6 professionals talk about how COVID affected their life and business


COVID has been affecting our lives since last winter and it looks like we will have to deal with it for a while. We are in the middle of a second wave and the winter probably will be a long season this year. As you might know, the travel industry has been one of the most affected, the freedom of travelling has been limited, for some totally forbidden. Santorini is a very tourist island, we host millions of travellers each year but this one was very different.
I have many friends who are professionals in the tourist industry and I thought it would be nice to know what they are at in this situation. It’s a way to support each other in such a difficult time.

Rania – Travel writer

Rania is a travel writer, she just moved back to Greece from New Zeland. She runs a very engaging blog focused on Mini Adventures, small, local, domestic trips and excursions that infuse some travel wanderlust without needing to travel very far. And this was even before COVID-19, when people start becoming interested in the idea of staycations and mini adventures.

For travel and tourism professionals, Covid-19 has completely changed our businesses and ways we can provide services. And on a personal level, COVID-19 has completely paused my international travel plans. However, I try to focus on the positives and like how people are more mindful of the places they visit and focus on destinations that are closer or choose to redefine travelling at home.

Unable to travel internationally as planned, Rania explored new regions around Greece and adapted her skills to new areas like digital marketing and project management.

She kept writing about her summer mini-adventure (in the North of Greece and in the Greek islands of Andros, Salamina and Leros) encouraging people to keep an active and curious imagination even if they can’t leave their house. This was also her way to support the tourist industry while travelling safely. She also started a project for a possible future lockdown, that is a combination of colour in books and geography. A full scale map of Greece that she can colour along as she visits more regions.

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Juliana and Arsenios – Local guides in Santorini

Walking tour in Santorini with Arsenio and Juliana from Santorini by Foot

You might remember my dear friends Juliana and Arsenio, they run walking tours in Santorini. One year ago they had a beautiful baby and in December they went to Colombia to visit Juliana’s family and introduce them to the cutest new member. While they were in South America, COVID-19 exploded all over the world and coming back to Santorini was impossible for a long time. In this sense, the virus had a huge impact both on a personal and professional level as the travel restrictions have even pushed them to split the family and the working team to date. The business has been paused for most of the year going down to only 5% of their usual reservations for summer activities.

They tried to adapt to the new unexpected situation increasing the marketing of their business online, staying in touch with clients for future bookings, improving their facilities with small renovations and home creations as well as trying to incorporate fresh ideas into the services they used to provide. Santorini by Foot is focused on incorporating more sustainable strategies, with the intention of returning a percentage from their economical revenue into environmental causes in the area, such as the reduction of plastic or the protection of malnourished and stray animals.

All this chaos caused by the current crisis represents a huge opportunity across the hospitality sector and the whole travel industry in terms of sustainability. More and more people have realized that this should be the most important factor for the decision-making as the world is trying to emerge from this pandemic and now more than ever is very clear that things couldn’t continue the way they used to, and that there is a real need to change and take care of our home… our planet earth.

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Fran – Local guide in Athens

I met Fran in Athens one year ago. Looking to discover more about a city I know quite well, I was searching for something alternative and fun, I wanted to peek what other professionals were doing and be inspired. I found Fran on Airbnb Experiences and decided to be part of his Funny stories + Crazy Myths of Greece, one of the most quirky way to walk around Athens I highly recommend to everyone visiting the city.

Like many of us, Fran started to work from home and try to adapt to the new scenario. He’s a very positive and bright person and, from the very beginning, he thought about this new challenging time as a new possibility.

As everybody stays home new possibilities are opening up.
I am now able to do my experience-game online and dress up as well.
A new persona was born’.

His experience (online or offline) is a way to learn more about Greek culture in a super ironic and fun way. Fran also took the time to visit some Greek islands having a small holiday in a time of the year where he’s usually super busy.
They say ‘when life gives you lemons…’, Fran certainly knows what to do with them!

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Despina – Artist and property owner in Athens

Despina is an artist living in Athens where she also runs a beautiful studio, a lovely place for every traveller thinking to visit Athens and to live a local experience.

Besides the Airbnb business went to 95% occupancy to 5%, Despina decided to focus on herself:

To be honest, it made a huge difference in my mindset, I am very grateful for the “gifts” that this brought to me. Ironically 2020 is great for me personally…..Except for money…haha

Despina also thought about this summer as a unique opportunity to spend some quality time with her family in a house up on the Greek mountains, changing a bit her way of travelling, as she thinks that right now it’s a priority to travel only to a safe place with no risks and the life of a remote Greek village has everything it needs.

Despina is a brilliant designer and I love her project about postcards: have a look at the Greek-themed ones and you might want to consider sending one to someone you know is in love with Greece!

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Kathrin – Local guide in Santorini

Kathrin runs Santorini Experts with Markos, a company which offers private and semi-private tours on the island, you might remember my visit to Thirassia with her. Being a tour company, they were highly affected by COVID, in a season that was expected to be a strong one.

My professional life went from 100 to 0 within a month, lots of cancellations, and no new bookings. We started this year ready for a strong season 2020, everything was organized and arranged… But then everything changed and we had to rethink. We quickly understood that everything turns online: education, sports, friendships … so why not travel?

Santorini Experts was one of the first companies in Santorini to offer virtual tours and live experiences like a cooking class, sunset walk and a virtual first impression tour of the island.

A big change for Santorini this year, as Kathrin underlines, was the kind of tourist the island welcomed: mostly young people, couples and families. The ‘’older’’ generations were less keen to travel and travellers from the US, Australia and Canada were not allowed to travel at all. 

Thinking about those who were not able to jump on a plane, Santorini Experts decided to create a Virtual Facebook group, updated every day with pictures and video about the beauty of Greece in order to keep a relationship with all those who could not leave their homes.

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Kristina – Founder of Yia-Mas a lifestyle brand and workshop series

Being Greek American, Kristina was highly affected by COVID-19 both on a professional and on a personal level: she wasn’t able to visit her friends and family in Greece (because not allowed to travel) and she had to cancel two retreats she had organized there.

She was able to keep working digitally (content writing and social media) for some clients while she lost some others who were in the travel industry.

For Yia Mas it’s weirdly been great. As we are rooted in in-person events, I’d always been focused on the more immediate and regional community. COVID forced me to pivot and think about the wider impact of the brand. I suddenly had a lot more time to spend tending to the Instagram (for better or for worse, ha) but that’s paid off in the growth and, I hope, quality of content we’ve been able to produce

Kristina started her first virtual events (they were always in the back of her mind) and finally launched to create her conscious objects, tools to help you live well, as inspired by Greece’s land and culture. This summer she was able to launch her candles and journal, all made in Greece, and in her e-shop you can find lots of cute Greek goodies. COVID-19 somewho helped her to get these projects off the ground. Besides the success of the virtual events (have a look at her Wellness series hosted weekly on Korres), Krystina can’t wait to finally be able to travel to Greece and she’s already thinking about next summer: new conscious objects and wellness and cultural retreats are on their way for summer 2021!

This year was meant to be Kristina’s first time in Santorini, so I am really looking forward to having her here and practising together some yoga and meditation.

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