Report / Athens
Greece has recently been grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But while commentators indulge in unhelpful schadenfreude, we think it is high time to celebrate the things the country still does rather well.
With 13,700km of coastline, Greece has long been a maritime nation. It has preserved its seafaring culture over the centuries and today that tradition persists in the form of a robust shipping industry. Greek ship owners have about 20 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet, with more than 3,500 vessels. Plus, more than 30 Greek shipping firms are listed on the New York, London and Athens stock exchanges, while Greek owners control 23 per cent of the global tanker fleet and 17 per cent of the bulk-carrier fleet.
Going full pelt
Greece’s fashion industry is one of its consistent success stories and it is currently experiencing something of a boom. Brands such as Zeus + Dione are putting Greece on the fashion map by reviving traditional craftsmanship.The northwestern region of Kastoria, meanwhile, has been a player in the fur-coat market for centuries. Designers import more than €13m worth of mink, among other pelts, to make one of Greece’s chief exports. It is the world’s third-largest exporter of fur coats, mostly to Russia.
It’s better with feta
The benefits of Greece’s Mediterranean diet are famous but what’s less well known is the country’s produce. With more than 120 million olive trees, it’s no surprise that it is the third-biggest producer of olive oil. Its variety of terroirs provide ideal conditions for cultivating grapes, with Greek vintners producing world-class wines. Greece is also a leading producer of asparagus, tomatoes, nuts and fruits – and, of course, feta cheese. Renowned for its sea bass and anchovies, Greece is one of the EU’s top five fish exporters too.
Time to dig deep
Despite the crisis, Greece is still rich – in resources. It is Europe’s largest producer of bauxite, the main source of aluminium, and the world’s leading supplier of perlite, used in insulation and horticulture. With more than 120 varieties, Greece is the third-largest producer of marble in Europe after Italy and Spain. Indeed, marble and granite have been quarried here since ancient times. Meanwhile, Vancouver-based firm El Dorado has been trying to transform Greece’s gold mines and turn the country into Europe’s largest gold producer.
The new face of Greece
With the country’s rich flora, Greek pharmacists have long created innovative cosmetics based on natural products. But when the global demand for organic cosmetics soared, Greece’s small pharmacies began to develop into large exporting businesses. Apivita and Korres are among the pioneers, turning their shops into businesses with a presence in dozens of countries. Following their example, other companies offer such natural cosmetics as mastic-based toothpastes, olive oil-based soaps and beeswax creams.
Ferry gold dust
Greece is celebrated for its pristine seas and ancient sites, 17 of which enjoy Unesco protection. With a number of annual foreign visitors that is almost double the country’s entire population, you can be sure Greeks take tourism very seriously. Thanks to its coastline and many islands, the cruise industry continues to boom, with Greece one of Europe’s top-five most popular destinations. The country is base to about 40 airports and national carrier Aegean was nominated as the best regional airline in Europe for 2015.