One of the wonderful perks of being an academic is that most of us have the summers “off”. They are not really off, as many of us work hard on our research or take students on summer tours to study real estate… but that is often in a fun and exotic place. I have been fortunate to have that experience this summer. Last month, I spent a week in Panama studying the Impact of the Panama Canal on Global Trade (and in turn real estate). I also spent the last two weeks in the UK where I visited family and friends in the property profession (including several other authors for the Property Chronicle, Andy Baum and Nick French). In addition, I met lots of old colleagues and met new colleagues at the European Real Estate Society meetings where we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the European Real Estate Society (ERES), the 25th Anniversary of the International Real Estate Society (IRES) and the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). If you have never been to an ERES meeting I strongly encourage you to put it on your list. They are typically held in late June or early July and this year I learned a tremendous amount. There were sessions on technology, big data, the housing affordability crisis that is clearly happening all over the world, sustainability and climate change, corporate real estate, REITs, finance and capital markets, education, etc. You name it and there was a session on it. In addition, I saw old friends and colleagues but more importantly made new friends from Africa, Turkey, Australia, Brazil and even Mongolia!
If you are not aware of the IRES, I also encourage you to consider attending one of the sister society meetings as well. As a founding member of the organisation, I am probably biased but it is an umbrella organisation with six regional societies. Each one holds an annual meeting: American (in April), European (in June/July) Pacific Rim (in January), Asian (in July), Latin American (in October), and African (in October). As with ERES, you will find hundreds of real estate academics and practitioners trying to gain a better understanding of real estate as an asset class. Attendees share research results and data. There are doctoral students as well as forty-year veterans that are retired from the industry but addicted to real estate (failing retirement and interested in helping the next generation of property professionals avoid the mistakes of the past). The meetings are open to everyone, so look at your diary and plan to attend. I promise you, you will not be disappointed. My biggest take away was on how important technology is becoming to our field and how important it will be for us to embrace this trend and get up to speed as quickly as possible as things are changing so rapidly. A bit overwhelming, but an important thing to keep in mind going forward.
Now, back to my experiences in Panama. We took a crew of 12 students and 2 faculty for a weeklong study tour of Panama. We visited companies and real estate developments as well as the port and the three stops along the canal. We had some history lessons (had no idea how many animals crossed from N. America to S. America, the Biomuseo has an incredible exhibit), some cultural lessons and many business lessons. The course is designed to teach real estate students about global logistics and to teach global logistics students about real estate and how they are literally tied at the hip since linkages, linkages, linkages (not location) is the name of the game in commercial real estate.
Panama is an incredibly exciting country right now with the expansion of the canal. Their economic situation is strong and they have a tremendous number of tax incentives and other programs to encourage economic development, particularly for regional headquarters and entrepreneurs. In addition, they are courting the retirement community as well building waterfront properties in numerous parts of the country.