As post-Euromaidan Ukraine turns away from the old Soviet comfort zone and looks to broaden its global economic horizons, the country’s participation in major international exhibitions and industry forums is taking on new significance. The Ukrainian capital city is leading by example and recently brought an impressive delegation to the annual MIPIM event in Cannes, which is billed as the world’s leading property exhibition. This was the fifteenth time Kyiv had taken part in MIPIM, with a mix of city officials and property professionals creating a prominent presence that included a large presentation area and a dedicated investment conference focusing on Kyiv’s role as an investment gateway to the whole of Ukraine.
Key messages in Cannes included Kyiv’s considerable smart city ambitions and the Ukrainian capital’s status as the economic engine of Europe’s last great frontier market. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has a central role to play in these promotional efforts, with the former heavyweight boxing champion serving as the undisputed brand ambassador of the Ukrainian capital. He was on hand in Cannes at MIPIM 2019, where his international celebrity status and towering physical presence helped generate considerable added buzz. While on the French Riviera, Klitschko also received several awards from the Financial Times Group’s fDi Intelligence division on behalf of the city for Kyiv’s efforts to improve the investment climate and reduce red tape.
DLA Piper Ukraine’s Natalia Kochergina, who joined the Kyiv MIPIM delegation for the first time in 2016, believes the role of Mayor Klitschko and his team is a crucial factor in the city’s overall participation, which she assessed as visibly more professional this year than on previous occasions. This investment appears to be producing results. Kochergina noted evidence of growing interest in Ukraine among event participants at MIPIM 2019, citing numerous examples of international hospitality brands looking to learn more about hotel sector opportunities in Kyiv itself and in other Ukrainian cities. “This is a very welcome trend because it suggests that international property market players are now increasingly seeing Ukraine as a place where they can invest money and benefit from an attractive economic environment,” she commented. Kyiv’s promotional efforts pit it against dozens of competing cities across the globe that can also offer the same kind of emerging market margins no longer available in more developed economies. The Ukrainian capital enjoys a number of specific advantages including its location at the geographical crossroads between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Kyiv has also witnessed strong population growth in recent years, driving demand for new real estate projects and creating a fertile environment for the smart city innovations that look set to shape the expanding urban spaces of the future.
Toronto-Kyiv complex president and managing partner Yuriy Kryvosheya was one of a number of Ukrainian property industry executives who traveled to Cannes as part of the Kyiv delegation. He is bullish about Kyiv’s real estate sector investment potential, arguing that the city passed an important stress test during the crisis years of 2014-15 and has since moved from survival mode to growth mode. This progress can now help the Ukrainian capital race forward in its development and move ahead of its emerging market rivals, but this will require significant initiative from city officials and the private sector alike.
“Kyiv is one of the largest metropolises in Europe today,” he notes. “It clearly has the potential to attract major international property companies, but whether this happens or not will depend on what we do to make it happen.” Events such as the annual MIPIM extravaganza in the south of France offer a good opportunity for Kyiv officials and property industry professionals to showcase the city and gauge levels of international interest. Ukraine has often been accused of neglecting its global branding, leading to a situation where the country as a whole continues to suffer from a low international profile. There are signs that this is gradually changing.
Many members of the Kyiv delegation at MIPIM 2019 reported encountering higher levels of interest and greater awareness of the contemporary Ukrainian context, suggesting that years of obscurity are finally beginning to give way to greater clarity regarding the investment opportunities and economic challenges Ukraine currently represents. Headline-grabbing international events hosted recently in Kyiv such as the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest and 2018 UEFA Champions League Final have helped improve awareness by introducing multimillion global audiences to the Ukrainian capital. These showcases go a long way towards dispelling negative stereotypes of Soviet inertia and countering exaggerated security fears regarding the ongoing undeclared war with Russia in the far east of the country. Nevertheless, Ukrainians cannot simply wait for the world to come to them. On the contrary, today’s Ukraine needs to make up for the lost time by engaging in aggressive outreach efforts at every opportunity. This makes initiatives like the Kyiv presence at MIPIM strategically crucial, and it transforms every Kyiv executive and property professional into an unofficial ambassador for the country.
Originally published at Business Ukraine Magazine (April Issue)