Lately, we seem to be hearing about the Marca Andorra again and, moreover, in very different contexts. A few days ago, the brilliant journalist, in addition to being director of the very important Andorran paper “El Periodic”, wondered if “the international projection of Andorra’s image” was under discussion, alerted by the fact that, despite the passage of time, it seemed that internationally we were still being ignored or that obscure and anachronistic image was still valid in many areas, which was obviously very far from the reality that our country represents today, and as an eventual solution she stated emphatically that “the Andorran brand must be campaigned everywhere on the planet”, and I couldn’t agree more with her.
Such a strategy is necessary, not only to explain the excellence of what we already are, thanks to the ability to adapt to new times and the effort we have made to gain international recognition, but to enhance the sense of belonging of our citizenship -which we have already talked about in previous articles, the pride of being part of this small great country, which has made so many efforts in recent years to move to a new level, that of consolidated democracy, of a modern and developed society that is on par with the best in key aspects.
When the Marca Andorra project was presented on March 12, 2019, there was very little left to enter the electoral campaign. In fact, the elections were held on April 7, 2019, and I must say that, as one of the promoters of the country brand project, I was very attentive to the electoral programs of all the parties that presented themselves in said elections and it was very surprising that, despite having all been present at the presentation of the Marca Andorra, no party made the slightest mention, neither in their programs nor during the campaign, of the value that such a concept could represent for Andorra and its people transcendent as that of the “country brand”.
It cannot be forgotten that the Marca Andorra project was born in the Andorran Business Confederation, the result of the need to give an impetus to the projection of Andorra’s image to the world, especially after the changes that had been promoted as a result of the deep crisis that the country suffered in 2011 and which had led us to have to open up to foreign investment in an effort to diversify our economy and to harmonize with Europe in order to find a fit in the new international context, without forgetting the crisis of 2015, with a significant reputational impact, which still hurts today.
It was necessary to enhance the visibility of Andorra abroad and strengthen a damaged reputation, and to do it in an organized and strategic way and above all to do it together, because we could all be ambassadors of our country, and we all had to end up being the biggest beneficiaries. That is why the CEA, in 2016, set up a commission that from the beginning advocated transversality, getting the Government, Commons, political parties, business organizations to get involved, and giving a voice, through the survey, to all the population in order to come to define the values that characterized our country brand and to define a central idea that the majority voted to be the concept of “balance”.
The Marca Andorra project itself generated debate for several reasons. On the one hand, the fact of having to create an organization to manage the country brand seemed like it could generate more bureaucracy and that it would require resources, of which we did not have enough. This aspect is easily rebuttable if we start from the basis that the project itself had been financed with public resources but also with private ones and that with imagination, vision and patriotic spirit it could easily find participative solutions that contributed to a large extent to its financing.
On the other hand, there was a discussion about financing it in part with a “tourist tax” and it caused the entire affected sector to jump out, demonizing the idea and its promoters. Curiously, after a few years, everyone has accepted the idea and today its application has already been normalized without causing a hecatomb for anyone, but quite the opposite.
The new coalition Government did not see clearly in 2019 that the Marca Andorra project should be promoted as it had been defined. On the contrary, one of the prominent promoters, the CEA itself, made several attempts with the new Government to maintain dialogue around the idea of promoting the reference project, but the pandemic ended up overturning everything, awakening a deep capacity for resistance, a spirit of survival, resilience and reaction not only in the Government but in the entire population.
The pandemic put us to the test and brought out from within each one of us feelings that are difficult to explain under other circumstances. Well, part of those feelings of solidarity, generosity, resilience, spirit of overcoming, which inspired an entire country, which helped an entire population to become strong in the face of adversity, can let us understand how the patriotic spirit, as a collective instinct to react to need, can also make the feeling of belonging to a country flow from within us, can make us put all the levers of the State into action whenever we need it and we react in a strategic and organized way, either to safeguard our physical and emotional health, or to strengthen the mechanisms that help us guarantee the general well-being of the entire population.
Our Government fortunately knew how to react. The d’Acció Horitzó 2023 Action Plan presented in July 2020 was a clear example. An ambitious plan that, it must be said, has ended up being executed in a large part of the projected actions. However, part of the essence of the Marca Andorra was clearly present in the reconversion of ACTUA presented in June 2021 and from which emerged the initiatives Andorra Business, Andorra Research + Innovation and Andorra Digital, which together with the already existing Andorra Tourism, created a promotional framework that has fulfilled its mission and has helped to position Andorra. A very important part of the strategy remains to be developed in the absence of a custodian entity in charge of promoting the country brand in a proactive, organized and effective way.
In fact, I believe that with the passage of time both the more traditional models of tourism and commerce have considerably eroded, as well as those of promotion and recruitment of talent and foreign investment, and today everyone agrees that important changes are needed both in our economic and social model that could help to improve both trivial but at the same time transcendent aspects such as the purchasing power of citizens or the difficulty in accessing housing, as well as in the strategy of capturing interest in our country and what we offer internationally.
If we analyze in depth the proposals of the different political parties competing in the 2023 General Elections, we will see that this reformist spirit is present in all of them which encourage changes in the way of promoting, capturing and treating everything that has to come from outside, be it in the form of tourism, talent and especially foreign investment. Additionally, some of these parties, not all, seem to have gone to the famous “drawer of history” where, among many other failed projects, the Marca Andorra 2019 project is found, and although timidly, it seems it was used as a resource to strengthen the country’s promotional strategy, even if it is not explained in details how it will be done.
Some talk about developing the Marca Andorra and continuing to improve the visibility of our country by leading the issue related to mountains; others speak clearly of ensuring that the Marca Andorran and the image of the country are projected in an effective and coordinated way throughout the world; others propose the definition of a Marca Andorra or a global strategy to consolidate Andorra as an attractive tourist destination throughout the year and to enhance the attractions and competitive elements for our visitors and ultimately to enhance and unify the image that we want to project abroad.
So let’s focus on the promotional concepts that are activated to enhance and unify the image that we want to project abroad and also do it in an effective and coordinated way and to improve the attraction of tourism, talent and investment by prioritizing quality over quantity. Well, this is nothing less than the strategy to be developed by the future agency, Better Life Foundation, commissioner as we like to call it, of the Marca Andorra and which works to coordinate all the messages that are projected abroad to attract what suits us and to communicate everything that helps us strengthen the reputation of the country, which everyone knows has not yet fully recovered from the losses of recent history.
And how healthy is the Marca Andorra today? Can our country brand and its weight be measured in the international context? We know that the advisors of the Marca Andorra 2019 project, Bloom Consulting, are the promoters of the Country Brand Ranking that in 2022-2023, and specifically in Tourism, places Andorra to the 30th place in Europe and 76th in the world with CBS Rating AA, and where, for example, Spain appears 1st in Europe and the world, France 5th in Europe and 9th in the world, Switzerland 7th in Europe and 13th in the world, Holland 12th in Europe and 21st in the world, Luxembourg 23rd in Europe and 52nd in the world, Ireland 14th in Europe and 27th in the world or Estonia 32nd in Europe and 87th in the world. On the other hand, in Trade, Andorra today ranks 36th in Europe and 106th in the world with Rating A, Spain 8th in Europe and 17th in the world, France 2nd in Europe and 4th in the world, Switzerland 13th in Europe and 26th in the world, Holland 5th in Europe and 12th in the world, Luxembourg 14th in Europe and 27th in the world, Ireland 6th in Europe and 13th in the world or Estonia 26th in Europe and 67th in the world. It is just an example of where the analysts place us. Where our strategy could be proactive and aimed at enhancing international positioning, as long as such positioning was put at the service of a positive evolution of our most worries, or our society needs.
And what will be the next step that Marca Andorra must take? Well, shortly we will have a new General Council and a new Government, and they will have to promote the actions they have committed to in their programs and speeches. The Marca Andorran Observatory will continue to monitor the practical implementation of the candidate-citizen commitment and will analyze article by article and with a constructive critical spirit, from transversality and equidistance, everything that affects the evolution of this not yet well-known exceptional instrument to promote and praise the most important values of our country which is called “Marca Andorra”.
By Pere Augé, CEO and Founding Partner of Augé Holding Group
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