Get to know one of our startups participating in our first Booking Booster Lab in Barcelona December 1st through 3rd—Alternative Athens! They are the connection between the tourist and the non-touristic Greece. Alternative Athens facilitates thematic tours and activities ‘offering a genuine travel experience, connecting travelers with locals and helping them to discover the secrets of this fascinating, complex and diverse country’. They are highly regarded by a long list of travel stakeholders, CNN Travel, National Geographic, The Guardian, and the Telegraph, to name a few, and have been consecutive winners of the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor for 4 years! Alternative Athens fosters economic growth in touristically underdeveloped areas by working exclusively with local businesses, be it small-scale hotels and hostels or local guides, all with the intention of creating an authentic travel experience for the average traveler.

We had a moment to ask Tina, co-founder of Alternative Athens, some of the motivations behind starting Alternative Athens, along with their impact and achievements. Here’s what she said:

 

What triggered you to start your business?

The Greek crisis was the kick in the butt I needed. I had worked in multinational companies for a long time; I had always wanted to create something of my own, but the safety of my life kept me back. So when everything was blown to pieces and the company I worked for ceased operations in Greece, I decided it was time to take a big leap.

The only clear thing in my mind was that it should be something I really loved. I had spent too much time working on things I didn’t care about, so my own company had to be about something I was really passionate about. I had never thought about turning travelling into a business. For the past 10 years I had been turning hefty corporate bonuses into trips to far away destinations where I would visit the main touristic attractions, but what interested me most was to see how people live, how they think, where they go out, how they eat, what the inside of their homes looks like. That was way before Airbnb etc., so I thought: “Why don’t I do in my own city what I do when I travel abroad?”. And I did.

Contrary to my previous business experience, I didn’t do any market research, marketing or business plans. I went with my gut instinct and created Alternative Athens, a project with the aim of showing people the true face of the city, away from touristic stereotypes, where travelers could experience the city and understand how Athenians live in their everyday life.

 

What does your startup do and what's the impact of your service on the travel industry?

The main problem we see in tourism is that it has become too impersonal, massive and commercial, a 'one fits all' commodity, that does not truly address the main objective of a traveler: To explore, to see the world from a different perspective and to have access to the culture of the place they visit.

Thus, Alternative Athens operates thematic tours & activities off the beaten track in Athens and beyond. We focus on the non-touristic aspects of Greece, offering a genuine travel experience, connecting travelers with locals - and helping them discover the secrets of this fascinating, complex and diverse country. Our tours include Food, Mythology, Neighborhoods, Street art, Greek Designers, Nightlife, LGBT etc. and our activities include Storytelling Walks, Role-Playing Games, cooked meals, cooking lessons at homes and activities for children.

The main impact we are bringing in the travel industry is that we introduce travelers to touristically underdeveloped areas throughout Greece, with the participation of local communities and for the benefit of local communities. In this way, we change the image of the country as a ‘Sea-Sun’ only destination, we redistribute the touristic income in a sustainable way for the destination and we create a whole ecosystem which is in line with the country’s morphology and social character: small-scale, authentic, with respect to its history and traditions.

 

What recent milestone(s) are you most proud of?

The Certificate of Excellence for a 4th year in a row from TripAdvisor, my inclusion in Greece’s most inspiring Female Entrepreneurs and the launch of day trips, which marks the beginning of our expansion to Greece with innovative local tours and experiences.

 

What prompted you to participate in this Booster Lab?

I have been working for a long time relying on my own strengths and have reached a limit of knowledge and know-how. We have created something very solid and unique in Europe, but we now need the support of experts that have been in this business for a long time and can provide us with some solid guidance for our next steps. Also, a fresh perspective of a knowledgeable outsider can help us look at things in a way we hadn’t even imagined. And last, but not least, it will be an opportunity to escape everyday reality and take a strategic look at what we do and why we do it.

------

We’re very excited to work with Alternative Athens and all the other inspiring startups joining us in just a few short weeks. Stay tuned in the coming days for each of the startup’s stories. For a sneak peak, find an introduction to each on our previous post: ‘The 11 startups that will join the first Booster Labs weekend in Barcelona’.