Diana DUMITRU: In your opinion, which are the areas most affected by the economic crisis caused by the pandemic?

Dagos ANASTASIU: There are certain areas that are not affected, those related to health and delivery. Undoubtedly, areas such as tourism, international transport, events organization and everything that is directly related to these fields, including those that provide exclusive services for these fields, have been swept away. Unfortunately, these will also be the last industries to return and so far, apart from general measures such as technical unemployment, there has been no specific measure for tourism. This raises two questions: who comes to the rescue of tourism actors? And how fast do we restart the industry?

D.D.: You attended  the meeting of the most important representatives of the Romanian economy with President Iohannis. How do you appreciate the vision, the general strategy of Romania for overcoming the current blockades?

D.A.: We are talking about a multiple crisis in Romania: the health crisis, the crisis of supply and demand, a crisis of predictability, a crisis of trust and courage to which is added a political crisis that this pandemic caught us with and especially, in my opinion, we have a crisis of competencies, of professionalism and this, unfortunately, is not a novelty. This lack of professionalism is felt now more than ever, especially at the industries level, at the economic level, at the level of the business environment and especially in the administrative field. Also, we must mention the financial crisis that Romania is going through.

This pandemic has caught us without financial resources. All the resources we had, were turned into deficits by increasing different salaries, for example. This cumulation of crises we face, makes Romania’s situation very difficult. Regarding Romania’s general strategy for overcoming the current blockages, I do not know if there is a strategy, but what we see is a strong focus on health. Looking at the mortality rate, I find that the number of deaths caused by accidents or other viruses in similar periods last year, for example, was higher. In my opinion, there is a lack of focus on the economy, although, at a declarative level, both the business community and politicians say they are dealing with this, but I have not seen a calendar even with question marks, assuming that the figures will increase even with 10%, specific things would happen on May 15th or other things would happen on June 1st.

I saw, instead, such calendars of other countries but I did not see Romania’s. It is also possible to overcome the blockage by relaunching the industries. If you ask me about the option of overcoming the aid blockade, I appreciate that Romania does not seem to have resources or has limited resources.

Of course, there are European funds, there are all kinds of guarantees that can be given but I do not clearly see the cash aid resource. Compared to the USA, where citizens or legal entities have received financial aid directly in their bank accounts, Romania cannot afford this and if it could afford it, everything would be very limited.

I see two ways to unblock the current situation: the most prepared people in all fields - politicians, economists, etc. to concern themselves with how we can attract funds and how to spend them properly and the second option would be to decide who we will help and that means helping those who have real chances to restart, companies that are healthy, without debts, etc. and coming from key areas that someone should define. We, the business environment, had dialogues but everything remained at the level of a dialogue and less at the level of a working group. So there was no meeting of the best people from various fields in Romania to lock themselves in a meeting room and come up  with a concrete and measurable plan or measures. At the moment, there is no crisis cell made up of people who know how to do crisis management, visionary people, professionals who can sit at the table and come upp with a project.

There are many professionals also in administration and politics and in the private sector. For example, the mayors of Resita, Oradea, Alba Iulia are people who really know what to do. There are also numerous companies with professional Romanian managers or entrepreneurs. However, Romania reached a specific point of development and this “specific point” was reached with the involvement of people, politicians, the business environment. The question is if we overcome pride, if we rebuild trust between us, if we understand what teamwork means, if we understand what communication means.

As I said at the beginning, we have a crisis of competence and even if there are professionals here and there, there is also pride at the same time, there is also a lack of communication but I am optimistic, I think we will get over this situation. The question is how well and how fast? From the situation in which we find resources to have less damage on a personal level, each for himself, to reach the level of a national strategy - there is a long way. I cannot say with certainty that there is no such strategy but I do not know of it, I haven’t heard of it.

What I know for sure is that we took care of doing some things for tourism, in a volunteer way, we put some directions on paper, we have motivation and so on. We talk about 60 measures, it’s far from perfect what we did, but at least we did something: The Alliance for Tourism launched two messages. First: The tourism forces reunite and secondly: these reunited forces can issue a document, some sort of legislation, which, so far, has never really happened in Romanian tourism. This means that if it happened at the level of tourism, it can also happen at the national level.

D.D.: You drive Eurolines, one of the most important international transport companies, essentially related to tourism, you drowe ANAT - National Association of the Romanian Tourism Agencies, you own Enterprise Rent a Car, Valea Verde Resort in Transylvania, Green Village Resort in the Danube Delta, a 4 star hotel etc, so you are able to anticipate the real prospects of tourism in the next period, directly after May 15. For „Top Turism” and „Curierul Sanatatii”- the tourism and health specific issues of our newspaper, the perception of SPA tourism ias part of the health system is important and we ask your opinion in this area. Also, if, after May 15, one of the reasons that allow travel outside the localities is fishing, we ask you how this specification can make tourism possible in the Danube Delta. Obviously, both spa tourism and tourism in the Danube Delta must be organized so as to comply with all the requirements related to the prevention of infections. How do you see the fulfilment of these requirements and what should the governmental institutions, employers and professional institutions from these areas do?

D.A.: First of all, I want to tell you that Eurolines is now part of FlixBus, a big international concern and everything related to travel agencies passed to DerTour. As for how the imposed requirements could be achieved, I am personally afraid of over-regulations and of us getting too overzealous.

I also saw from people from the tourism business some hallucinatory proposals such as spending the seaside holiday wearing masks and gloves, positioning tables three meters away from each other in the restaurants, serving food at the restaurant with a mask, nebulizers at each entrance of the unit, serving customers with a half-hour break between reservations, giving up the housekeeping service, keeping a 72 hours break between the last check out and the next check in, such absurd measures that cannot be really taken into account and it wouldn’t serve anyone.

In Germany, a few days ago, 900 new cases of Covid-19 were reported but the country is open, shops are open, terraces are open, hotels are also open, Austria is an open country, the Baltic countries have opened their borders between each other, Croatia announced the opening of the border to Austria, Greece announced that they are discussing with various countries, including Romania, so everyone has a plan, everyone is considering some measures and these are common sense measures and must remain like that. 

The measures have to make each citizen aware, to give up the handshake as a sign of greeting, to give up kissing, to be careful not to cough and sneeze, to disinfect their hands, common sense measures that should have always been practiced. The “Colectiv” situation came with such strict measures that no building could be authorized anymore. I am afraid of such excessive measures. I hope we’ll have common sense measures based on which the spa tourism, physiotherapy and everything that means another type of medicine absolutely necessary for those whose health depends on certain procedures, will reopen. Taking into consideration all the protection measures, I think those industries should already reopen.  Likewise the dental offices that will reopen after the 15th of May, the physiotherapy offices and other medical locations must also be opened.

Taking into consideration the social distancing measures and protection within the limits of common sense, the whole economy must work. At our headquarters, for example, all employees have come to the office in the past two months. We provided disinfectant, masks for those who wanted to use but we did not exaggerate to take our temperature every day. I do not want to trivialize the situation in any way, I just notice that we did not impose excessive measures. We relied on common sense and individual responsibility. We must appeal to individual and business responsibility, appeal to what common sense means, the common sense of each person. We all understood that we have to wash our hands often and disinfect ourselves, it is important not to develop a psychosis.

To conclude: I believe that all sectors must resume their activity with the necessary protection measures, of course, some measures can be taken, for example, in restaurants - the greater the distance between the tables, the better. The vulnerable persons, elderly or those with diseases must protect themselves. It is important not to resort to methods that can destroy our sanity and mental health plus an economic destruction. We have to restart anyway, to make a catalogue of common sense measures, to resort to private and individual responsibility. This type of decision is not a medical one, it is a political one.

Doctors always instruct to quit smoking, to consume very little sugar but doctors can not prohibit the consumption of tobacco or sugar. It is clear that the spread of any disease can be diminished by isolation, but what are the costs? In other words, to prevent colon cancer, for example, everyone should have a colonoscopy every three months, but this is not possible because even in medicine there is a balance between prevention and cost. We must be rational in terms of prevention measures. It can’t be about non-stop isolation, we live with viruses.

D.D.: You lead the Romanian-German Chamber of Commerce and, from this perspective, please tell us how you appreciate that an efficient collaboration will be built between Romania and Germany for the development of economic fields in which companies from the two countries can collaborate and overcome the blockages created by the pandemic?

D.A.: Relationships will continue without a hitch, we will have to see where they go. In this case we are quite dependent on the automotive industry, the industry was in a crisis anyway before the Coronavirus pandemic. In February, worldwide sales had fallen by 20%. So, the Coronavirus came on a crisis already established. We will have to see how investors will react, if they will reopen all the factories, if they will reopen to the previous capacity or if they will soon reach the previous capacity. I am almost sure that they will certainly pay  more attention now to the way specific states react and to what measures those states take in difficult times and this can be decisive for their future investments and presence in certain countries.

If, for example, things move faster in Hungary, they will compare with what is happening in Romania or vice versa. At the moment they are very careful to what is happening around them, they have already restarted the industry but at first speed, they still have many people in technical unemployment, they are still thinking about layoffs, etc. With Germany we can do many things that were not done before, the question is if we start moving?

Let me give you an example: tourism - Romania could have a million German tourists/year who spend 500,000 Euros on holidays in our country, on the same infrastructure as today - are we doing something about this? I was talking to the Secretary of State, Razvan Pirjol about the fact that tourism has reseted, everyone starts from scratch, no one has tourists. Given that no one has tourists, we have a chance. How do we restart?

First, we have to restart quickly, to be in the first platoon. Secondly, we have to help those in the tourism industry survive. Third, funds must be invested in the image of Romania and in communication. Fourth, if the invested funds are being managed by an unprofessional institution, then, the investment is in vain. The Romanian Tourism Organization must establish a private-public partnership that uses rationally and professionally the allocated funds. Fifth, bilateral negotiations for example with Germany. Germany - Austria - Hungary is the tourism bubble that I proposed, including to the President of Romania.

We will have to negotiate bilaterally and create an inclusive traffic channel so that, for example, people from southern Germany could come by car to Transylvania, people from Austria could come by car to Transylvania, some maybe even to the Danube Delta. This must be our opening bubble and if we do not open it, the Greeks and Bulgarians will open it, namely: Germany - Austria - Serbia - Bulgaria - Greece. The President of Romania can easily promote Romania in Germany, I, through the position of President of the Romanian-German Chamber of Commerce can promote Romania, the Secretary of State, Razvan Pirjol, a good German speaker in turn, can help promote Romania.

I was even talking to him about the possibility of doing a roadshow to promote Romania. I offered my knowledge and experience, I made myself available and I can personally do something. Romania’s relations with Germany are very good, President Klaus Iohannis is German, we have real chances to do something with Germany. We did another roadshow with Ciolos when he was prime minister and the world was very excited and open about the way we presented ourselves. We can repeat the experience. There’s already a queue for Germany, we have to move fast.

Speaking of relocating companies from China: why would they relocate to Romania? Some companies have made relocation investments in Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria. Let’s ask ourselves why? Germany has invested almost 1000 billion Euros in the German economy, the USA has invested one trillion Euros in the Economy while Romania? What does it come with? We demanded as entrepreneurs 15% of GDP, that is 30 billion Euros. Make a comparison between 1000 billion in the case of Germany and 30 billion in the case of Romania, which we did not receive anyway because Romania cannot invest this money now in the economy because it has nowhere to borrow this amount. Unfortunately, Romania does not have a good rating and cannot get a lot of money. In the recent years we have not absorbed European funds. Now we ask for money and no one wants to offer us because solidarity is claimed we do not win it at the lottery and trust is built over time. But we also have good parts: we are creative, full of humor, we are innovative but we cannot expect for all of us to come out well from this crisis.

D.D.: In conclusion, we are interested in your opinion on the structure of priorities that will be stated even after the Coronavirus pandemic passes. What are the psychological, behavioural, political, managerial changes that will characterize the near future and how should today’s young people be prepared to face them?

D.A.: Honestly, I don’t believe in this long-term change, I think we will return to normality quickly and I don’t think the mentality will change altogether. Surely there will be more confidence in the concept of work from home, in distance conferencing, there will definitely be some changes in certain segments. As for children and young people, I think they are very self-taught and do not look forward to answers from us. We are caught up in our paradigms, young people have their ideas and are extremely creative. The only thing they would need would be a little guidance, but even so, in a moderate manner because they have to fly with their own wings.

I think they are very adaptable. I am amazed by today’s young people. Through the Super Teach project of which I am a part, I had the opportunity to meet extraordinary, casual children who can present themselves in front of 2000 teachers which is something extraordinary. Young people will find their own way, we just need to stimulate them and guide them discreetly.

Through the Super Teach project we work on the mentality of teachers, we had 20 offline conferences and one online conference attended by 2000 teachers. Nobody paid these teachers to stay in the online conference for 5 hours with us, on the contrary, at the offline conferences they pay and they come very enthusiastic. The amount is not big - 100 RON, but they are willing to pay, they are involved, we are talking about conferences with 1000 teachers.

The tourism is just a signal.
We are going through a series of crises, so a series of solutions is needed

- Interview with Dragos ANASTASIU,
president of the Romanian-German Chamber of Commerce, tourism investor and entrepreneur
15 mai 2020
Promovam  performanta  economica!
Editie electronica a publicatiei tiparite Top Business - 
fondata 1993,  Anul XXVIII -
nr. 5 (904) Mai 2020
Editie electronica a publicatiei tiparite Top Business - 
fondata 1993,  Anul XXVIII -
nr. 5 (904) Mai 2020
Promovam  performanta  economica!
Editie electronica a publicatiei tiparite
Top Business -    fondata 1993,
nr. 5 (904) Mai 2020
Promovam  performanta  economica!