Greece has always been among the top tourism destinations worldwide, but few realise that there is much more to the Greek travel industry than sandy beaches and tasty moussaka.

Over the past years there has been an impressive rise of innovative and outward facing digital travel companies, targeting and operating successfully in global markets.

Going international

The Greek e-commerce industry was slow off the mark, with Internet and e-commerce penetration lagging behind the European average. Greek Online Travel Agents fought fiercely amongst themselves to lure customers online, lowering their prices to the extent that the online travel business became a money losing game for few players with deep pockets.

In the end, following the country’s debt crisis and resulting economic downturn which put a huge strain on Greeks’ disposable income (and as a result, online travel spend), the industry was finally forced to look beyond the local market.

This was a logical, yet “gutsy” move for the OTAs, given the traditional and inward facing approach of most of the country’s other businesses. For the first time the travel industry was looking abroad, not to sell Greece as a destination, but to offer the international market high quality travel services on a local level.

International online travel agents

Some of the more forward-thinking OTAs were the quickest to make the move and became the first to invest in their international presence, most notably, the E-Travel group, operating in Greece under the Pamediakopes brand (meaning “let’s go on holiday”).

As you walk through their offices in the centre of Athens, you can hear a variety of languages being spoken by employees on the phone to customers, including Russian, Bulgarian, English and Romanian. According to the company,, their Russian brand has grown to become one of the top 3 online flight providers in Russia, with E-Travel in total being within the top 8 in Europe.

Similarly, Travelplanet24, operates localized websites under their Tripsta brand in over 30 different countries, including the US, New Zealand and South Africa. The company has offices in Athens, Bucharest and Sao Paolo and employs workers of 20 different nationalities. According to Travelplanet24, over 92% of their sales are generated from international markets.

Other agencies are also becoming successful abroad, like the company Altair, with their international Tripair brand, active across many European countries, and Airtickets, with over 10 localized websites across Europe. Airfasttickets, a newly launched OTA has already established offices in New York, London, Frankfurt and Istanbul. Specialty OTAs, like Travelstaytion and Allabouthotels are also setting themselves up with a view to the global travel market.

Travel startups

Meanwhile, the Greek start-up scene has been booming, fueled mainly by the launch of a number of new VC funds back in 2012. This increase has been further advanced by an accompanying ecosystem of accelerators, incubators, launch pads, shared workspaces etc. The result has been an increasing number of travel related apps and services, all of course targeting the global market.

Incrediblue, is an easy to use website, for experienced skippers or new to sailing travelers looking for crewed sail boat charters for their sailing holidays anywhere in the world. Dopios (meaning “local” in Greek) is a website that allows travelers to connect with locals and discover tailor made travel experiences, while Locish is a real time Q&A mobile app enabling travelers to ask like-minded people for real-time recommendations.

Discroveroom, a mobile app enabling travelers to book specialty lodging online also treads in the B2B space, allowing lodging owners to manage their reservations on their mobile. So does Offerial, a service promising to increase hotel bookings through personalized marketing and rates.

What this means for performance marketing

The Performance and Affiliate marketing industry grows around thriving niches and the Greek / International travel sector is no exception. Great websites and services are being created around the affiliate model, such as Travelkiki, a user friendly, feature rich meta-search engine or Captainwise, a smart budget-based flight and accommodation recommendation engine.

The opportunities are of course growing as the industry develops even further, with the help of affiliate networks like the Athens based Linkwise Travel Network.

The upcoming TBEX conference, the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, new media content creators and social savvy travel industry professionals is set to take place in Athens in October 2014, drawing the attention of the travel content world to Greece, opening up new, great opportunities for the tourism and performance industry alike.