Our main question: Does the crisis help in a way for restructuring this country—so that it might be even positive? Or is it at this stage, in 2013, only a bad thing and doesn't help at all? And where are the obstacles?
Achilles V. Constantakopoulos: Greece is going through the 6th consecutive year of recession and people are suffering. I do understand your point that there are some positive effects too. The main one is that we are thinking twice before we make the same mistakes as we made in the past. I have seen legislation and mentality changes — If you would have asked me six years ago: Would I ever imagine seeing that in Greece? I probably would have said no.
Constantakopoulos: For example, flexibility in labour laws, much less red tape in zoning and permitting, but at the same time, implementation of more suitable environmental structures, going to the essence of things and not just to stop development. The other positive effect is a mentality change in many people. I grew up in a country where profit was considered a bad thing. You had to explain yourself if you were a successful businessperson.
(Deutsche Version von „Die griechische Utopie“)
Now the mentality has changed. People understand that businesses have to be viable and that the interest of entrepreneurs and the state are aligned. I have seen more trust between the public sector and the private sector. So I am a bit more optimistic and overall the sentiment of stability is growing in the country I believe that we reached the bottom and now start to rise. It is the first time in years I have seen so much interest from international companies, funds, investors spending a lot for studies, research, advisers and so on.
So you are optimistic?
Constantakopoulos: I am on optimist, yes. If every company in Greece could hire one or two more persons, then we are out of it.
Maybe you could tell us something about your own company.
Constantakopoulos: Costa Navarino is a new destination in the Mediterranean. We had a vision to create a sustainable prime touristic area in an undiscovered but easily accessible part of the world and place it on the global map. Our approach is following a new model of tourism based on holistic experiences, sustainability, quality, authenticity and close synergies with the local community. Costa Navarino comprises a number of distinct sites, featuring 5-star-hotels, residences, conference facilities, spa and thalassotherapy centers, golf courses and as a wide range of year-round activities for adults and children unique in the Mediterranean.
We have also developed in association with local producers a series of food products, olive and wines, that represent the local gastronomic heritage. An environmental observatory is located in Costa Navarino as well, dedicated to the research and education on the climate and environment in the Mediterranean region, in collaboration with Stockholm University and the Academy of Athens. At the same time, we have developed the Navarino natura hall, an interactive environmental exhibition center for the messenian nature. My late father started buying land back in the 80s, but we opened the first phase in the heart of the Greek crisis at 2010.