Real estate professionals are seeing the first signs of spring in the short-term rental and luxury villa markets ahead of the tourism season. Even though demand has not quite taken off in many cases, insiders say that bookings are showing signs of improvement with each passing week.
“Like last year, visitor bookings are very much last-minute this year as well,” says Nasos Gavalas, chief executive of the Mint property management agency and president of the Short-Term Accommodation Managers Association (STAMNA). “It is too soon to have a picture of the rate of occupancy during the summer, as was the case before the pandemic.”
Despite the uncertainty, however, the data so far show that interest will likely start rising as of July, especially in stays on the more popular islands like Paros and Mykonos, where capacity seems to be at 65-70 percent already.
“What we are noticing is that visitors making bookings for the two-month period of July and August believe that they will definitely be able to travel to the country at that time because they will have been vaccinated,” says Gavalas.
The coronavirus vaccine is seen as the single most important factor behind the anticipated success of this year’s tourism season compared to 2020.
“Last year we estimated that the season could be extended into the autumn months, something that did not happen in the end because of the second wave of the pandemic. This year there’s the vaccine factor, which has given some relative certainty that the situation will improve with time, allowing more and more people from more countries to travel,” explains Gavalas.
The greatest interest in short-term rentals this year has come from the United Kingdom, followed by France, Germany, Israel and, more recently, the United States, mainly from older people. Basically, this is people who have already been fully vaccinated or have the dates of their immunization in hand and are therefore able to make vacation plans.
In contrast, there is little to no demand for luxury holiday houses on the islands as yet.
“The volume of bookings for luxury villas on the islands is still very low,” says Lefteris Potamianos, the head of the Athens-Attica Real Estate Agents’ Association. “Like last year, we expect most of the reservations to be made at the last minute, with visitors preferring the more popular islands to begin with. If arrivals are greater than last year, we may see more rental reservations at other destinations.”
According to Potamianos, large numbers of foreign visitors are not expected this year either, meaning that wealthier travelers will be more attracted to the idea of spending their summer vacation at one of the top Greek islands. Of course, there are also those who are looking for more remote locations that can afford them more privacy.
In terms of rental rates, the trend appears to be stable this year after a reduction of between 10% and 20% last year.
“We can expect discounts only once we ascertain that bookings will be insufficient, not even at the last minute,” says Potamianos.
Right now, a luxury village on Mykonos or Paros may cost up to 10,000 euros a week, while Santorini is in the same territory, fetching rates of around 500-600 euros a day. As a rule, these properties tend to be around 300-400 square meters in size, with a swimming pool among their many amenities, which may even include a private helicopter landing pad.
On Crete, Rhodes and Corfu – which are also popular destinations among wealthier holidaymakers – the cost of renting a luxury villa is significantly lower than on the Cyclades islands, ranging at around 5,000-6,000 euros a week.
Like last year, this year has also seen quite a bit of demand for luxury villas in the Attica region.
According to Kosmas Theodoridis, vice president of the Real Estate Federation of Greece, “we are already seeing many businesspeople, freelance professionals and high-income individuals more generally – who are the target audience for properties of this kind – starting to rent houses for the entire summer or for a month.”
He says that many of these people see the prospect of being able to leave the capital for their summer break as unlikely and that they are renting a house close to Athens instead.
Villas in seaside towns like Porto Rafti, Sounio, Rafina, Lagonissi, Vari, Vouliagmeni and Saronida are drawing the most interest, with rates in similar territory to 2020, if not a bit higher. As a rule, the cost of renting a villa in such places comes to around 10,000 euros for three months or 3,000-4,000 euros for a month.