Vassilis Haitas (photo), General Manager of "Topos S.A.", discusses opportunities in the growing sectors of organic products and alternative tourism. Many established companies from a variety of sectors are investing in new ventures in what is seen by many businesspeople as logical, and profitable, extensions of today's mainstream markets.
Q: Apo ton Topo Mas (From our Land) is a new company that is focusing on organic products. What exactly will the company be involved in?
A: “Apo ton Topo mas” is a new company, established by Topos S.A., member of Themeliodomi group and other investors of the Agribusiness sector, in order to create a chain of special stores offering certified organic products.
The first three stores will be established at Thessaloniki, and we target expansion to Athens and other Greek cities within the next three years.
The new company aims to inform consumers on the great variety of Greek traditional agricultural products, on the advantages of organic farming, and to bring forgotten tastes and smells back to consumer’s table.
Q: A second feature of the company's plans is to develop a series of rural hostels that will emphasize agro-tourism. How exactly will this work?
A: Topos S.A., the parent company of “Apo Ton Topo Mas,” is focusing on alternative tourism and organic farming.
More specifically, Topos S.A. intents to create a network of traditional hostels in eight regions of Greece (Konitsa, Meteora, Prespes, Pilion, Grevena, Mani, Dimitsana and Kinouria regions of Peloponnese), selected for their natural resources and rich tradition.
These hostels will be of moderate size (50-70 beds), and aim to offer high quality accommodation, traditional food, and various activities. Hostels will be combined with organic farms, where visitors may participate in the organic production of traditional agricultural products. Furthermore, outdoor activity facilities will be added to each hostel, providing sports (rafting, mountain bike), environmental activities (trekking, bird watching), and cultural activities.
The scope of the above investment is to develop an integrated tourist product where the visitor can combine high quality accommodation and food with contact with nature, history, and tradition of the Greek countryside.
Q: Themeliodomi is a large group that has focused primarily on construction. What made you enter the "alternative" sectors of organic products and eco-tourism?
A: We live in a competitive world that rapidly changes, providing opportunities in new fields of activities. We deeply believe that organic farming and alternative tourism are two sectors that add value to Greek agricultural products and tourist services, so we decided to be involved. Greece has a long agricultural tradition, a great variety of agricultural products, and incomparable historical and natural resources that translate into products and services of high added value.
Q: What potential do you see in Greece for these new activities in terms of numbers?
A: Today, these markets in Greece are at the beginning. Organic products in Greece represent less than 2% of food consumption, while in other European countries they reach even 25%. At the same time, we believe that the next few years, the increasing demand of consumers for safe food and the need to "rejoin tradition" will boost the demand for organic food in our country.
Today, alternative tourist activities in Greece are just being developed, mainly enjoyed by Greeks, but on a stable course of growth. The majority of tourists wish to replace “passive vacations” of sun bathing with more active excursions, where they will have new experiences, be closer to nature, civilization, and "soft sports," and at the same time expect more quality and variety.
Q: Do you believe foreign investors could benefit from entering sectors in Greece that take advantage of the country's natural resources as you are now.
A: Yes, especially if they have local partners who may secure cost-effective planning and the implementation of the business plan.
In addition, the recent crisis in mass tourism and the demand by consumers for safer food will point investors to new ‘products’ and services, more adapted to the market.
Greece, beside its great historical and natural resources and the variety of traditional agricultural products, today has the appropriate profile, infrastructure, and the vision to support the challenges of the business environment of the 21st century.