Bratislava, Slovakia – Are small Central European countries finally getting the attention they deserve?
That’s what seems to suggest the latest FutureBrand Country Index, a ranking that measures a country’s strength and perception beyond the mere GDP and economic growth factor.
Japan and Norway boast strongest country brands in the world
Its 2019 edition ranks the World’s Bank top 75 richest countries according to “how individuals rate dimensions of a country’s ‘Purpose’ (value system, quality of life & business potential) and ‘Experience’ (heritage & culture, tourism and domestic-made products & services).
According to the 2019 FutureBrand Country Index, the country with the strongest brand and that enjoys the most positive perception throughout the world is Japan, that already took the top spot in the previous 2014 index. The east-Asian country is followed by Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Austria and Luxembourg in a top 10 almost entirely dominated by European nations.
The United States is ranked 12th, ahead of countries like Italy (14th), France (17th), the U.K. (19th), Spain (23rd), Russia (27th) or China (29th).
Slovakia as the world’s fastest-rising country
At the 32nd place worldwide, the Czech Republic ranks first among Central and Eastern European countries, but loses three spots compared to 2014. A rather disappointing result for a country regularly lauded for its high quality of life, including for students and millennials.
The most notable feat, however, comes from its neighbour: Slovakia – also ranked as the fastest-growing developed economy in the world in terms of GDP growth.
Ranked 35th in the 2019 Index, Slovakia moves up a staggering 24 positions compared to five years ago, making it the fastest-rising developed country in the world in terms of country brand, strength and perception.
Slovakia most notably experienced a significant improvement in the perception of the country’s quality of life, substantially rising in all attributes from health & education, to standard of living and safety & security. It’s also among the top 10 best-performing countries in terms of environmental friendliness compared to 2014, and boasts the second best improvement – behind Israel – regarding quality products.
Ranked 38th, Hungary moves up an equally commendable 18 spots compared to 2014, making it the third top-riser in the ranking behind Slovakia and Romania.
At the 44th position, Poland lags behind its Visegrad neighbours and moves up a single position compared to the previous ranking, logged between Chile and Malaysia.
Central Europe “stepping out of the shadows”
Among all five countries deemed ‘top-risers’ (Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Turkey and Peru), the study points out, the Heritage & Culture dimension (which includes historical points of interest and natural beauty), “stands out as the highest-scoring association dimension” – in other words, the most influential factor behind their growth.
This shows that “Eastern European countries may be stepping out of the shadow of more traditionally popular Western European destinations”, the authors speculate.