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Newsletter October 2013

SPEAK OUT

Katerina Katopis, Director at Dolphin Capital Partners, speaks about Amanzoe, the new Aman resort in Greece.

Please tell us about the Aman brand.
Amanresorts was founded by Adrian Zecha who envisioned a collection of intimate retreats in beautiful surroundings with the unassuming, warm hospitality of a gracious private residence. The first, Amanpuri (place of peace) in Phuket, Thailand, introduced the concept in 1988, and since then, Amanresorts has grown to encompass 26 resorts located in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, France, Greece, Indonesia, India, Italy, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the USA and Vietnam. Amanresorts are arguably considered the world's best hotels, synonymous with understated luxury and impeccable seamless service.

Why was Greece chosen as an Aman destination?
Greece is one of the most sought after holiday destinations around the world, rich in history and culture, with stunning landscapes and sparkling seas. It was therefore only a matter of time before Amanresorts came to Greece and the right location was found. Porto Heli was the perfect host: it is the most upscale area for second homes in Greece, quite known for its mild climate throughout the year, the beautiful natural surroundings, the alternating lush coves with azure waters, its numerous activities and sites of archaeological significance very close by, but also its proximity to Athens. After much research, we at Dolphin found a site consolidating the best characteristics of the Greek landscape, combining breath-taking views with green groves, access to an idyllic beach, tranquillity and privacy. The very first time that Adrian Zeccha set foot on the hilltop of Aghios Panteleimonas in October 2006, he simply said “This is an Aman site”.

When did you open and how has the reaction to the brand been in Greece to date?
Just one short year ago in August 2012, Argolida became the focus of worldwide and national media attention. Amidst the recession, Dolphin Capital had completed the most ambitious and largest private investment in Greece: the construction of luxurious Amanzoe Resort atop a hill in the Peloponnese with a 360-degree view. Looking back on the past twelve months, it would be possible to devote several pages to press reports from various international tourism, development and lifestyle publications which included Amanzoe in the Best of the Best Resorts worldwide. The Amanzoe is an ode to Greece, to its history, culture and civilisation and during a truly challenging time for the country, managed to divert the international and national attention to something positive. We opened up a new destination in Greece, attracted the world’s elite to the resort, prolonged the season in the area, offered more than 200 direct jobs, and most importantly helped the local communities benefit from this new investment. As Amanzoe became one year old, it still continues to strive for the best, representing the essence of Greek hospitality, its friendly spirit, and the potential of the people of our land. And more importantly, it attests to the fact that we need more high end luxury developments in Greece, associated with very well-known international names to brand them, as those will ensure not only that the right clientele visits them, but also that they and the country catch the international media attention.

Despite its current fiscal challenges, Greece is experiencing a record year for tourism. How do you see the future?
Indeed Greece experienced a record year in the sector of tourism in 2013. International tourism arrivals in Greece posted a 13 percent increase in September 2013 compared to the same month in 2012, according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE). Moreover the country broke all the records regarding tourism with 17.5 million international arrivals to the country’s main airports to date. Direct tourism revenues to date for 2013 are estimated at €11.5 billion.

Greece’s rich culture and history, natural beauty, easy access, good health and hygiene conditions, plethora of lodging options and our open and positive attitude toward tourists are all important strengths. In parallel, the political crisis in Turkey, as well as safety and security issues in Arab countries drove many people around the world to visit our country and experience the Greek hospitality. 

In parallel, the ‘emerging’ economies continue to boom in the last years, increasing private wealth in those countries. China, Russia, Brazil and India are rising fast, with a resulting trend to upwards mobility which is also evident in Greece.

Greece remains one of the most attractive and preferred tourist destinations in the world and we continue offering a product and good services to the market, the future can only look brighter and we will see the upward trend continuing.

The Greek government has made a major effort to improve the business and investment climate. How do you view the changes implemented in the last year?
The Greek government, under a series of recent legislative changes aimed towards stimulating economic recovery, has passed laws favourable to so-called “Strategic Investments” and incentives including residence permits for the acquisition of real estate in the country.

Under the Strategic Investments programme, each investment is considered on its own merit by a governmental committee and, if deemed to qualify, is granted favourable planning conditions and administrative assistance (“fast track”) in the entitlements and permitting process. In the tourism sector, such favourable planning conditions include, amongst others, higher building coefficients, the development of residential real estate properties without the need to develop a hotel, preferential access and leasing terms of public beaches, and tax benefits and deferrals.

With regards to the residence permits, the new law allows real estate purchasers or lessees from outside the EU, who purchase or lease real estate investing an amount in excess of €250,000, to be granted a long term residence visa.

These are indeed important first steps which will definitely improve the business and investment climate in our country, and have helped shift perception from red tape to red carpet. Nevertheless more needs to be done, and more importantly we will need to see all those new measures implemented successfully.