As nationwide coronavirus lockdowns are tentatively lifted, fDi is reaching out to professionals on the FDI frontline as they grapple with the most significant global challenge in recent history.

Cyprus has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe and began relaxing its lockdown restrictions on May 4. Nonetheless, the return to normality will be slow, says George Campanellas, chief executive of Invest Cyprus.

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Q: What’s life like in Cyprus at the moment?

Cypriots swiftly adopted the social distancing rules implemented by the government, which has allowed for a gradual lift of the lockdown. During the first phase of lifting the restrictions, retail businesses opened their doors to customers, implementing social distancing rules.

Q: How has the crisis affected you and your team? 

We are going through unprecedented times and have had to completely reshape our action plan this year. We implemented a work-from-home policy and have continued to offer support and advice to businesses and potential investors. These are challenging times for everyone, and we have made sure that we look out for one another. 

Q: How have you assisted companies during this difficult time?

Our mission is not only to attract new ventures into the country, but also to provide support to the investment community in Cyprus. It is a tough time for businesses and keeping everyone sufficiently informed increases confidence and optimism about the future.

We recently hosted an interactive online briefing with more than 100 owners and CEOs of companies headquartered in Cyprus, mainly from the technology, shipping, hospitality and tourism sector. The aim of the briefing was to update the investment community on the government’s response plan and hear their concerns and suggestions.

Q: What leadership qualities are important?

Being proactive and able to respond quickly is vital. We have seen the world and the way we do business change in a few weeks and nobody truly knows what the future will look like.

Compassionate leadership can make a difference. People have come under extreme pressure and stress during this pandemic. 

Q: What is your outlook for the medium term?

We anticipate that travel limitations will continue until at least the autumn, and that the resumption of flights will be delayed. Nonetheless, in the key sectors of the economy, our targets will remain more-or-less the same.

Cyprus recently launched a new 2030 tourism strategy. As an agency we’re at the heart of this [strategy] because we have a mandate to attract the right sort of investment to achieve these strategic goals.

The pandemic will inevitably expedite the process of digital transformation at many investment promotion agencies, especially those that do not have strong networks abroad and depend on travelling and trade missions [to attract investment].

George Campanellas is the CEO of Invest Cyprus

You can find the full archive of the fDi’s Virus Diaries series at the following link. If you work in economic development or investment promotion and want to share your experience in dealing with the coronavirus, get in touch at fDi@ft.com.