European Year of Cultural Heritage—Could Reflecting On the Past Really Be the Key to the Future?

As Europe celebrates its cultural heritage, it’s time to find the right balance between tradition and innovation and make the most of Greece’s assets.

2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage, a time to celebrate cultural heritage across the continent at the European, national, regional and local level and encourage people to discover and engage with it. With events and programs kicking off around the continent, it is a great opportunity for Greek businesses too to showcase Greece’s wealth of cultural heritage and the diverse range of assets and resources that have until now been poorly utilized or overlooked.

Our greatest asset is our culture. But this culture has also been, paradoxically, neglected. The rush to cash in as the tourism industry began to flourish during the mid-to-late 20th century resulted in an oversimplification, even a caricaturization of aspects of Greek culture and the neglect of others. Meanwhile, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles drove Greeks away from the countryside and traditional cultural practices in their millions. It has taken decades and a devastating period of economic downturn to realize the benefits and opportunities missed along the way.

Today, as Greece looks to exit its bailout program and stakeholders across the board stress the importance of pushing through crucial reforms that will help reshape the Greek economy, Greece is beginning to understand that authentic Greek culture is capable of meeting the demands of ever more sophisticated and challenging markets, both at home and abroad—and we’re only scratching the surface. The wealth of Greek cultural heritage, from our history and monuments to art and gastronomy, is a significant advantage in an era when increasing automation and technological advancements are driving people around the world to seek out the simple, wholesome, and authentic.

Across sectors and industries, Greece is brimming with potential—for investments, for exports, and for sustainable growth that can directly benefit local communities across rural areas and urban centers alike and boost the economy as it enters its next stage of recovery. With tourism receipts at record highs and conditions in key foreign markets favorable for Greek products, it is time to put our culture and our heritage center stage—to cherish, invest in and promote it, laying the ground for sustainable businesses that will keep making the most of Greece’s unique assets long after the crowds have flown home.

What is needed now is to see through the implementation of key reforms, unlock crucial funding opportunities, and establish a taxation framework that favors entrepreneurship.

2018 brings new opportunities to show that the country is ready to enter a new era of entrepreneurship and creativity. Reflecting on the past and drawing on our heritage might well be the only way to successfully—sustainably—move forward.

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