«MobiliseSME is very beneficial for the hospitality industry, where international experience is a real advantage»
Today, we bring you the interview with Margit Altenburger from Euregion Travel GmbH (based in Austria) and Sofia Kalfopoulou from E. STATHOPOULOU S.A. (based in Greece), who have collaborated through MobiliseSME as Host and Sending Company, respectively.
–Margit, tell us a bit about your company and your professional path. Why did you decide to participate in MobiliseSME? How did you find out about our programme?
Our company Euregion Travel was founded in 2010.
Euregion Travel is a fully licensed travel agency with a main focus in outgoing tourism. We do organize individual and group tours to various countries, including Greece.
I found out about the programme from the Sending Company with which we have collaborated in the past and thought that the proposal would be beneficial for both parties.
After contacting our Local Contact Point and gathering more information on MobiliseSME, we decided to participate, since it seemed that the cost would be minimal for us as the Host Company and, at the same time, we would benefit from the common work during the mobility period.
–What about you, Sofia? Please, tell us about E. STATHOPOULOU S.A. Why did you decide to participate in MobiliseSME? How did you find out about the programme?
E. STATHOPOULOU S.A. operates in the tourism and hospitality industry in Greece.
We own hotels and a travel agency. I am the third generation of hoteliers and have been educated in the United States, France and Greece.
International exposure has always been in the forefront of my plans and the MobiliseSME programme was the perfect fit for my career goals and personal advancement.
In the past 7 years, I have been in charge of the sales department of our company and, therefore, have been working with both Greek and international companies.
Thus, going to Austria for a period of 6 months was very beneficial for my professional goals.
I decided to participate in MobiliseSME as Sending Company to gain more international exposure and revisit past contacts located in this part of the world, as well as to have the chance to make new contacts.
I found out about the programme through the newsletter that was communicated to hoteliers during November through the Athens Association of Hotels.
–From a business/ company point of view, how did the collaboration with the Host Company contribute to your company, Sofia? Would you recommend participating in MobiliseSME? Would you repeat this business experience?
As I said before, traveling to Austria enabled me to make many new contacts as well as revisit past contacts to strengthen both our businesses.
After a period of 2 years being stranded in our houses because of COVID, being able to meet in person again was the best timing for our businesses.
Also, living in a new country for a period of 6 months enabled me to experience first-hand the way of doing business and the business ethics of this country.
Working closely with the Host Company enabled both of us to benefit from the exchange of knowledge, new ideas for travel packages and assistance in problem solving for existing packages.
I would definitely recommend to other company owner participating in MobiliseSME and would also repeat this business experience.
–Margit, can you briefly describe the matchmaking process and the preparation of activities with the Sending Company? How did the process go?
The matchmaking process went smooth in our case, since we knew each other previously.
We talked about the common work that would be executed during the MobiliseSME programme and agreed on the projects that would be beneficial for both parties during this time.
The Sending Company owns hotels in Greece and we, as a travel agency, have sent previously travelers to their hotels.
Working closely for the past 6 months allowed us to expand our network of contacts in Austria and also come up with new ideas for future programmes.
Sofia, the seconded employee, has a very good knowledge as well as updated information and insight for the destination in general – and not just the hotels that I have worked previously with–, so this has added valuable insight in our company.
–Sofia, how did this collaboration with the Host Company contribute to the development of the seconded person?
Euregion Travel GmbH, being a travel agency with many years of experience in this field, assisted me with providing insights about the German speaking market and the requirements that its travelers have when traveling to Greece.
I am part of a company that started 60 years ago, but have only recently (7 years ago) started to work full-time in the family business.
Therefore, traveling to Austria and getting to get many contacts through the MobiliseSME collaboration enabled me to expose myself in the market, come up with new ideas and learn the logistics of how a travel agency creates its packages to cater to its clients’ needs.
–And what about you, Margit? How did the collaboration with Sofia contribute to your company?
MobiliseSME programme allowed us to work closely and in person for a period of 6 months.
Working with a younger person that comes from Greece –a country where we send clients and want to expand more–, allowed Euregion Travel to get a better updated insight about this destination.
We send clients to many destinations in Greece, and Sofia’s company will be able to offer us support for many local services in this country in the future.
The exchange of ideas, knowledge and information through the programme is one of the main assets of this experience, and I would definitely recommend MobiliseSME to anyone that wants to have an international experience and to broaden horizons.
Lastly, through this EU programme, our company got exposure and access to new contacts.
–Margit, do you plan to continue the collaboration after the experience with the MobiliseSME programme? If yes, how so?
Yes, we intend to continue to work together in the future.
We know that Sofia and her company can assist in many aspects of the trip and this will allow us to offer a good product, service and handling to all our future customers in Greece.
By working closely the past 6 months, we know we speak the same language and this can help in the future collaboration between our two companies.
– Last but not least, did you improve your knowledge of mobility of workers within the EU after your participation in MobiliseSME? Which role had the Local Contact Points in sharing this information?
Yes, after the participation in the MobiliseSME programme it has become more apparent of the ways that are available for mobility of workers within the European Union.
We knew from the past that the Erasmus programme offers mobility opportunities for students as well as young employees to travel and work in another European city, but MobiliseSME is different in the way that it caters to European workers regardless of their age.
Our Local Contact Points (STHEV and WKO) were very helpful throughout the process and provided all sorts of information related to the mobility.
In our opinion, MobiliseSME can reach out to associations and other organizations that have members who would benefit from knowing what this programme can offer.
The idea of working and living in another country for half a year was very beneficial for me (Sofia) and I am sure it would be very beneficial for others too – especially in the hospitality industry, since international experience is a real advantage!