The 2022 Free Market Roadshow Vienna covered topics including business post covid, new challenges in tourism, and freedom and responsibility. Peter Thirring from our host, the Vienna Insurance Group, welcomed the guests and opened the event.
The first keynote speaker was John Chisholm, CEO of John Chisholm Ventures, speaking on business post covid. Chisholm credited vaccinations with business recovery, as global recovery has been faster in nations where vaccines have been more readily available. Business pandemic winners included brick and mortar businesses deemed “essential”, while brick and mortar businesses deemed “non-essential” suffered significantly during the pandemic. Chisholm emphasized that when governments and politicians choose which businesses are “essential” and “nonessential” the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. The speech was followed by a panel including Chisholm, Austrian Economics Center director Doctor Barbara Kolm, and Gerald Netal of the Vienna Insurance Group. The panel discussed the harrowing consequences of artificially low interest rates and inflation on taxpayers, the world’s poorest individuals, and businesses. On a positive note, the pandemic has caused businesses to become more technologically advanced, has created new opportunities for businesses such as Netal’s, and forced citizens to check the power of their rulers.
Amir Shani, a professor of hotel and tourism management at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, delivered a keynote speech about new challenges in tourism. During the covid pandemic, the tourism industry suffered because of travel bans and mobility restrictions which sought to minimize covid transmission. Shani specified the reality of these repressive measures, stating that “travel restrictions have had very little effect on the spread of the virus”. Lockdowns have done little to limit Covid cases and deaths but have levied devastating mental and financial consequences on individuals, families, and businesses. Following the keynote speech was a panel discussion featuring Shani, Susanne Kraus Winkler of the LOISIUM Wine & Spa Resort Hotel Group, and Dieter Pscheidl of the Vienna Insurance Group. Since the pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in tourism industry revenues as a result of travel bans. In recent months, the industry has since struggled to find employees to fill open positions vacated during the pandemic. Currently, consumer trends and demands are drastically different than in 2019.
The next panel discussed freedom and responsibility. The panel was made up of legal and forensic psychology expert Salvatore Giacomuzzi, Calum Nicholson of the Danube Institute, and Rüdiger Stix, an expert on Ethical, Legal and Societal Impact of emerging and disruptive technologies. Nicholson made the assertion that “markets are natural when they are not distorted by power”. When market power is taken away from market players, the market becomes unnatural. In Ukraine, recent strides have been made to give military commanders and soldiers more freedom of choice. This freedom has been crucial during the nation’s ongoing war with Russia. While democracy ensures the most individual freedom of any system, it does not guarantee absolute freedom. In democratic societies, the coronavirus pandemic has created a polarized world where the basics of individual freedom and responsibility have been questioned.