Interview Vastgoedjournaal (Real Estate Journal)
Real estate sector needs to think bigger
Holland Property Plaza (HPP) is increasingly establishing itself as an international community for real estate professionals. Christa Thijssen, the driving force behind HPP and chairwoman of the Dutch Real estate Association in Amsterdam, has plans to increase the number of young people connected to her platform. “We want to connect and meet with more than ‘just the older’ generation”, she explains in VJ.
For tens of years, Christa Thijssen has worked as a marketeer in the property sector. She has a mission, which is to bring real estate players together in order to create new impulses and perspectives. “People have to wake up. When I started my career, I already noticed considerable interest abroad for the Dutch real estate sector. Dutch contractors usually limit their operations to the cross border region. The number of Dutch real estate developers with substantial international operations can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and cooperation between domestic and foreign players is marginal at best. That really is a waste of opportunity, seeing that our business community abounds in knowledge and creativity. At the same time, we desperately need foreign investors.”
Fifteen years ago, Christa became the first person to put the spotlight on the Netherlands during the Expo Real in Munich. “During that initial period, we had to overcome a tremendous amount of resistance. Companies simply did not appreciate the necessity of our objective, and governments merely adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Consequently, the presence of Dutch players at the Expo Real remained very modest for a long period of time. Finally, in 2008, I was able to convince them to participate on a larger scale and to organise a 600m2 stand at which to represent our country. Sadly, the outbreak of the financial crisis then occurred, and we were forced to downscale our presentation to previous levels.”
Several year later, in 2015, Holland Property Plaza had a stand of its own at the Expo Real, featuring 33 private and public participants to internationally promote Dutch municipalities and real estate companies. Thijssen regrets that the Netherlands has so far not operated as a single unit at this renowned trade fair. “We have to think bigger. I know and believe that our country can expose itself to its fullest advantage if it acts as a tight unit in which all parties cooperate. We need to discard the persistent distinction between the Randstad and the urban regions of the province of Brabant, for example. For the outside world there should be only one brand: the Netherlands. And only one colour: orange. We must operate as a unit, but the so-called G4 municipalities still opt for separation, which I think sends the wrong message.”
Participating in the Expo Real is only one of the many HPP activities, albeit a very important one, clarifies Christa Thijssen. She also attaches considerable value to Holland Property Plaza as it has emerged in recent years. “The exchange of ideas should not be limited to participation in the Expo real. Equally or perhaps even more important is the fact that we organise year-round activities to bring Dutch and foreign parties together. As an example, we organise international dinner meetings under the name HPP-IREIN (International Real Estate Investors Netherlands) at venues in London, Hamburg and Brussels. The companies and organisations we invite to such events include foreign players who are already active on the Dutch market and players with a keen interest in what the Netherlands has to offer, even if they are not (yet) represented there. During these events, we inform them about opportunities on the Dutch real estate market.”Our next edition of Provada will be preceded by an HPP symposium featuring various international speakers and Minister Blok as a guest. “For 2016, we have selected two central themes: Small Housing and Retail. Cities are subject to enormous change. Some families choose to leave urban areas, whilst many senior citizens opt for a life in the city. All city-dwellers have personal needs and requirements. They all want a vibrant city, one that offers good facilities and nice restaurants. As a result, many cities compete with each other for the favour of (potential) residents. For any number of reasons, some groups prefer Rotterdam over Amsterdam, and vice versa. We are all familiar with the stories about the way in which our shopping landscape is changing. During our HPP symposium, we intend to explain global developments and trends that are taking place in the area of shopping and living. In Zurich, for example, we see the emergence of a remarkable inner-city renting sector.
Traditional bicycle tour
Each year, since 2012, HPP also organises and hosts a annual bicycle tour for decision-makers in the real estate sector. One of the regular participants is Minister Blok. “We have already welcomed many top executives from the real estate sector to our two-day bicycle tour for five years. This year, 55 cyclists will join us for the tour from Arnhem to Monchengladbach and back. A substantive programme will be presented to all participants in both cities.HPP also has several new activities planned for this year. “April will see the first HPP Café. This first edition, to be held on the 14th, is dedicated to the Fenix Warehouses in Rotterdam. Participation in the HPP-Café is subject to the special condition that each member of our Community introduces a ‘young potential’ from the real estate sector.”We shall also take part in the ‘Midcap City Talks’. “Most attention goes out to the four big cities, but why not involve potentially attractive medium-sized cities such as Eindhoven, Tilburg, Enschede or Maastricht? We intend to bring those cities together to discuss their real estate strategies.”
Bert Pots, Vastgoedjournaal, March 2016