A traditional hotel successfully utilized digital strategies to enhance its visibility and attract more international tourists.
“Every single thing you’ve ever dreamt of is there waiting for you.” That’s how the website for a picturesque Santorini hotel describes itself. It’s hard to disagree. Located in a small traditional village on a hill, this island hotel boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and a surrounding community of friendly neighbors and great food. For a while though, there was a problem: while the hotel had everything a tourist could dream of—well, the tourists had to actually find it first. Thankfully, with the right tools and some free digital training from Google, the hotel’s owner was able to help them find it—which helped her family persevere through two massive economic shocks.
Ntina Denaxa understands hard times well. The Greek financial crisis hit her family particularly hard. Ntina’s children and their spouses lost their jobs first. Some had to leave the country. Then, her husband lost his job too. Left with few options, the Denaxas scraped together the last of their savings and moved to Messaria, her husband’s small, traditional hometown on the stunning Greek isle of Santorini. Waiting for them were several abandoned houses and a chance to remake their lives. With the help of a welcoming and supportive local community, the Denaxas got to work renovating and updating those houses—picturesque caves, really. The end result was Emmantina Houses: a small hotel and a fresh start.
Ntina knew she’d need to attract international visitors to really get her business moving. A neighbor introduced her to an online advisor who was in the village showing local businesses how to leverage digital tools to grow online. The advisor was there as part of a Grow with Google initiative called “Grow Greek Tourism Online,” and she showed Ntina a variety of ways to help prospective customers find Emmantina on the web. Before long, Ntina was moving ahead confidently with a variety of digital capabilities in tow: a website with a booking engine, a Facebook page, listings on various travel agency websites, and a more active presence on Google My Business. “No tourist is going to book a hotel without checking its reviews first,” Ntina explains, “That’s why responding to reviews on sites like Google My Business is the most critical thing an owner can do. It shows that you respect your guests and value their opinions.” The digital strategies Ntina implemented were soon successful in attracting more guests. “We began welcoming people from all over the world who would eat in local restaurants and buy local products,” she says. “This helped everyone in our community.”
When the pandemic came to Greece, hotels had to close for an indefinite period and Ntina had no idea whether Emmantina would ever operate again. “Our initial thought was that we were destroyed,” she recalls. While this was another challenging moment for Ntina’s family, this time, she had other ways to fight back. Ntina used platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to help customers transfer existing bookings rather than cancel them, and she used social media to contact previous guests to book more rooms for 2020 too. She was able to offer special discounts online through her website and other platforms which also successfully attracted more international travelers. Results of this strategy started to show during the summer of 2020 and the hotel ultimately received booking requests well beyond the previous end of their operating season—fielding requests all the way through November.
Many of Ntina’s prospective customers may have been locked down at home but with digital tools she could do more than just help them imagine a time when they’d be somewhere else—she could help them plan it. “Without the use of the online tools, we would be permanently closed right now without a doubt,” Ntina says. “How would customers find us? How would we communicate with them? There is just no way we would have been able to survive the pandemic without the internet.”
Today, the future is looking a little brighter for the Denaxas. They’ve already started inviting guests back safely. As parts of the world begin to open back up and more start to rediscover their passion for international travel, Ntina and Emmantina Houses will be ready for them. “Every single thing they’ve ever dreamt of is here waiting for them,” Ntina says. “So are we. Now, thanks to our enhanced digital capabilities, I’m confident that more will be able to find us and stay with us.”
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