From the sunny slopes of the Acropolis to the sunny shores of the up and coming Athens Riviera, there is a new buzz around greater Athens these days. Home to almost four million people – more than a third of the population Greece’s largest province, Attica, is resurgent after bearing the brunt of the country’s almost decade long financial crisis. In the past two years in particular, greater Athens has seen a revival in everything from city center night life to hotel development to new hi-tech start-ups.
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Even as Greece’s summer tourist crowds thin, tourism investors are flocking to Athens to discuss opportunities in the country’s hotels, resorts and marinas.
In October, the Greek capital was the site of two major global conferences – on Mediterranean resorts and hotels, and on marinas confirming the growing interest in Greek tourism properties.
Greece’s special Golden Visa investment and residen- cy program has soared since the start of the year, reflecting growing investor confidence in the country after it successfully exited its third financial support program this summer.According to recent data, 3,154 residency permits have been issued under the program through the end of July – more than all of 2017 combined – making Greece’s Golden Visa initiative among the most popu- lar such programs in Europe. Applications are up 40% from a year ago and Enterprise Greece has been helping to promote the program, most recently with its participation at the International Citizenship Investment Property Fair in Cairo.
Launched in 2013 during the depth of Greece’s economic crisis, the Golden Visa program has come to prominence in the past two years amid waves of new investors from China, Russia and Turkey, among other places. Drawn by Greece’s growth prospects, political stability, quality of life and attractive asset prices, the Golden Visa has surpassed other investment and residency schemes in countries like Cyprus or Portugal.
The program grants a permanent residence permit – and access to 26 Schengen-area countries to individuals and their families who invest a minimum of €250,000 in fixed assets, such as real estate, in Greece. The program was recently amended to include investments of €400,000 or more in liquid financial assets as well. Golden Visa permit holders have invested an estimated €1.5 billion in Greek assets so far.
Greek think tank IOBE sees economic growth accelerating to 2.1% this year from an estimated 1.3% rate in 2017. The estimate is broadly in line with the official Greek government and Europe- an Commission forecasts, both of which see GDP growing at a 2.5% rate this year. Greece’s revised 2017 GDP data is due to be released in early March.
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The U.S. State Department has included Greece in its top category of safe destinations for American travelers to visit under its newly created travel advisory system. U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said on Twitter: “I’m looking forward to seeing even more American tourists here in Greece in the year ahead.”
Tourism in the Peloponnese is gaining momentum, which is driven by the area’s upgraded infrastructure, the development of thematic travel products and promotional activities run by regional authorities.
Kalamata City, Photo: mythicalpeloponnese.gr
Ermionida, Argolis Photo: G.Ktizein
More specifically, the area was recently included among the 50 best places to travel in 2018 by the Travel+Leisure Magazine, along with Buenos Aires in Argentina, Marrakesh in Morocco and the Fiji Islands.
Domestic demand for housing is expected to be sluggish, since: (i) household disposable income is not expected to increase significantly in the near future; (ii) the unemployment rate is forecast to remain in double digit figure until 2030 (according to the European Commission, the 2015 Ageing Report, January 2017); and (iii) the extraordinary tax imposed on real estate property looks set to become permanent.
Given that domestic demand for housing is not expected to recover soon, it is worth exploring the potential demand originating from abroad.
Chart 22 shows that, in terms of value, housing in Greece is attractive compared to other Mediterranean countries though not to South – eastern European ones. However, according to the Global Property Guide, rental yields remain moderate and are lower than those in neighbouring countries such as Romania , Bulgaria and Cyprus.
In order to attract foreign investors, Greece offers a residence permit (valid for five years with the possibility of renewal) to non – Europe an citizens who buy a house worth more than €250,000 . In addition, in 2010 the real estate transfer tax was reduced from 10% to 3% on the property’s fair value. The above incentives resulted in partially revamping residential investment interest in 2016, with FDI for residential property increasing to €250 million from €186 million in 2015.
Overall, the recovery of the housing market in Greece is largely related to improving the investment climate and reducing tax burdens . Still, given that domestic demand for housing is expected to remain subdued, residential investment is not expected to support GDP growth to the degree it did before the economic crisis. At the same time, any demand for housing coming from abroad is directly related to the restoration of confidence in the economy.
In 2017 tourist arrivals are expected to hit a new record high and tourism receipts to recover from last year’s decline , as Greece is considered to be a safer destination compared to its neighbouring peers and is offering high quality hospitality. (Chart 17).
According to the latest Bank of Greece data , tourist arrivals (excluding cruises) in the first eight months of 2017 increased by 9.9% yoy, compared to an increase of just 1.3% in the same period of 2016, while travel rece ipts increased by 9.1%, compared to a sharp drop by – 9.1 % in the first eight months of 2016.
Especially in August 2017 , tourism receipts increased by 16.4 % yoy (from – 13.0 % yoy in August 2016 ) and arrivals by 14.3 % yoy (from +1 .8% in 2016 ). In August alone, foreign visitor arrivals reached 5.8 million – the highest number ever for this month (Chart 18).
According to Greek Tourism Confederation estimates (May 2017), in 2017 tourist arrivals (including cruises) are expected to reach approximately 28.5 million and receipts to increase by 7.5% yoy. In addition, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of tourism to GDP in 2017 is expected to increase by 6.9% to approximately 20%.