Looking up the address 38 Falirou Street in Koukaki, central Athens, on Google Maps, you will find a photo of a car repair shop. If you actually go to the spot, however, it will be a letdown if you had been hoping to have your car repaired, and Google Maps won’t be to blame, as a new enterprise has only just begun operating at this address in the last few weeks.
This is a laundry service called Bugada – one of the many such enterprises that have been mushrooming in the neighborhood in recent years in order to serve visitors staying at the many short-term holiday rentals in the area.
Such laundromats are now easy to find in neighborhoods such as Koukaki, Pangrati and Mets – i.e. where an increasing number of apartments are being let on platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Most operate on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week, and many offer the full set of services: Washing/drying laundry, luggage storage and key safes (playing the role of a hotel reception), as well as clothing storage. “We don’t just have tourist as customers, but also Greeks who live permanently in the area,” says one employee.
One can find even more services at the enterprise located close to where the Acropolis police station used to be on Veikou Street. The owners of the company discerned the district’s prospects early on and developed a complex of apartments for short-term rental. The ground floor of the complex includes a self-service laundrette, a sports bar and a food service outlet. After all, it is the food service sector that has benefited most from the phenomenon of short-term rentals.
“In 2011 Koukaki was not in demand at all, but in 2014 it exploded,” recollects Giorgos Elafros, owner of the Oporio store. The economic crisis may have been in full swing when he opened Oporio in 2011, but he still managed to turn it into a success: “Tourists offer the extra turnover. Some of them shop like a normal household, others buy less,” he notes. He has made the necessary adjustments: Oporio sells packaged premium products, while he also prepares fruit salad packages and freshly squeezed fruit juice.
Baker Alexandros Rizos says he has also adjusted his output: “We now prepare more products such as croissants, cheese pies etc, to meet the needs of tourists. When an apartment block is 50 percent Airbnb rentals, you miss out on 25 percent of turnover,” he argues.