By Sylvia Klimaki
Philoxenia is the Greek word synonymous with “hospitality” (it is literally translated as “friend to a stranger”) but it has a deeper, more profound meaning. In the ancient Greek world, showing love and friendship to your guest was considered to be amongst the highest of all human virtues.
This unspoken rule is still a powerful force in modern Greek culture — and it is this concept of philoxenia which differentiates “Welcome Pick Ups” from any other taxi transfer service out there.
Founded by two men who were born and raised in Greece, CEO Alex Trimis and Chief Product Officer Savas Georgiou, the business offers a range of transport services, but with a personal touch. The business currently employs seventy-eight people globally, fifty-five of whom are based in Greece.
“Our vision is to become a category leader from a global standpoint, while at the same time having our base in Greece,” Trimis stresses. To get there, they need to grow fast. Trimis’ biggest fear is that “we won’t execute fast enough to be ahead of the game.”
Having your headquarters in Athens while aiming to build a global brand of course has its risks. Georgiou says,“What limits us is the lack of talent for key role players, such as product designers and UI researchers, so we have to work with what we can find in the country or build a team outside of Greece.
“This is what many start-ups do, they keep the engineering part in Greece, and open offices in Boston or London for the rest of the functions,” he added.
“Another way is to try to bring the Greeks back. We make a call to all the Greeks abroad who are looking to return to Greece and enjoy Greece’s great lifestyle while working in a business that has global standards, transparency and meritocracy to apply to work for us,” Trimis noted.
The Athens-based start-up recently received their first round of funding (called in the tech world “Series A”) of €3.3 million, a significant sum of money for a travel business at this stage of development.
“We aim to expand the business by the end of 2019 in more than sixty destinations,” Georgiou said. By any measure, this is quite an aggressive and ambitious growth plan for a business which is already growing at a rate of 200% year-to-year.
“We make sure we meet our customers’ needs, we listen to … their feedback and try to constantly improve the entire customer experience,” Georgiou told the Greek Reporter.
Georgiou and Trimis have clearly spent a great deal of time considering even the smallest details when developing Welcome Pick Ups’ unique selling points. When you book a taxi journey, the driver waits for your arrival with a sign at the agreed-upon pick-up point (nothing unique so far).
But the unique twist of Welcome Pick Ups is that the driver will offer you refreshments when he greets you, along with any of your pre-ordered essentials. You can pre-order a list of things, from a local SIM card to your theater tickets. He will also create a curated “Things To Do” list based on your needs and desires.
The drivers will always be able to speak English, and they will answer any questions you might have, as well as give recommendations and guidance.
This is really the very definition of Greek philoxenia — and you can now experience it if you are traveling to any of the thirty-four destinations across fourteen countries where Welcome Pick Ups currently operates. And did we mention the invaluable 24/7 customer support you get during your stay?
If you or any of your friends are traveling to any of the cities (from Tel Aviv to Dubai all the way to Hong Kong) where Welcome Pick Ups operates this summer, you might consider booking your airport transfer with them.
If you’re wondering what the company charges for this extra philoxenia, they are actually very competitive. Where a normal taxi would charge €38 for a trip from the Athens airport to Syntagma Square, Welcome Pick Ups would charge only €40.
For almost any foreign traveler, it would be well worth paying a tiny bit extra for the peace of mind of knowing your driver can speak English and won’t try to overcharge you, as often happens in many European destinations. And you will receive all the above-mentioned benefits into the bargain.
This is what has attracted one million customers to Welcome Pick Ups already; and hopefully, many more travelers will enjoy their world-famous Greek hospitality in the future.
Sylvia Klimaki is a writer based in London.