ECONOMY

A hole in one for local property market

Greece can immediately expect 3.5 billion euros in domestic and foreign investment in the creation of at least 17 golf courses, if all projects proceed as the government hopes. «This country will be the most important golf tourism market in the Mediterranean in the next 10 years,» says Johann Peter Bachmann, CEO of Swiss Golf Invest AG, one of the foreign companies investing billions of euros in Greece, particularly in popular tourism destinations. This development becomes more important when one considers that a modern golf course has a major impact on a region’s property market. Courses usually come with hotels, housing units, conference centers and marinas, therefore becoming complete tourism resorts, creating jobs and lifting the price of properties in those areas. At the same time golf is a crucial element in the viability of those investments, as this is a basic condition for a hotel unit to enter the winter plans of major tour operators. This way tourism is secured at the highest quality level for the winter months, as well, which is somewhat unprecedented in Greek tourism. After all, the best seasons for golf are spring and autumn. The impact of those investments is important for the property market, especially as far as holiday housing is concerned, and where Greece has shown a significant delay in attracting foreign buyers. Despite great interest expressed year after year by visitors from abroad in the holiday housing market, few purchases are eventually made, either owing to the lack of appropriate homes or due to bureaucracy issues: To date foreign nationals cannot receive a loan from a Greek bank unless a Greek citizen guarantees it for them. The investment plans for the golf courses show that they will come with the development of at least 2,000 holiday houses of all kinds (maisonettes, villas, bungalows and apartments). The main reason golf and its accompanying installations are very profitable is their audience, as golfers have great purchase potential. Furthermore, 40 percent of them internationally make at least three trips a year to try out new courses. The average duration of each trip is one week. The mean daily expenditure per player is calculated at 370 euros, while 10 percent will buy a house close to a course, at a starting price of 120,000 euros. A comparison of Greece with other Mediterranean countries today is disappointing. The touristic «spring» of countries like Spain, Portugal and recently Turkey is to a significant extent based on their development of golf courses. In Spain today, there are 299 courses, visited by about 250,000 players. Italy has 303 courses with up to 70,000 members, while Portugal’s 64 courses attract more than 13,000 golfers. Turkey currently has 12 courses, but intends to create another 100 over the next four years. Greece has just six: Five 18-hole courses in Glyfada, Iraklion, Corfu, Halkidiki and Rhodes and one nine-hole course on Crete. The golf investment map Swiss Golf Invest has penciled in 45.3 million euros for western Zakynthos. Its business plan includes the creation of two 18-hole courses, a golf academy, and a five-star hotel with a capacity of 90 beds as well as 55 bungalows. The complex will further have a thalassotherapy center, a marina for mooring boats and a conference center. That is not the sole golf investment in Greece; after a number of years, Britain’s Loyalward Group Plc has managed to start the construction of a project intended to become the biggest holiday resort created in Greece to date. In the area of Cavo Sidero, near Palaiokastro in eastern Crete, 1.2 billion euros is to be invested in the creation of five holiday villages with traditional architecture. Every village will target a different audience. Along with thalassotherapy and conference centers, a marina and sports installations, three 18-hole golf courses are to be created while the four- and five-star hotels will be able to host up to 7,000 visitors. Crete has also attracted another important investment, by the Cypriot Fotiadis group and its subsidiary Emerald Developments SA, which has purchased 1.6 square kilometers on the island’s southern coast at Aghia Galini. Since the southern coast is relatively underdeveloped, Emerald Developments is planning an 18-hole golf course, accompanied by two five-star hotels, two spas, a conference center, sports installations and luxury accommodation complexes. The investment at Aghia Galini is expected to cost 310 million euros. Another investment that is proceeding after many years of delay and red tape is Navarino Resorts in the western Peloponnese. This is being undertaken by Tourism Enterprises of Messinia SA (TEMES), by Constantakopoulos shipowning family. Navarino Resorts consists of four independent sections (Pylos, Rizomylos, Kynigos and Romanos), and is addressed to as many niches. For instance, Romanos will be for families, having, in addition to an 18-hole golf course, two holiday villages, apartments, time-sharing units and more than 100 villas. At Pylos two luxury hotels will be constructed alongside an 18-hole course of championship level and more than 250 houses strategically placed at panoramic spots. Kynigos will host installations for older people, two 18-hole courses, a hotel with a spa and a housing development. Finally, at Rizomylos a new seaside village is being planned near Kalamata, where apart from the beach and the sea park, a small nine-hole course will operate as well as shops and restaurants. Also scheduled are five hotels of 1,500 rooms, while 200 plots will be used for constructing houses. The total investment by Constantakopoulos will be 590 million euros. Some 16 kilometers from Ancient Olympia, Austria’s Trident Investment Group LLC and Greek hotel chain Grand Hotels & Resorts SA will develop the Olympia Resort. Under the direction of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, it will include a luxury 138-room hotel, a golf course planned by Nick Faldo – one of the greatest golfers – tennis courts, 180 holiday houses, a conference center and restaurants by the 1,000-meter beach. It will cost up to 300 million euros. On the other side of the Peloponnese, in the east, Kilada Hills Golf Resort is being planned near Porto Heli. It will consist of an 18-hole course, a hotel, 245 flats totaling 24,835 sq.m. spread among three villages, and 70 private luxury villas. The bill for this will run up to 109 million euros. Arkoudi island, north of Cephalonia, is expecting a 100-million-euro investment comprising 140 superluxury houses, a marina, a thalassotherapy center and an 18-hole course. Heading the project is entrepreneur Giorgos Stavropoulos. Magnesia, in central Greece, has three investments planned, the biggest of which is at Iolkos, where, apart from the course, there will also be a five-star hotel and luxury villas, costing 250 million euros. Another 200 million will be invested at Nies village on Mt Pelion, while near Volos a group of investors, headed by a Greek-American from Florida, is planning the Apollo Golf & Spa Resort at a budget of 123 million euros. Other golf course plans are Belltower Golf and Residential Development at Margariti in northwestern Greece, where a 27-hole course is planned, Golf Omega at Avlona in Attica, while even the Athens Airport is reportedly considering such a development.