Could you share with us few words about your work?
The Office for Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Embassy of Greece in the UAE is based in Dubai and has as primary responsibility to safeguard, support and promote the Greek economic and trade interests in the country. Key objectives of our work are to strengthen the presence of Greek products and services in the UAE, the growth of tourist flows towards Greece and attracting UAE investments in our country.
How is the Greek business presence in the Emirates?
The Greek business presence in the Emirates consists of businesses mainly in the retail trade, construction and services. There are dozens of shops selling fur products from Kastoria and Kozani, food and beverage trade companies, construction companies, shipping companies, technology companies and lately also seen the presence of corporations in the franchise process. It is estimated that in total Greek companies in the UAE exceed 200. Also in 2010 was established the Greek Business Council in Dubai and Northern Emirates.
Our exports in 2014 reached 359 mio. Most important export products are oil products, fur garments, electrical appliances, marbles, aluminum, decorative stones etc.
How easy or difficult it is to operate in the Emirates?
The market is very promising and very competitive at the same time. Briefly, one could say that the most important issue that Greek businessmen are facing is to do business with the appropriate local partner. Also is considered as essential the presence of representatives of Greek companies in the country, since the interpersonal relationships with local entrepreneurs affect trade significantly. Our office here intends to help the Greek entrepreneurship and to this end we are available to any businessman and individual person.
Is there strong interest of exports of Greek products in the Emirates ? The Mediterranean diet is also highly accepted?
We are receiving more than 400 requests annually from Greek businesses wishing to do business in the Emirates. Most of these requests are related to the export of food products and building materials. Significant number of requests regards, also, for cosmetics, hotel equipment, interior design, industrial products, medicines, tourism cooperation, healthcare equipment, etc.
The Greek food products, are gradually establishing and expanding in the local market. There are major importers who trade with Greek products as well as companies representing exclusively Greek products in the country. Greek cuisine gained big attention in the UAE, in particular over the last two years, with 10 restaurants operating in the country right now and soon is expected to operate many more. Remarkable is the Greek participation in the annual international exhibition of ‘Gulfood’ in Dubai with 40-50 companies.
We have a significant presence also in building materials in the country. There is strong interest from Greek companies for large-scale public and private construction projects in the UAE and this is reflected by the participation in the exhibition for building materials ‘big5’ every year in November in Dubai, in which around 50 Greek companies participate. Marble, aluminum and solar panels are among the Greek products that adorn emblematic projects in the UAE. Indicatively, I would like to mention that the marbles investing the largest mosque in the country in Abu Dhabi and 6th largest in the world are from Greece, solar panels in Burj Khalifa also, and Greek aluminum is used in many public and private buildings. Furthermore, many public works were implemented by Greek construction companies (hospital, bridges, roads, infrastructure etc.).
Also, in addition to the presence of food fairs and building materials exhibitions, more than 100 Greek companies are participating as exhibitors every year in many other international exhibitions held in the country and especially in Dubai in the fields of tourism, real estate, cosmetics, jewelry, fruits, bakery and cakes, automobile accessories, medical tourism, hotel equipment, interior design, energy, tobacco, defense equipment, stationery, health etc.
How you assist Greek businesses?
We provide varied and specialized assistance to Greek companies. Apart from the requests we received from companies in Greece, that mostly related to partner search in the UAE, we also co-organize targeted trade missions to and from Greece, with participation of Greek and local enterprises. Support and participate, also, in a variety of other events in order to promote Greek products and Greek tourism in the UAE.
Furthermore, we provide information to individuals and companies that wish to invest in Greece, we forward requests of Emirati companies seeking cooperation with Greek companies, report about economic developments of Greek interest in the UAE and the institutional framework for investments and imports, we announce calls for tenders for public and private works, we provide services for amicable settlement of disputes between companies and handling also many other individual requests. Our ultimate purpose is the visibility of the Greek products in the country to become a brand name. I believe that Hellenism in the United Arab Emirates could help significantly in this direction.
Is there strong interest from Emiratis in investing in Greece?
There is strong interest from UAE companies to invest in Greece, mainly in the real estate and in the hotel sector. I point out that UAE companies are involved in the developing projects of the area of Hellenikon and Astir Palace in Athens. At the same time, interest has been expressed, especially by foreign residents of the UAE, to make use of the advantages of the Greek program for granting residence permit in Greece for 5 years renewable, by buying real estate in Greece of worth at least 250,000 euros.
How can we benefit from the tourism factor in the Emirates / How can we promote Greek tourism in the UAE?
Tourism and, in particular luxury tourism, has gained a dynamic during last years. Participation of Greek hotels and tourist agencies at the international exhibitions in Dubai and in individual events have contributed significantly to the increase of tourists from the UAE to our country. Furthermore, the abolition of entry visas from May 2015 for UAE citizens to visit Schengen countries including our country, affects us positively.
What are the obstacles, the opportunities and the outlook existing in the Emirates for the Greeks?
Obstacles I would say there are not exist and any difficulties are not insurmountable. The opportunities are many. The United Arab Emirates and particularly Dubai is a mega Hub for business activities, not only in the UAE and the Middle East, but also in the wider region of Southern Asia and East Africa. Sectors with high demand in the country are: large-scale public and private projects and generally food products affected by the high rates of the incoming tourism.
Significant opportunities exist also for hotel equipment and supply, cosmetics, interior decoration products, fruits and vegetables, design and architectural services, luxury tourism and technology services.