From cautionary tale to paradigm, Greece to benefit from improved reputation

This article was originally published on Ekathimerini.com on May 5th, 2020

The efficiency and flexibility demonstrated by the Greek administration from the start of the coronavirus outbreak has generated a new sense of confidence in the country and helped build relationships of trust both within and beyond its borders.

At the same time, it is bolstering Greece’s image as a safe destination for investments and tourism, as is increasingly apparent from a growing wave of positive publicity in international media, the comments of foreign leaders and diplomats, and the interest being reported in ongoing and new projects. Greece has gone from cautionary tale to paradigm, as it shows its ability to cope with the toughest of situations.

The plan being drawn up by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his staff for restarting the economy and limiting the damage of the lockdown measures will also include steps for building on this positive momentum to attract more investments, more visitors and more human capital. The plan already includes measures for transforming the country’s economic model by developing other sectors apart from tourism with investments in human resources and technology.

Advances in digital governance and remote working prompted by the lockdown have already improved productivity and cut costs in many sectors, while online customer services are continuing to improve and the labor market is becoming more flexible and efficient, argues George Tsopelas, managing director for Greece and Cyprus at McKinsey & Company, an active proponent in the government’s strategic planning for restarting the economy.

“Foreign investments are benefiting from Greece’s improved brand name, but also from the measures that will be adopted for restarting the economy, which will facilitate business and investments,” he notes.

In the meantime, rising new trends, particularly with regard to international supply chains and the reshoring of business activities that had been transferred to low-cost countries back to Europe could also benefit Greece in the long term.

A European Council meeting on April 23 moreover concluded that “it is of the utmost importance to increase the strategic autonomy of the Union and produce essential goods in Europe.” Indeed, Greece has already seen a rise in exports of agricultural and other products after other suppliers were unable to meet demand, according to Greek exporters. The same is also the case with intermediate products and ores.

In the area of tourism, Greece is already acknowledged as being among the safest destinations thanks to its successful containment of the coronavirus compared to rival destinations like Italy, Spain and Turkey. Safety, humanity, solidarity, efficiency, care and responsibility are words that are becoming even more strongly associated with Greece, according to Ioanna Dretta, CEO of Marketing Greece.

“Together with other enduring qualities like ‘philotimo,’ hospitality and a love for life, man and nature, Greece has succeeded in generating priceless intangible capital through the pandemic. It is this added value that we now need to analyze, showcase and utilize to the benefit of the economy, foreign investments, international relations and tourism,” she says, describing this capital as “an important tool of soft power that will help maximize the recovery process.”

The real estate market also stands to benefit from Greece’s new international image, according to the CEO of the Greek branch of American realtor Pepper, chartered surveyor Thomas Ziogas.

“Despite being in the middle of the crisis, there are clear indications that demand for investments in Greece is rising steadily, as foreign and local investors have shown that they are remaining active even amid the lockdown,” says Ziogas. He also points to growing demand for logistics facilities, “not just as a result of the country becoming a European gateway, but also because of the giant leap in e-commerce.” In terms of residential real estate, foreign interest is “undiminished in holiday homes and in cities in the context of the Golden Visa program, and has been strengthened by improvements in the national health system and the effective management of the pandemic,” he adds.

The planned upgrade of healthcare services in Greece will certainly bolster its image as a safe destination, particularly for health, recovery and rehabilitation tourism, but also as a retirement destination, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers Greece CEO Marios Psaltis. He adds that apart from the accelerating investments in public health, the crisis has also highlighted the need for more medical research programs and additional support for hospitals.

“This is an area that the country could invest in by developing university hospitals and using European funding, while repatriating Greek scientists to man this effort,” he says.

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