For them entertainment is not a temporary thing; it’s a lifestyle they aim to deliver. With Amer Group, everyday is an adventure that deserves to be experienced. We sat down with Mr. Sherief Khalil, the Chief Commercial Officer for Amer Group in an attempt to discover their hidden talents…
What can you tell us about yourself?
-My name is Sherief Khalil, I am the Chief Commercial Officer for Amer group. I look after different departments; sales, marketing, customer service, business development… I worked in lots of fields before joining Amer Group. I started my career in the tourism industry. I was working in Dubai for five years, looking after a big investment fund there representing a big UK company in property investments.
So when did your journey in the real estate business begin?
-My real estate journey started in 2007/2008, before that I had indirect connections with the real estate field.
What separates Amer Group’s Vacation Club from competition?
-It is the most flexible program you can ever buy anywhere in the entire world. It’s a kind of a club concept; you are a member of a club where you can join several activities. The main problem with vacation clubs is flexibility, but our concept is that when you buy -for instance- 30 nights, one of the benefits the club gives you is the right to spend those 30 nights in the property according to your own plan. You can spend the 30 nights all at once. You can have 30 apartments for one night. Four apartments for two nights. Bottom line, you own 30 nights! You can use them as you wish in one apartment or even more.
Can we say that you’re the one who brought vacation clubs to Amer Group?
-The vacation club is not a new idea. Under vacation clubs, we have time-shares, fractionals, point-systems and more products. Time-share was introduced in Egypt back in the late 80’s. It wasn’t very well known at the time, but now it’s doing very well everywhere. I was part of the team who worked on this program to be an ongoing business parallel to the real estate business, hotels business, restaurant business and all other businesses run by the group.
What about providing rentals?
-Again rentals is not a new idea, and because our properties are highly demanded in the market, we are successful in renting the apartments for the benefit of the original owner. The new concept that we came up with is that individuals can now be mall owners. We introduced this concept; that you can buy a shop, leave it to the mall to rent it to brands and you get 80% of the revenues, and this was our philosophy in Porto Cairo mall.
What kind of activities do you do to attract people?
-We provide a wide range of activities in our properties: Scuba diving, Telefrik, safari rides, Bedouin tents, fishing trips, golfing, and more. Our aim is that every person finds something interesting to do every day. And it’s all wrapped by a large number of International and National restaurants operating inside the properties. I don’t think that any development in Egypt is offering such experience. In Marina, we were the first property to introduce bungee jumping. It was never seen in Egypt before, and it is one unique experience you cannot find anywhere else. We are very focused into family entertainment and we make sure there is a place for every person in the family.
You’re introducing ski-diving in Porto Cairo too.
The I-fly.. yes. It will be introduced very soon. We are only waiting for the machines to come and the installation will happen soon.
Why specifically in Cairo?
– It will be rolled out. We always have an anchor to start something and then we roll it out in all destinations. We were of the first properties to introduce the 4D-cinemas. It started in Porto Marina, and then we rolled it out everywhere.
It’s quite impressive that you are always thinking outside the box looking for something new.
-Of course! If you visit Porto Marina or any of our properties, every visit will be one-of-a-kind experience. You will have different activities to do, different places to dine, and more different programs…
It’s clear that you invested more ideas and activities in Porto Cairo than your other establishments.
-It’s because that’s our first big mall! We had meeting points, but this is our first mega mall. So we are putting all our efforts, expertise, investments, soul and mind in this property to be a very successful model that can be rolled out in other malls. We also have a very big mall in October and another in Porto New Cairo coming up.
Are you establishing a new property in New Cairo?
-We have Porto New Cairo which has 600 apartments, office tower, shopping mall and this is completely sold out. It is a very large one and the idea behind it was to go to your gym, cinema, restaurant, market and just use the elevator. The elevator is our main character; you don’t need to go out. Now families want to enjoy an outing without getting stuck in traffic for long hours. So if they want to dine, watch a movie, or go to the cinema; we offer it all at just one place.
How do you see the competition in the real estate business?
-I don’t want to say competition! They are different development companies, all very good and all profiting out of the big booming in the industry in Egypt. Most of the real estate companies suffered for some time, especially after the revolution. Now everybody is recovering. I don’t see it that everybody is competing with us, because we are almost by ourselves. The concept of family destination and lively entertainment from morning to evening is something you simply cannot find in any other development. But as a whole, the real estate sector in Egypt is doing great.
How can you describe Amer Group’s philosophy?
-A very diversified company that cares about its clients. Very successful. If we weren’t successful, we wouldn’t have 14 Portos in Egypt. We are now going internationally. We are working on Porto Tartous and we just launched Porto Dead Sea couple of weeks ago, and the opening was attended by the prime minister of Jordon. We had an event in Amman starring Tamer Hosny and people were queuing. All the press in Jordon talked positively about it, it was a huge success. Soon we will be launching Porto in other international destinations. So we are taking the Porto concept regionally and we are going internationally.
How was your experience this year at City Escape?
-City escape this year was a very good event, very successful and it was driven by the total booming that is affecting the market positively.
But a lot of people commented it wasn’t the same as every year!
-Maybe in terms of crowd, but we saw people willing to buy. It wasn’t a shopper event. Maybe more people attended the years before, but they came shopping. This year people came with their checkbooks in their pockets and they were really positive about the market. In such event it is not about profit and loss. It is about exposure and announcement. It is not considered as sort of an investment. The first time we talked about Porto Jordon publicly was at City Escape. So normally we don’t evaluate the event by how much we did in sales.
How much do you think the recent political and social troubles in the region affected the real estate business?
-People now have more confidence in the market. They trust economy better. And now they are more open to invest. Although Egypt went through some bad times, the one thing that didn’t lose was the property market. Maybe there were fewer profits but still there were profits. Properties are a real good, safe investment and people understand that.
What is Amer group’s mission statement?
-To keep growing and delivering new lifestyle to our clients. In 2011, we were the only company that launched new developments; all other companies were waiting to see how things were going. We have full trust in the economy and the overall atmosphere of this company. We have full trust in our people and they trust us. So if you have the market and condition, you will keep growing. We did Porto Sharm-Elsheikh and we are delivering the first phase in August, 2014. Marsa Matroh’s first phase will be developed in July 2014. Porto New Cairo is completely sold out. Porto October is ongoing and other developments are yet to come. We are not going traditionally, you will see lots of new architectures, very out-of-the-box, very light, and you will be amazed!
How can you describe your journey with Amer group?
-The most exiting journey I have ever had. I worked in a lot of places, but I’ve never enjoyed working like I enjoy it here. We have a top management open to new ideas, willing to listen and giving you an opportunity to move. Believing in the professionalism of people and investing in new ideas are giving lots of excitement to work, and we come every day with a new challenge to reach.
Of all the company’s projects, which is your favorite and why?
– (Smiling!) The Porto is my favorite. As I told you, every property is a unique project with its own identity. Porto Sokhna; where else in Egypt can you find a cable car moving from the pyramids to the top of the mountain with a wonderful view! Porto Marina; the lagoon, the gondola and the water! Golf Porto marina; the experience of playing golf in the desert! That’s why our clients mainly own in all of our projects, because there is a different experience in every project.
What would you consider as your dream real-estate development that you wish to get accomplished one day??
-I want to see Porto October. It is going to be the most amazing property, and it is going to be a piece of art in the real estate development. We are designing another Roam in Egypt. Everything is a dream; we have 3 international schools, malls and an international medical Centre. Imagine in one place you have anything you’ve ever dreamt of. I wish to see it come to reality very soon.