Monday. 23/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Don’t bank on it

Watch out, Greece: the big spenders are swooping in. US private-equity behemoth Blackstone (one of the world’s largest real-estate owners) is reported to be on the cusp of a €500m investment binge on Greek hotels, according to national paper Ekathimerini. Its first purchase – part of a hotel chain with a significant island presence – is rumoured to be worth about €200m and will be carried out by a Luxembourg-based holding company. The management will reportedly stay the same.

Greece’s hospitality industry has been an appealing investment option for a while now and is further boosted by a new right-wing pro-business government. But while the cash injection might sound like good news in the short term, the ultimate aim of private equity is to make maximum profit as quickly as possible. It’s hardly conducive to building a sturdy and sustainable tourism industry that outlasts the current visitor boom and thoughtfully challenges the disruption of apartment-sharing alternatives. Let’s hope Greece’s hoteliers think carefully before selling off the family silver.

Governance / Hong Kong

Talk to the hand

Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam will fulfil her promise to initiate “open dialogue” this week – starting with meeting 150 residents on Thursday. Lam will address topics she believes to be root causes of the current unrest and speak on “unaffordable housing, land shortage and lack of diversity”, among other issues. It’s been more than three months since the now-withdrawn extradition bill sparked demonstrations yet activists still take to the streets to call for “all five demands, not one less”. With no resolution or compromise on the horizon, sceptics say Lam’s new platform for dialogue may just as well be a series of long-winded monologues.

Election / Canada

Getting serious

As Canada’s federal election campaign enters its second full week ahead of the polls on 21 October, the storm over prime minister Justin Trudeau’s penchant for dressing up is passing and candidates will – hopefully – be focusing on bigger issues. One Toronto event starting today that’s worth watching is the 6 Degrees summit.

The annual jamboree is a speaker series that brings together international writers, thinkers and activists for conversations on citizenship and inclusion. The project, started by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship in 2016, could help the nation’s newspapers get off the subject of Trudeau’s indiscretions and set the tone for the important topics that should be shaping the election.

Retail / Japan & Taiwan

What are friends for?

Taiwanese bookseller Eslite is expanding into Japan this week with a bold statement: a handsome shop (designed by architect Kris Yao) that combines books, stationery, skincare and food in a new retail complex in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district. Not many foreign booksellers would venture into Japan’s crowded (and shrinking) ¥1.3trn (€10.9bn) market but Eslite – which runs 49 shops in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China – is not attempting the feat alone. The company is partnering with Yokohama-based bookseller Yurindo and grocer Food & Company, and has mobilised an army of Taiwanese food, cosmetics and jewellery brands for the cause. Eslite might even get a boost from the political dynamics of the region: Taiwan is one of the most popular overseas destinations for Japanese travellers and warm ties between Tokyo and Taipei stand in contrast to the bad blood between Japan, China and South Korea.

Culture / London

Photo opportunity

Following the blockbuster success of its Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior exhibitions, London’s V&A museum has turned its lens on another fashion luminary. Wonderful Things, which opened on Saturday, is the largest display of work by Tim Walker, a photographer who rose to prominence in the 1990s with his enchanting images for Vogue and Love Magazine. He is not as well known as McQueen and Dior but Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, thinks that the show will continue the museum’s recent success. “It’s very clever of the V&A to showcase a name that maybe people don’t know,” she says. “Visitors might have seen the McQueen exhibition and now see that he was having a creative conversation with Tim Walker – so they can see how it all fits together.”

M24 / The Stack

The Sartorialist

We speak to photographer Scott Schuman about his new book The Sartorialist India. Plus: we discuss the redesign of Frame magazine and talk to James Hyman about which titles we think should return to print.

Monocle Films / Rome

The Monocle Travel Guide Series: Rome

From ancient architecture to unbeatable boutiques, Rome has always been one of Europe’s most popular destinations. Our guide will take you down the city’s lesser-known thoroughfares full of freshly ground coffee and culinary surprises. Published by Gestalten, the guide is available now at The Monocle Shop.

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