Maria Gouma

Covid-19 has changed people’s lives in a matter of a few months time at an unprecedented scale and magnitude. There is no manual about such an event and especially for real estate. Savvas Savvaidis talks about it to tourism expert Kostas Panagakis head at Travelworks and is sharing his insights about the real estate brokerage industry and sheds light to emerging consumers’ trends as the world comes in terms with a new reality.

Some say that the current pandemic will trigger radical changes across multiple sectors; do you see this happening in your primary eld? If yes, in which way?
As long as the pandemic will come to complete eradication, within a year or so, I do not see radical changes in our industry. The luxury holiday homes sector has always served a primary need for our clients, mainly High Net and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals. It is more than just a purchase of a house in the sun. It is about owning a personal retreat, a sanctuary, a place to bond with family and the loved ones, it is about creating priceless memories with the children and grandchildren, it is about enjoying valuable regenerating time.

Actually, during the crisis, our data indicate a consistent and significant increase in demand, as the pandemic seems to accelerate decisions connected to personal wellbeing and leisure.The acquisition of a luxury holiday home is certainly one of those.

A holiday home becomes more tempting than ever especially now that technology allows working from home in an effortless manner. Demand for beautiful modern high tech homes, with large openings, large gardens, secluded and private is already on the rise.

Greece being a low-density population country holds a competitive advantage in relation to other real estate destinations. Our country is an eco-paradise in the heart of Europe with hundreds of different dispersed locations and islands, diverse landscapes of immense beauty, authentic ways of life, warm and welcoming people, healthy climate and daily living in a place rich of history and culture. All being the perfect ingredients for an ideal second home or relocation destination.

Which are the two most important disruptions that you expect to take place in your industry in the years to come due to the current crisis?
As more and more businesses and consumers become familiar with video tours and teleconferences it is evident that video will be the dominant force of communication for the years to come. Technology will evolve and high-quality communication platforms will be more affordable and easy to use. Professionals will need to master the art of skilful tele-presentations to be competitive especially in an industry that is based on empathy and on establishing high levels of trust early on the business relation.

In addition, embracing creativity, change and flexibility, adopting and leveraging technology innovations as well as keeping up with learning new skills will be making the difference between failure and success. In a fast-evolving social and business environment professionals will be required to adjust swiftly to new challenges.

On the basis of your insights from your clients & partners, which destinations are showing the most resilience during this crisis, and which will be the first to recover?

Luckily Greece offers an abundance of idyllic destinations. Places like Paros, Tinos, Kea, Milos, Paxos, Ithaca or Meganisi are amongst the islands that have sparked an interest to international buyers in the search for their place in the sun. Most of the Greek territory is scarcely inhabited providing a real sense of safety.

At which pace do you expect travel to make its recovery? Do you expect a quick (V-shaped) rebound or something different?

Our country’s tourism is depending heavily on air travel. It is hard to know as at the moment there is still not enough visibility on how visitors will be travelling to Greece in large numbers. However, even in the presence of a reliable test, it may take some time for the traveller to feel secure and fly as frequently as before.

Up to the complete eradication of the disease, it is not easy to predict how things will evolve making somehow uncertainty the normal condition for the foreseeable future; definitely not ideal for a quick V shape rebound. Still, I am optimistic that we will find ways to come out of the crisis earlier than we think. After all, in only two months there has been significant progress on combatting the disease worldwide. By focusing too much on the problem on a daily basis we may lose sight of the perspective of time.

Which is the key action that destinations can take at this time in order to benefit in the long run (2021 and onwards)?

Health and Safety have always been a key prerequisite for choosing a destination whether it is for a real estate acquisition or just holidays time. It is essential that a robust and efficient health care system organized in a decentralised manner will play an important role in the years to come to Greece. It is a challenging project because of the fragmentation of the territory. Besides reinforcing Greece’s identity as a safe destination it will also enhance the quality of life for its permanent inhabitants.

Even more valuable than transportation infrastructure seems to be the accessibility to a high-speed internet network. A growing number of services will be provided online starting from government agencies to entertainment companies such as Netflix or business applications, video conference meetings and medical care.

The luxury holiday homes sector has always served a primary need for our clients, mainly High Net and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals

Green energy projects, as well as investments that will safeguard the national heritage both natural or manmade, will need to be accelerated. As more and more people will become sensitive to sustainable growth developments the destinations that will wholeheartedly embrace them will stand out from their competitors. Regeneration projects based on a cooperation between the local authorities and the private sectors such as the Piraeus Port Plaza will be having a positive impact both on the quality of life as well as the economic growth.

One of the challenges that the luxury real estate industry will be facing soon is the scarcity of luxury homes. Modernising our outdated planning laws should be the first step by allowing greater flexibility in licensing developments and single homes.

All the above are easier to implement that one can think. I am optimistic that the pandemic will be a real opportunity for Greece to unleash its real potential. The time has come.