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Hotel & Resorts

Meet the Israeli hotelier taking a raffle on Greek tourism

CORINTHIA, Greece – As a toddler, Leon Avigad was positive he can be certainly one of two issues when he grew up: a spy or a hotelier. Whereas a life undercover nonetheless hasn’t panned out, Avigad has fulfilled his different dream as a co-owner of Brown Accommodations, certainly one of Israel’s fastest-growing resort teams.

Along with companions Nitzan Perry (his husband) and Israeli businessman Nir Waizman, Avigad seems to have hit on a successful method: buying outdated, forgotten buildings in down-and-out places and reimagining them as enjoyable and funky journey locations aimed toward entertaining and pampering.

In a retro type – suppose throwback lighting, rotary telephones, report gamers and different knick-knacks for in-room decor – every of Brown’s lodges tells a narrative and gives the customer a definite vibe, starting from party-all-night to Paris stylish.

With 21 boutique lodgings already in Israel (and a number of other extra on the best way), the group is now shaking up Greece’s tourism business because it expands from 5 presently working city lodges, the majority of that are in a much less fascinating part of Athens, to resort locations past the nation’s present tourism hubs.    

“We prefer to steer clear of the apparent locations,” Avigad, 50, advised Jewish Insider in an interview final week. “Greece is a lot greater than its islands, and Athens shouldn’t solely be a stepping stone for vacationers to these islands.”

Final week, the corporate inaugurated two extra lodges within the Mediterranean nation, branching out from its city-based lodging to all-encompassing resorts which are welcoming and reasonably priced to households. And, over the following 12 months, Brown plans to open round a dozen extra lodges, together with eight extra in Athens and others on islands equivalent to Corfu and Evia.

Dave Pink resort in Athens, run by Brown Accommodations Group, as soon as served because the headquarters of Greece’s Communist Celebration. (Courtesy)

Moreover, the corporate simply introduced a 40 million euros ($43 million) take care of Israeli airline Israir to buy extra lodges within the nation and create unique journey packages for Israelis, together with direct flights from Tel Aviv to its new resorts.

Avigad, whose enterprise card describes him as “founder/storyteller/impresario,” advised JI the corporate presently owns round 40 extra properties in Greece which are simply ready to be “Brownized.” And, he stated, the corporate is eying different European locations equivalent to Croatia, the place it already runs one resort.

Such speedy growth is formidable for any enterprise however particularly dangerous within the hospitality sector, the place the worldwide tourism business is just simply starting to rebound from two years of COVID-19 restrictions, which noticed flights grounded, a steep decline in tourism and in some locations, the banning of enormous gatherings in locations equivalent to lodges.

“We had been all the time very optimistic,” Avigad stated of the challenges introduced on by the pandemic.

He defined that the Brown group took benefit of the shutdowns to start “rooting” itself in its chosen nation, buying and renovating defunct former lodges and different fascinating buildings, equivalent to the previous headquarters of the Greek communist celebration – now a boutique resort named “Dave Pink Athens – son of Brown.” The resort features a dungeon-dive bar and leftover graffiti from its extra socialist days.

Of the 5 Brown lodges presently up and operating in Athens, 4 are in Omonoia Sq., an space that for years served as the town’s red-light district, and was largely averted by vacationers. Now present process regeneration, Avigad and his companions are banking that the sq. – way back a buzzing hotspot in Athens – and the encircling neighborhood to return to its former glory.

“I used to be requested time and again throughout the pandemic why we had been creating this space, and I all the time stated that Athens is the following Berlin and Omonoia is the following Soho slash Meatpacking District,” stated Avigad.

“For us, the timing was good, and we’ve loved the nice luck of backwind from the [new] authorities and the mayors of Athens, Salonika, Loutraki and others,” he continued, describing how over the previous few years the Greek authorities have labored to ease paperwork and welcome overseas buyers in an effort to enhance the lives of Greek residents.  

“Sure, we love the meals and the culinary and gastronomy and the artwork and the heritage right here, however we’re additionally enterprise folks and what we understood very early on was that Greece is a really welcoming nation that has allowed us to enter into the market with comparatively reasonable actual property costs,” defined Avigad, who relocated to Athens together with his circle of relatives a 12 months in the past, after almost 4 years of weekly flights from his native Tel Aviv.

He additionally identified that pre-pandemic, greater than 32 million folks a 12 months visited Greece, nearly the identical numbers as Italy and France, however at one-quarter of the price of these dearer trip spots.

Two weeks in the past, Brown marked the opening of certainly one of its latest locations: Isla Brown Corinthia – a 166-room resort resort replete with entry to sandy seashores and crystal blue Mediterranean waters – with a one-day journey and tourism convention for Israeli and Greek builders and buyers.

Organized together with companions Israir and the Israeli monetary information outlet Calcalist, the occasion passed off within the still-under-construction resort situated in a sleepy Greek city greater than an hour outdoors of Athens – removed from the same old vacationer locations; it drew distinguished audio system equivalent to Israel’s Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov and Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, in addition to different business officers and enterprise leaders who spoke in regards to the new alternatives created by Brown and the numerous prospects of reciprocal Israeli-Greek tourism.

Dimitris Vassiliadis, supervisor of Israel’s workplace of the Greek Nationwide Tourism Group, who attended the convention, known as Avigad’s imaginative and prescient “daring.”

“I like Leon and the folks of Brown Accommodations as a result of they began a brand new and really costly funding in locations with seemingly zero potential, and that’s very daring of them,” he stated, including that, “as Greeks, we solely be taught to achieve from that.”

Isla Brown Corinthia is the most recent Brown resort to open in Greece. (Courtesy)

Michal Manor, editor and founding father of Israeli journey journal RoaOlam, who additionally attended the convention, advised JI, “It takes numerous braveness for them to open so many lodges throughout corona and in locations not among the many ordinary highlights for vacationers – the Brown group sees alternatives and jumps on them, nevertheless it’s a raffle.”

Nonetheless, for Avigad, who began his profession in resort administration as a concierge at Jerusalem’s iconic King David Resort 20-something years in the past and obtained coaching in high lodges in London, Switzerland and New York, it’s the very problem of a fickle and unpredictable business that seems to be the draw.

“It’s all the time probably the most troublesome visitor who finally ends up changing into a loyal buyer,” he quipped, shrugging, “Brown is just not merely a sequence of lodges, it’s a set of tales, and for those who create a model of soulful lodges then you recognize you’ll succeed.”

The author was a visitor of Brown Accommodations in Greece. 

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