“Italian real estate: a prime investment choice”

“When it comes to comparing the appeal of Italian real estate with that of other countries, Italy shines as a prime investment choice.”   Praise for the values of Italian real estate comes not from just anyone, but from Alexi Khajavi, president of hospitality, travel & wellness at Questex and responsible for managing the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF). ” “With the influx of increasing capital into the hospitality sector,” he continues, “Italy’s charm is undeniable.  Attention to leisure assets, as illustrated by the latest Investor Sentiment Index, puts Italy in a perfect position to seize long-term demand opportunities.  And recent transactions only confirm Italy’s status as a hotspot for discerning investors.”  Liliana Comitini, president of B&B Hotels Italia, thinks similarly. “The appeal of real estate in Italy is a combination of cultural factors, lifestyle, investment opportunities and market stability that make it an attractive sector for a wide range of buyers and investors.”  The signs regarding real estate investments in Italy are positive, both in the short and medium term future.  “The diversity of the Italian market and the multitude of brands and investors looking at these opportunities,” comments Khajavi, “make it a strategic market. Added to which is the popularity of luxury and lifestyle sectors, which continue to generate interest.”  

A decade of participation 

“It has been ten years since we first decided to bring Italy to IHIF for the first time.  Each edition has seen our presence at the Berlin event grow steadily, which is  one of the most important global events that address hotel investment.  This journey was developed in collaboration with ICE (the ITA – Italian Trade Agency) and the Italian Embassy in Berlin, which supported the initiative alongside companies in the sector.  A decade-long tale of a transforming sector and dynamic entrepreneurship capable of innovating.  Year after year, the panel on Italy receives increasing attention from delegates from around the world,” says Maria Carmela Colaiacovo, president of the Italian Association of Confindustria Hotels. 

Value-added operations and the role of ICE 

“After a crisis period dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Marco Cito, head of the foreign investment attraction office in Italy at ICE, “which blocked international mobility, consequently registering a drastic drop in foreign investments in Italy, we can finally say that the hospitality sector is experiencing a new spring.  On one hand, 2023 was undoubtedly a troubled year, with various imbalances in the international landscape causing increased costs and rising interest rates.  However, according to the 2023 EY report on the hotel investment market, the last quarter of last year saw a surge in real estate transactions, accounting for 58% of the entire volume of the year.”  This development concerns transactions of small hotels.  “Among the most successful investment operations are the so-called ‘value-added investments,'” explains the ICE executive.  “These are structures that attract the portfolio of major international luxury players, who invest with the aim of requalifying and repositioning them on the market.”  To make transactions in the real estate market smoother and more balanced, the PNRR (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) has introduced guidelines that can certainly bring significant improvements.  Specifically, this reform plan finds direct application in the urban and economic regeneration of disused areas with the aim of creating new opportunities for sustainable tourism.  Another point of the plan concerns facilitating access to credit for entrepreneurs, especially to support energy requalification investments.  “As for the contribution of the ICE Agency,” specifies the manager, “the entity collects the portfolio of public offers in the sector through www.investinitalyrealestate.com, which is a very important tool to ensure transparency and access to information to encourage investments.  Plus, ICE’s mission includes attracting foreign investments through the Investinitaly system, the network of institutional players who collaborate, each within their own sphere of competence, on the issue.”  ICE’s goal is not to attract investments outright, but to promote opportunities that are strategically important for our country.  “Our aim,” concludes Cito, “is also to promote opportunities that until now have had difficulty being continuously presented to foreign investors.  These are properties resulting from the disposal of assets managed by the state and which often enter the market with tenders with inevitably reduced durations.” 

The growth of 5-star hotels 

One of the factors that, according to Gabriele Burgio, president of the Alpitour World Group, has contributed to aligning Italian hospitality with international demand is the increase in 5-star accommodation facilities, “which until a few years ago was a sector that was missing in our country,” emphasises Burgio.  “Then the arrival of personalities like George Clooney, who bought a house on Lake Como, and the birthdays celebrated in Puglia by world stars, have given our sector a second youth.”  As a result, the offer has grown, with significant investments and the arrival of international brands.  “These operations,” says the president of Alpitour, “have brought our country back onto the international stage.”  All this is demonstrated by recent investments that see, for example, a doubling of the luxury segment on Via Veneto in Rome, and many developments in Tuscany.  “We are witnessing an increase in supply,” explains Burgio, “which clearly must be accompanied by infrastructure and services.” Speaking of challenges to overcome, according to the manager there are still the usual ones: uncertainty in bureaucratic matters, delays in issuing permits and licenses, difficulties such as implementing security measures in ancient buildings, “but we are slowly progressing,” he admits. Regarding the VOIhotels brand (part of the Alpitour Group), “the goal,” says the group’s president, “is to have a role in incoming tourism through the steady construction of a 5-star network, with ancient buildings and the recovery of history in iconic locations such as Venice, Florence and Rome.  With the VRetreat line, the group is focused on luxury 5-star and targets a clientèle composed of 85-90% foreigners.  “But it’s not just about building hotels,” the manager comments again, “it’s about giving something extra to retain the customer, and this means embarking on a path of training and motivation.”   

The appeal of emerging destinations 

Not only luxury and iconic cities, but also emerging tourist destinations offer development opportunities, as the president of B&B Hotels Italia emphasises.  “For 2024, we have planned a very ambitious opening plan, with more than 10 new hotels between northern and southern Italy, and the islands.  Our vision for 2030 is to become the reference hotel chain in Italy with 150 hotels, managed directly and franchised.”  

Laura Dominici 

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