“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world,” Albert Camus wrote in his novel “The Plague,” “Yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
The repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic were not spread equally. Farming and manufacturing felt it the least; there were also few negative repercussions in construction and scientific and technological activities. Hardest hit were hotels and, more generally, tourism, dining, leisure and the arts. The bright side of life, that is.
In the second quarter, which began under the strictest possible measures, but also saw, toward the end, the easing of restrictions, companies lost 16.4% of their turnover, which dropped to 18.6 billion euros, from €22.2 billion in the second quarter of 2019. Total economic activity, however, shrank 25.1%, with turnover at €58.9 billion from €78.8 billion in April-June 2019.
Data provided by the Hellenic Statistical Authority show that companies that suspended their activity had lost at least half of their turnover. Hotels barely had any earnings and there was a large earnings decline for restaurants, cafés, sports events and event planning.
The pandemic is an extreme event that will shape developments for longer than we think. As Camus says, again, “we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away.”
We live in times that need deeper thinking. Many must discover, or reinvent, their reasons for being and acting, to redefine their goals, since the old ones have lost their reason for being.
Companies, and not just big ones, need a broader vision that gets past the present circumstances and that will also resonate with those who want to put trust in them. Many of them must rediscover why they exist, why they angle for trust and acceptance, admiration even. Otherwise, their pursuit of profit, the most self-evident reason for being for a lot of them, might prove just as elusive.