IHIF Q&A: Enterprise Greece's Georgios Filiopoulos on travel recovery, hospitality investment and more

Greece beach

Georgios Filiopoulos, CEO of Greece’s investment and export promotion authority Enterprise Greece feels positive about the return of travel and investment opportunities in the country’s tourism sector. He shares his views on recovery, real estate investment, hospitality segments, ESG and his participation to the International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin in September.

Hospitality Insights: What is the outlook for the recovery of travel in Greece in 2021?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Greece opened its tourism sector on May 15 and we are very optimistic that Greek tourism will see a significant comeback this summer, particularly as vaccinations progress. Greece is already among the top choices for travel by Europeans, while also gaining ground from non-EU countries like the US. Recently, executives from the three leading US airlines – Delta, American Airlines and United -- said that based on the bookings recorded so far, they expect direct flights to Greece to be “in great demand” in the coming months.

The fact that Greece was recognized for its efforts in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and for safely re-opening to tourists by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) recently, adds to our confidence.

Hospitality Insights: What makes hospitality real estate a strong investment opportunity despite the very difficult time the market is going through?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Greece today offers abundant opportunities in tourism, which we regard as the country’s heavy industry. Today the tourism sector, along with real estate, represents almost half of total foreign direct investment in Greece. The total inflows of FDI in both sectors amounted to almost 1,56 billion euros for 2019, representing almost 34.8% of total net inflows in the country.

The hospitality sector has always been one of the main draws for investors interested in the Greek real estate market. Greece offers plenty of opportunities for the development of premium tourist resorts and properties, with the Greek government supporting investors with financing and tax incentives for such projects. There is also support for the development of specialized tourist products and facilities focused around specific themes – such as gastronomy, culture, wellness; for specific tourism categories – such as medical tourism, MICE tourism; to tap new markets – such as from Russia, Israel, Asia -- or for new segments of visitors, like the elderly, or  couples.

Hospitality Insights: What is your Enterprise Greece’s main area of focus to promote the recovery of real estate investment in 2021?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Enterprise Greece offers integrated investment promotion, support and after care services for investors free of charge. That includes preparing customized investment proposals from our portfolio of available investment projects. We put a lot of weight on our investor matchmaking service because it tends to bring tangible results.

In addition, we participate in a range of international investment promotion events – like the International Hospitality Investment Forum -- to showcase Greece’s many advantages in real estate and hospitality development.

Hospitality Insights: Has the Covid-19 crisis had an impact on the segments real estate investors are looking to expand into?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Greece continues to see investor interest in hospitality projects. Even amid the current health crisis, we saw a number of important deals taking place in Greece. Among them, we saw for instance the opening of the first Athens Capital Hotel – MGallery at Syntagma Square, which is an Accor branded hotel, and the first property from the MGallery Hotel Collection to open in Greece. In addition, the Selina and Brown hotel groups are both adding more lifestyle hotels in Greece, and we have also seen other hotel investments as well, such as from Ireland’s Comer Group, the U.S.-based Apple Leisure Group, the Spanish Pacha Group and the list goes on..

According to a recent report by Cerved Property Services, luxury homes have also been attracting significant investment interest, with the demand for permanent holiday homes, despite the pandemic, increasing by 30%.

As far as specific projects are concerned, big projects which are currently underway, prove that Greece remains a competitive investment destination in various real estate segments. Projects like for example the Hellinikon, Elounda Hills, Killada Hills, One & Only, Itanos Gaia are helping establish Greece’s position in the high-end tourism market. And these are only mentioned indicatively.

Hospitality Insights: The leisure segment is hailed to be driving hospitality recovery. What are the keys to succeed in this market?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Only 22% of Greece’s total hotel capacity is in the 4- and 5-star categories and the number of branded hotels is still relatively low compared with other destinations. The opportunities that the country offers are significant.

Investors are responding because Greece has a business-friendly environment and the country’s attractive real estate prices provide the basis for long-term, profitable investment in the luxury hotel and holiday home sectors. In addition, the country offers its enduring comparative advantages: a sunny Mediterranean climate, a rich cultural history, a breath-taking diversity and natural environment, healthy food and friendly people. All these have made Greece one of the world’s Top 20 tourism destinations.

Hospitality Insights: Real estate investors and hospitality groups have shown stronger ESG commitments recently. Do you promote any ESG initiatives for investors in Greece, in particular when it comes to sustainability?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Greece is deeply committed to sustainable development and Enterprise Greece, as the national investment and trade promotion agency, is here to inform investors about all the important milestones and developments of ESG in the Greek market. Indeed, ESG has become one of the main points of discussion. There is growing awareness about the significance of sustainability in the real estate and hospitality industries, and the need to prioritize long-term value over short-term gain.

As the legal and regulatory landscape changes, and as climate change and sustainability issues are increasingly pushed to the forefront, ESG is of significant importance not only for the Greek government, but also for the business community as a whole.

Hospitality Insights: What are you looking forward to with regards to your participation to IHIF?

Georgios Filiopoulos: Enterprise Greece is a regular participant in high value, impactful events like the IHIF. This year in particular – following a very difficult period for the world -- we are excited about reconnecting with our peers, getting deals moving again, and hearing from leaders in the hospitality sector about the outlook for the industry. We are also excited to participate at the event: Breakfast Roundtable - Investing in Greece, which will give us the opportunity to highlight Greece’s latest developments and future prospects. Please join us.