Vasiliki Christidi

GENERAL MANAGER OF AVIAREPS HELLAS SA

Greece 2019  I  Tourism  I  Leader

BIOGRAPHY Born and raised at Ioannina in the North West of Greece, Vasiliki is married to Georgios Tsaprounis and is a mother of one boy and two girls. SHE holds a bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B.) from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and an LL.M. (Legal Masters) degree from the University of Kent in Canterbury (UK).

“TODAY WE HAVE ORGANIZED OUR ACTIVITIES UNDER A HOLDING COMPANY AND OUR MAIN BUSINESS ACTIVITY IS GROUND HANDLING.”

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE GROUP IN GREECE?

 

We have started in the aviation industry as a representative for airlines back when ground handling was a privilege of national monopolies. The Group was already active in the tourism sector through its travel agencies, with a particular focus on our customers from the Island of Crete where the company was based.

 

Today we have organized our activities under a holding company and our main business activity is ground handling. We represent Swissport in Greece, as a franchise but we are completely independent in terms of capital control, and plant operations in Greece. In 2015, in the peak of the financial crisis, we have taken a strategic decision to consolidate our operations in the market and decided to acquire Skyserv, the second most important ground handling company operating in the country. It was a state-owned company, previously called Olympic Handling, that was it was privatized in 2009 with a presence in 37 out of 39 commercial airports in Greece.

 

Even though these companies operate in the majority of airports in the country, they don’t chare the same clientele. We have another competitor as there are three license ground handlers in Greece. We have a 80% market share and in the Athens Airport, we represent 50% of activities as we don’t handle the national carrier operations.

 

AVIAREPS HAS GROWN TO BECOME ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT GROUPS OF COMPANIES IN THE COUNTRY. WHAT WERE THE MAIN REASONS FOR THE GROWING INVESTMENT OF THE GROUP IN GREECE?

 

We always believed in the potential of the tourist sector in Greece and we were confident that after the crises passed, the sector would present strong growth rates. This has proven to be true and the Government’s decision of privatize 14 regional airports. The logistics is a challenge in Greece as most regional airports are located in islands and due to the seasonality of the tourism sector. Our expansion not only required a large investment from our side but also allowed us to increase synergies within our national operations.

 

We have invested heavily in technology and training of our staff. We would keep most of our staff in Athens during the low season, with around 3,000 employees and relocate them in high season, where we increase our number of employees to 5,000. We will have around 5,000 employees in Athens is no longer just the busiest airport in Greece but it has become a hub for the region so we have seen a transformation.

 

SKYEXPRESS IN ONE ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING AIRLINES IN THE REGION. WHY HAVE YOU TAKEN THE DECISION TO ACQUIRE IN THE COMPANY?

 

Our Group had already invested in Sky Express and we have taken the decision to acquire the company in 2013. The market was changing with the end of the exclusivity of PSO route access to the islands that was foreclosed to a monopoly for decades and the fastgrowing number of airline passengers in the country. Our efforts are part of a chain that benefits local communities and in consequence, the Greek economy. By keeping traffic to the islands, we would support growth in the regions which in turn would allow hotels to be open for a larger amount of time.

 

The growth has been above our expectations. In 2015, we had 70,000 passengers, then reached 170,000 in 2016 and 500,000 in 2017. Our target was to reach one million passengers by 2020 but we have already achieved it in 2018. This was a huge challenge for our operations as Sky Express had in average 70,000 passengers per year when we acquired the company.

 

 

“WE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN THE POTENTIAL OF THE TOURIST SECTOR IN GREECE AND WE WERE CONFIDENT THAT AFTER THE CRISES PASSED, THE SECTOR WOULD PRESENT STRONG GROWTH RATES.”

 

 

We have invested in a fleet of ATR 72, a twin-engine turboprop that is the best fit for narrow runways on islands and short routes, which require lots of landings and takeoffs. Previously the traffic was being directed from Athens and Thessaloniki to the islands but have started connecting the islands among themselves, which is a large part of our success. Our target now is to reach 2019 with 1.5 million passengers and 4 million passengers in 2021, which would require the introduction of jet planes into the fleet.

 

GREECE HAS RETURNED TO INTERNATIONAL MARKETS AND THE ECONOMY IS PRESENTING VERY ATTRACTIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR INVESTMENTS. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO FOREIGN INVESTORS INTERESTED IN THE COUNTRY?

 

I believe that Greece has enormous potential in many sectors of the economy. It can be challenging in many levels, but the demand is there and investors can succeed with dedication and offering quality products and services. Our Group serves as an example to foreign companies that see that a Greek company can operate with the highest international standards and respect its commitments. There are a lot remaining to be done, in terms of improving the regulatory environment to facilitate investments but I believe we are in the right direction. Our main focus is not only profit, we do it because we believe in our country and the capacity of our people. The growing number of visitors shows confidence in our country, which is a safe place with natural beauty with a competitive tourism product.

 

We have been able to improve the infrastructure in the regions we operate in. Our investments have allowed us to structure our activities in a vertical chain that create many direct and indirect benefits, not only to our company but to the communities where we operate. We have a close relationship with all stakeholders, including the Government, international airlines and tour operators to continuously improve our operations.