Alex Crane, former managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, has created his own firm, Crane & Co Real Estate Consulting, which specializes in advising clients ranging from developers to multinational companies. He talked with The Saigon Times about the prospect of the real estate sector.
The Saigon Times: Should Vietnam reopen its borders to expats?
– Alex Crane: There is already a pressing need from companies to welcome back experts and many are starting re-entry procedures. It would however give businesses greater confidence and the ability to plan if there was a clearer and simpler procedure for those returning, and also for those that will be net-new expats in Vietnam. For example, those that have not worked before. In areas like manufacturing and logistics, where places like China are again ‘open for business’ this would be beneficial for Vietnam. In addition, the hospitality sector will also see great demand for experts in the area as in-country travel grows and when the borders do open to tourists.
If so, who would come and from?
– Across the globe, most likely Asia for manufacturing, finance and potentially pharmaceutical industry. But then in the service industries, including hospitality but also finance related we may expect more from Europe, the U.S. and Australia.
Do you see any Vietnamese real estate firms working on this direction?
– There are a lot of senior roles in real estate already available which might already suggest there is a shortage of talent. This is being led particularly with developers who may need project teams that have international experience. Also in the investment and consulting areas, there is already good demand for international experience. I would expect that firms would benefit from having a larger pool of talent available.
What about the future of the HCMC office market, say, from next year?
– For the second time in the pandemic, offices are already starting to fill up. Many companies, while capable working from home or overseas, prefer day-to-day interaction between staff that an office can bring; efficiencies in business improve in our industry which fundamentally is a ‘people business’. Face-to-face meetings are really the only way for project teams, construction teams, deal teams and obviously occupiers and landlords to negotiate deals. It is a genuine frustration when this cannot be done face-to-face and the market will suffer because of it.
Any figures of this particular sector in HCMC or Vietnam?
– Unfortunately, I don’t have any data on offices reopening or staff returning to work. There may be some job-availability data from the like of VietnamWorks that might be interesting. Also national tourism numbers will be interesting to monitor as the borders open. But I think hotel occupancy rates and visa-grant data might not tell the true story yet.