premium fair for Hoteliers in Greece. But which is the key to the success of a tourism start-up?
We met Nikos S. Morantis, who talked to us about the correct ingredients for a successful start-up. Also, Nikos explained how he has managed, together with his team and without an initial budget, to develop the brands of Destsetters on a global level and work with some of the most important hotels and hotel brands around the world.
First of all, Nikos, can you please explain to us exactly what you do as a professional?
In a few words, we could describe my position as a Tourism Strategy Specialist, with high expertise in Hotels. In fact, what I do is to study the global hospitality market's trends on the levels of Operation, Marketing & Sales, and specify projects that cover the needs of modern Hoteliers. This is something that I begun working with after me and my business partner, Zenios Zeniou, developed with our team the brand of Destsetters.
Tell us a little bit more about Destsetters. As we can see in your website, Destsetters currently has three different projects in its network!
Indeed, Destsetters has steadily grown as a world leader in hospitality, studying the market's needs and developing new services that focus around the needs of the market. So, at this point, the Destsetters network includes three different brands:
Travel by Interest, which is the only online platform that helps hoteliers increase their direct sales, through the creation and distribution of targeted content. All the content that we create for our hotels, has the property's official booking engine directly connected, allowing the travellers to easily interact with the hotel. This is actually where our career began back in 2012, when we were the first to recommend targeting the powerful LGBT audience, and then extended our services to other niche markets, like Gastronomy, Wellness, and Luxury.
Hotelier Academy, which is the first educational media for hoteliers and tourism professionals. In Hotelier Academy, you can read useful hotel tips and advice, as well as inspiring articles about special hotels, through our Hotel Stories and Case Studies. Our - not so secret - wish, is to make Hotelier Academy the global hospitality market's Entrepreneur!
The Premium Services of Destsetters, which are strictly provided by Zenios and me. These services include, among others, the Hotel Concept Development service that creates new hotel concepts and the Mystery Guest service that focuses on creating detailed personalized reports, explaining to the hotels how they can increase their restaurant, spa and other service sales.
And which is your involvement with 100% Hotel Show?
In collaboration with 100% Hotel Show's organizing company, Demand, we work for the fair's strategic development. Also, by making use of Destsetters' digital knowledge and experience, we give to the event a truly special character. This is a project that we are really excited to work with. The reason for this is that Demand, is a company with an innovative vision on fair organization, since every event that organizes stands out for its special and contemporary character. Therefore, we are given the proper grounds to create a dynamic fair for Hoteliers, that truly becomes a reference point for the entire market!
You sound really excited for this collaboration! It seems that you have an excellent chemistry with Demand...
Since we are talking about the success factors of a new tourism project, I can only say that passion, love and respecting your targeted audiences are the main factors that guarantee the success of every new beginning. In order to create something truly inspired, you need to comprehend your audience's needs and offer solutions and a broader vision. This is, indeed, a field where Destsetters and Demand share the same mentality - something that is reflected in the successful result of 100% Hotel Show. All these might sound a bit 'emotional', however, I believe that this is the only way in which you can stand out.
But how can someone build a tourism start-up without an initial capital?
Well, the truth is that having an initial budget to get you going, is always necessary. However, in our case, we started our business without any money! The key is to spot an actual need of the market and give an idea of covering it. After that, all you need to do is to find a small number of customers to start with, who will, of course, cover your initial financial needs, but also allow you to find the time to further develop and enhance your service. Even if you do spot an important gap in the market, if your funds are limited, you will not be able to offer the maximum of your services. But in any case, those first customers will always appreciate your continuous effort and improvement and will definitely support your hard work and persistence.
Are you saying that a company can start running its business even if the full aspects of its services have not been completely defined yet?
But you must never feel that you have 'completely' defined something! There is always room for improvement. Otherwise, your job will become boring and outdated as time passes by. The important thing is to make the right start and have a clear goal. You will never be perfect! I remember, a few years ago, there were people wondering why we were constantly changing Travel by Interest's main website. However, the feedback that we were receiving from out customers, was that they were excited with our continuous need for improvement and they were closely following our efforts. Also, the constant communication with our partners, showed us the way we needed to follow for our next steps. In other words, we strongly believe that our first project was developed together with our first hotelier customers.
What you are saying brings the professional relationship into a more personal level. Is this something that you agree with?
This is, indeed, a trap. Your first customers will definitely have a more direct communication with you and take up more of your time. However, you must never confuse the professional relationship with the personal one. In our team, we feel really close with the professionals that supported us in our first steps, but we have always had in mind that we need to maintain the required level of professionalism. To give you an example, every time we visit one of our customers' hotel for business, we never make use of the property's leisure facilities, not even at the personal time that we might have during the trip.
Getting to know your team a little bit better, I can roughly estimate that the average age in your company is around... 26?
Exactly! As a matter of fact, Zenios (34) and me (32) are the ones increasing the average age. Having the right team is always a vital factor and one of the most important ingredients for success. In Destsetters, we always choose young and passionate people, and invest in their training as well as their personal improvement as professionals. We are proud to share a mutual respect and love with our team. And this is exactly the reason why both our offices in Greece and Cyprus, look a like a house!
Do you believe that experience is not important?
That depends on the job description and the needs that need to be covered. We prefer giving opportunities to younger people and assign them with important tasks, allowing them to develop into dynamic professionals. Zenios and me have been very lucky, since at the age of 26 and 24, important professionals gave us important tasks and opportunities. All you need to do, is to grab those opportunities and work really hard on them!
And how do you define 'opportunity'?
To answer your question, please allow me to refer to my professional 'parents'. The people who gave me the proper urge, on a practical as well as psychological level. I am talking about my professional 'mother', Ms Alina Tsolakaki, who has created, among others, the successful company Aqua Vista Hotels, as well as Mr Dimitris Antonakos, organizer of 100% Hotel Show. These people, in addition to the important business opportunities they gave us, had such a powerful belief in us, that made us want to try harder every time, in order to stand up to the really high standards they were setting. And this is exactly where we should focus: to the fact that the true opportunity is actually the challenge of standing up to the high expectations that people who believe in you and your vision, have!
Finally, how should a start-up make its future budgeting?
In my opinion, spontaneously! Every time you begin a new project, you need a lot of energy, creativity and constant investments. New professionals, and especially the ones without a budget, must realize that in addition to making the necessary money for living, they must first of all invest in expanding their vision and service. It is not a secret that in Destsetters, we always make new investments. This, has been really successful so far, since the whole network of Destsetters is now enjoying an increased value. Nevertheless, after a certain point, you need to be more careful in handling the financial aspect of your company, without, of course, rejecting any new opportunities that come along the way.
And what are your future plans?
In a few words:
Make Travel by Interest the leading Content Generator for hotels.
Make Hotelier Academy a reference point for hotel education and trend updates.
Develop some of the most powerful and recognizable hotel concepts with Upselling Hotel.
Make 100% Hotel Show one of the most important fairs for Hoteliers in Europe.
As you can realize, our goals are always high. However, we have the expertise, the experience and the passion for hard work to achieve them. And even then, we still won't stop!
***Mr Morantis' photoshoot took place at Santo Maris, a dynamically rising Luxury Resort in Santorini. The photographer was Mr Panos Barous, specialized in Santorini portraits.
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