Estates Gazette has published a candid article suggesting the explicit hiring of prostitutes by delegates to the annual MIPIM conference may be contributing to an image of the industry which deters “young intelligrant females” from working in property.
David Hatcher, head of news and finance at the hugely-respected EG, writes that property as an industry has “a serious reputational issue” and appears to some - however inaccurately - to be “run by arrogant, white old-school men.”
The four-day MIPIM conference - regarded as the world’s largest real estate convention - is held each spring in Cannes. It is primarily a commercial property event although it has involved growing numbers of residential property delegates; some 23,500 property industry professionals attended this year’s event. They represented around 90 countries although Britain and France were by some margin the countries with the most delegates.
Hatcher says at the start of the piece that dozens of prostitutes lined one of Cannes’ main promenades and on the final evening of the event ‘business’ was brisk with many MIPIM participants - wearing accreditation - striking deals with the sex workers.
He writes: “This behaviour goes against the grain of so much of society and isolates the property industry. Why would a young, intelligent, female with plenty of career options choose to work in an industry in which such behaviour appears so commonplace and is, to a certain extent, tolerated? She wouldn’t, and property is much poorer without such people who are put off by its image.”
Here is the full piece written by Hatcher.
“In the early hours of last Friday morning, the final night of MIPIM, dozens of prostitutes lined La Croisette. For them, business promised to be brisk.
“Few were standing quietly on their own. Negotiations with customers over price were being conducted openly in the street, and plenty of punters had conference lanyards dangling around their necks. There was even a small gathering that seemed to have made a group decision to indulge.
“It wasn’t subtle and it wasn’t discreet – in fact, it could hardly have been more obvious.
“MIPIM is a busy time for the sex trade in Cannes. Sex workers have even begun undertaking social media marketing campaigns and were using the hashtag #mipim2016 on Twitter to pick up business.
“The clusters of heavily made-up women in Louboutins that crowd the bars in Cannes’ finest hotels are accepted as a regular occurrence at the event.
“Property is an industry that has a serious reputational issue. To many it is still a part of the economy run by arrogant, white, old-school men. Of course, in reality, this is largely untrue (and many laudable initiatives are in place to change this image) but the transactions on La Croisette reinforce this stereotype.
“This behaviour goes against the grain of so much of society and isolates the property industry.
“Why would a young, intelligent, female with plenty of career options choose to work in an industry in which such behaviour appears so commonplace and is, to a certain extent, tolerated?
She wouldn’t, and property is much poorer without such people who are put off by its image.
“In France, hiring a prostitute is legal and the laws surrounding the world’s oldest profession are liberal, but from a business and career perspective it is still a dangerous thing to do.
“What would happen if a manager, a prospective investor or business partner whose moral compass was aligned differently witnessed some of the above-described transactions? Would he or she want to be associated with someone who was so clumsily conspicuous? All of property’s great and good are in Cannes and word can soon get around – it is, after all, an industry fuelled by gossip.
“A wider societal issue is also relevant here. Prostitution is associated with violence, drug abuse, people trafficking and slavery. According to a 2014 US Department of State report, one non-government organisation estimates that 5,000 children, primarily from Romania, West Africa and North Africa, are victims of forced prostitution in France. Of the roughly 20,000 sex workers in the country, 90% are from overseas and likely victims of trafficking, according to the government.
“But from a real estate perspective alone, this is an issue that jeopardises the reputation of the industry and has profound career implications for those involved – ones that are not just to be shrugged off after a few glasses of rosé.”