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Landlords should use this moment to become more aware of their chances in the coming year. It's time to meet tenants' concerns half-way. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

What will 2021 be like? That is one question since the definition of ‘normal’ for countries, businesses, and individuals received an unexpected change in circumstances with the arrival of COVID-19.

Are we to answer that in line with Morgan Stanley’s 2021 Global Economic Outlook, which says: "The global economy has proven remarkably resilient" even as the pandemic drags on.

However, the sentiment on the ground has spelt otherwise. Being in the business of developing real estate for rental purposes, and having entire buildings being vacated within a span of weeks, believe me, reassurance or resilience are not passing emotions in times like these.

After three decades of doing what we do, 2020 was the first time we actively reconsidered investing in diversification instead of expanding within our own. This year shook many foundations to say the least, but just like everything else in life, we need to move forward.

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All about speed

So before we being to forecast 2021, we have to understand that the recovery will not be even across all geographies. For instance, UAE’s approach to recovery, based on protocols that led to a zero-day quarantine, has actually encouraged many to consider relocation to the UAE for work and leisure alike. It means countries that are reverting to a greater sense of normalcy quicker will experience faster recovery.

On the contrary, the same Morgan Stanley report has the company’s chief economist, Chetan Ahya, explain that synchronized global growth, an emerging-market rebound, and the return of inflation will characterize the next stage of the world economy’s V-shaped recovery.

While I agree with most parts, the term “synchronized” may not apply on all counts.

Be honest with audits

While being hopeful about the year to come, to avoid disillusionment, businesses need to conduct a pragmatic audit of areas for improvement and their weaknesses. Sustainability will be the keyword here, and the trend of simply laying off staff without considering areas for improvement and opportunities to reinvent might not be enough to keep a business afloat - let alone profitable.

When the magnitude of the pandemic hit us due to tenants’ pay cuts and job losses, the company had to seriously consider viable options to diversify to get through the turbulent phase. We had to rethink strategy, address and fix shortcomings, without which the business would not have been able to maneuver through the pandemic without casualties.

Manage those costs

Landlords have to be prepared to cater to the requirement of individuals and companies looking for economical accommodation options. In 2021, landlords will have to continue being flexible with rents and ensure that tenants have a hassle-free process.

Nilanjan Roy, Chief Financial Officer of Infosys, in an article in World Economic Forum says, “Collaboration between the public and private sectors has helped ease some of the world’s most urgent challenges, including the ones associated with the pandemic, opening doors to accelerated resolutions.”

The UAE’s public and private sectors working hand-in-hand will be crucial as we work towards recovery in 2021.

- Haleema Al Owais is CEO of Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate.