Jewel in the Crown

If you thought there was an extra-special lustre to the Attica coastline last summer, there’s a simple explanation.

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The jewel in the crown of Athens’ hotel portfolio was back on display, and it has already amassed quite an audience. The Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens – its full name – finally opened for business in 2019 with all the fanfare and expectation that come with a €650 million investment – the largest in Greece’s tourism industry.

Eyes have been turned towards the 75-acre stretch of the Vouliagmeni peninsula in the southern suburbs of Athens since the announcement of the tender for the sale of Astir by the National Bank of Greece and the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund five years ago.

Acquired by Jermyn Street Real Estate Fund IV LP in October 2016 (with a fund comprising two sovereign state funds from Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, other Arab investors, and the Turkish Dogus Group) Astir’s share capital was valued at €444 million. Αnd a further €200 million was raised through a bond loan from Greek banks.

It is a price tag that packs a serious punch even for a brand as iconic as Astir. And expectations rose further when it was announced that the management would be assumed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – a first foray into the Greek market for the international luxury hospitality company.

The stakes are high. A complete renovation of the two principal properties (Nafsika and Arion) and surrounding bungalows, upgrades to Astir Beach and Astir Marina, and the development of up to13 luxury residences tell only part of the story.

Equally at stake is the reputation of a hotel renowned for attracting the political elite and glitterati (the last two world leaders to stay there before the closure were Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin). It says something, therefore, that accolades have rolled in like waves on an Aegean shoreline.

The lavishness is impressive: 200 rooms, 42 suites, and 61 bungalows set alongside 2 outdoor pools, 3 private beaches, 3 tennis courts, 1 basketball court, 1 soccer pitch, conference spaces, and a helipad. Then there are the high-end dining options (Greek, Italian, and South American), alongside the pre-existing Nobu Matsuhisa which shares the peninsula.

There is also a new spa and wellness facility. But most notable is the preservation of the elegance and ‘minimalist luxury’ developed decades before the term was coined.

Equally importantly, the resort is unmistakably Greek. It houses some 2,000 works of art by mostly local artists and an onsite Benaki Museum shop. Even the spa treatments carry Greek names – Iremia (calm), Epanorthosi (restoration), and Frodida (care).

The prices of rooms and bungalows are eye-watering (if you do not have to ask, you can probably afford them). But given the traffic of guests even before the summer, demand could soon outstrip supply.

And from a hotel investment perspective, what makes the Four Seasons Astir Palace stand out is that a significant chunk of the invested capital is to be recovered from the development of the 13 villas.

Some jewels shine too brightly to resist.

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