We talked to Andreas Fatouros, co-founder and CEO at Clio Muse, about having a personal tour guide, and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andreas Fatouros: Thank you for your interest. For now, we are all healthy, and luckily, to this day, we haven’t had any Covid cases or losses due to the pandemic in my family or at the Clio Muse team. Of course, we all try to cope with the lockdowns, and we look forward to things returning back to normal.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Clio Muse Tours.
Andreas Fatouros: Clio Muse Tours was founded in 2014, two years after I met Daphne Tsevreni and Yiannis Nikolopoulos at an entrepreneurship seminar in Athens, Greece. We shared the common vision to create an international network that promotes cultural heritage and links tourism and culture.
That’s how the idea for the Clio Muse App was born. The fact that we all came from different backgrounds helped us bring this idea into practice. Daphne holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Yiannis is an Electrical and Computer Engineer, and I have an academic and professional background in Historic Preservation and Conservation.
Prior to Clio Muse, I was working as a researcher with a focus on Conservation of Library and Archive Materials, and I was working for museums in Greece and Italy as well as for collectors.
How does Clio Muse Tours innovate?
Andreas Fatouros: First of all, our storytelling methodology was created after extensive research in collaboration with world-renowned museums. It took us two years to develop it step by step, and all of our tours are created based on very specific instructions. Clio Muse self-guided audio tours are for modern-day travelers, and our practices promote sustainable tourism. Our methodology and business plan have been awarded for their innovation and sustainability in numerous prestigious competitions in Greece and abroad, such as Booking Cares Lab 2018 and GIST Catalyst Pitch Competition 2019.
Our most recent achievement and certainly one of the most important recognitions for Clio Muse so far is our selection as one of the 25 winners from 18 countries at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) SDGs Global Startup Competition for our widespread ability to contribute to “Decent work and economic growth” goal (SDG8). The reason why the company stood out among other similar solutions out of 10,000 initial proposals is mainly because of the company’s robust business model that promotes sustainable practices and also empowers professionals in the tourism and culture sectors.
With our state-of-the-art technologies, Clio Muse gives the ability to culture and tourism workers to create their own digital tours gaining an additional income while at the same time promoting different aspects of our cultural heritage. We then take on the distribution of these tours through our e-shop and on an established network of partners and online travel agencies.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andreas Fatouros: As an IT company operating in the creative industries with clients in the tourism and the culture sectors, covid-19 affected us like most businesses in the industry. However, the adversity we faced last March and for the next few months is now behind us, and I can say we’ve returned back on track even better than before. In 2021 we are launching 100 new self-guided audio tours in 20 countries, reaching a total of 450 tours to 31 countries.
In the first 2 weeks of the pandemic, we launched 23 virtual tour experiences. This project was in the pipeline for a while, but since our vision as a company is to bring people back to the museums, we hadn’t moved forward. However, when we saw one lockdown following another, we decided to create something that will help people to cope with the current situation and to keep the interest in cultural tourism alive.
If there is one positive thing of the Covid-19 is that digitalization in tourism is moving at a fast pace. We now see that cultural institutions, as well as tour operators, turn to us for the creation of self-guided digital tours, so I believe the hardest part has already been finished.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andreas Fatouros: We did, the most difficult of all being the reduction of our team by 30%. We are happy that over the past months, we’ve started recruiting new members again, and we have new position openings. 2019 was a great year for us. We were preparing to expand to new destinations and to form strategic partnerships, and based on our financial forecast for 2020; we were expecting to see multiply by four our gross revenue. We had to postpone our plans, but the greatest lesson we learned is that we shouldn’t take anything for granted.
We have, of course, adapted remote working, but since we already had a work-from-home day, it wasn’t difficult for our team to adjust. The hard part is that we miss our daily routine in the office.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Andreas Fatouros: Basically, we’ve taken all of our daily routine habits in an online mode. For example, we still do 5-minute daily meetings to catch up with the day’s tasks, and challenges and each department does sprint planning as we always did. We make sure to talk with each other throughout the day not only to stay updated with each team’s new projects but also to keep each other motivated.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andreas Fatouros: We’ve been working in this industry long enough to have acquired great knowledge and experience but not too long to have lost fresh perspective and our motivation to create and innovate. We foresee the market’s needs and trends, and we always use the insights of our partners in culture and tourism. Having an established network of professionals is a great asset because it helps us always being a step ahead.
Moreover, Clio Muse consists of young and experienced specialists of different fields that love what they do, and they’ve become part of our team because they fit with our work philosophy, vision, and environment. The team is very important to us, and we believe it is the driving force behind the company’s success.
Your final thoughts?
Andreas Fatouros: The past year has been very challenging for everyone at both personal and professional levels. We’ve all struggled to adjust to a new situation, keep healthy and safe and at the same time manage our daily workload. Especially in the first few months, when nobody could make any predictions for the upcoming future, we had to navigate uncharted waters. Now we have a better understanding of the situation, and we believe we’ve left the hardest part behind.
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