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Dirk K. Wollweber. Managing Partner at TREC GmbH-The Real Estate Company in Düsseldorf, Germany. Credit: TREC


“Let’s create and open a virtual Madrid, Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Milan or Venice for our avatars, virus-free, with the recovered turquoise lagoon, a crowded Piazza San Marco, hundreds of flying doves, etc.”

By Dirk K. Wollweber

Despite using the lurid “hashtag“ as a header, I am not an influencer. My posts on various social-media platforms are way too text heavy. But in spite of my advanced age I understood that such a “prefix“ creates a “label“. Sometimes hashtags go viral and extend the reach of a message. If the message or opinion to be transported would refer to a shopping center we would perhaps call this measure “positioning“. And this is crucial if you are doing costumer & guest related real estate business, not only in the current situation. 

I unfortunately have neither a panacea against corona nor against the negative financial impact. I can only try to stimulate you all as follows: Please position you as well your business, make yourself heard, brainstorm with your consultants, lawyers, bankers, and tax consultants, create a community of solidarity with your former competitors and neighbors in your vicinity. Perhaps by using old fashioned corporate structures like cooperatives (“Genossenschaften“) to raise funds to survive as well as avoid being forgotten in a time, when you–as the operator/owner of a business–are not allowed to have contact to your customers and guests until an unforeseeable point in time, with no or nearly no income and consequent fears. The same applies indirectly to owners and asset managers of the real estate shell where these operators are doing their business. It is always the community of destiny (and a chain of cash-flow as well)–customer/guest–operator/retailer–landlord/owner. 

This direct dependence from people (i.e. guests and customers) and their spending is the unifying element between retailers, restaurateurs, and hotel operators, including their respective landlords.  And the majority of them shares the actual experience. One difference is that retailers and some restaurateurs can still profit from their online channels and home-delivery services. With regard to the hotels it is unfortunately not yet possible to check-in your digital avatar. But perhaps this would be an idea how to create virtual travelling (and shopping) destinations for target-oriented donations and fundraising as a temporary solution until our freedom to travel and move returns. 

For example, let’s create and open–and all as a pars pro toto–a  virtual Madrid, Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Milan, or Venice for our avatars, virus-free, with the recovered turquoise lagoon, a crowded Piazza San Marco, hundreds of flying doves, fairs and market places, vibrant restaurants, boutiques & gondolas (including their gondoliers), a re-opened Fondaco Dei Tedeschi with its stunning terrace and fully booked hotels and palazzos. In a post-corona world, whenever that may be, such digital cities could then be used easily for marketing, digital fairs, travel preparations including bookings or online shopping. But it will never replace reality because the most important thing will always be missing: real human beings who can smell, watch, feel, taste, interact, and communicate amongst each other. That‘s what our British friends are calling “retail therapy“ and no online purchasing session ever will create.

It’s up to you to call this a vision of a maniac who loves the Mediterranean culture and freethinker who just wants to somehow support all of us out there in this business, and in particular all these lovely, emotional, and sincere people who are suffering the most from this severe crisis at the moment. However, visions are there to make us stronger, to see some light at the end of a tunnel and to be turned–even if only partially–into reality. Whoever played Sims or Sim-City or other adventure games with kids has a hunch that such a vision could become reality if all these highly skilled architects, game coders & IT specialists out there would establish a subsidized task force and perhaps the high-performance NSA and other intelligence services servers could be used for that in a wiser way than right now… [1]

In times of buoyant economies, it is easy to generate business, to lead and make decisions. But history shows us, that mankind sometimes needs a crisis to create a sense of humanity, solidarity, and humility. Hence, this onerous time with the virus can create a spirit and energy to grow againand maybe reaching the next level, from an economic and interhuman perspective.

In our industry there has never been a time to rest. Reinvention and innovation in a rapidly changing environment have been our daily business for years. Therefore, let us trust in our adaptability, skills, and creativity. We all have to be there for each other right now, for our families, our employees, our tenants or landlords to instill confidence, especially for all the people out there, our customers and guests, who are just yearning for a re-start. “It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.” (Doe Zantamata[2])

[1]BTW: For a lot of museums and e.g. the 2019 biennale this virtual visiting possibilities already have been created, compare