Expats and émigrés on the move in Slovakia

INTERNATIONAL movers operating in Slovakia report that demand for their services has increased since Slovakia became a member of EU. Staff with foreign investors and Slovaks returning home from abroad form the bulk of their clients.

INTERNATIONAL movers operating in Slovakia report that demand for their services has increased since Slovakia became a member of EU. Staff with foreign investors and Slovaks returning home from abroad form the bulk of their clients.

"Working abroad has become a global trend as business people look for new business opportunities worldwide. Multinationals also ask their managers to be geographically flexible," Samuel Barrois, country director of moving company AGS Bratislava, told The Slovak Spectator.

"There has definitely been an increase in demand for moving to Slovakia. Foreign investments are increasing, and foreign companies usually send one or several expatriates from the mother company to open up the branch or the new factory, set up the industrial process, keep an eye on finances, and communicate the spirit of the company."

This year AGS saw the greatest increase in business from France and Korea thanks to the recent auto factory investments by PSA Peugeot Citroen and KIA Motors. Significant demand came from Australia, Canada, and Malaysia as well.

AGS has also seen a noticeable increase in Slovaks returning to their homeland after living abroad for many years. "They definitely want to bring their belongings back home even if their budget is sometimes quite tight," Barrois said.

Unlike in the past, expatriates are no longer moving to Slovakia with all their belongings.

"Foreigners know you can now find almost anything you need in Slovakia, even though there is no way to replace your grandmother's cupboard, your pictures of your kids, the wonderful carpet you bought during your holiday in India, or the sofa you got as a wedding present," Barrois said.

"The trend is that while the volume of shipments is decreasing, more people are using a professional moving company."

Corstjens Worldwide Movers Group has also recorded growth in its moving business to Slovakia, general manager Magdalena Vegh Hodossyova said. The country's accession to the EU simplified the moving process and eliminated many administrative and customs barriers. Hodossyova said she expected demand from Asia to grow.

Marta Novotná, sales manager for Interdean Slovakia, saw the market as more or less stable. On the one hand many new companies are opening branches in Slovakia, while on the other hand established companies have reduced the number of foreign staff in Slovakia.

"We have also noticed an increase in the number of Slovak managers moving abroad to take up new positions. There has been a remarkable growth among companies from Asia," Novotná added.

The development of the Slovak economy, which grew at 7.5 percent in the last quarter of 2005, is expected to generate further growth in moving services.

"International moving is a common service in all developed countries. The situation is also influenced by state policy, the labour market, consumer buying power and so on. We believe that Slovakia's economy and conditions for doing business, as well as those in all neighbouring countries, will develop quickly," Novotná said.

International moving companies usually provide door-to-door service, including packing items with special protection for fragile goods.

Reputable companies also tend to take care of export and import customs clearances, transport, unpacking, setting up furniture and removing used packaging.

Given the many operations involved, an international move demands experienced packers, qualified supervision, on-time delivery and faultless communication with the client.

Usually, a pre-move meeting is agreed at the residence where the company can estimate the size of the shipment and the services required (packing materials, full or partial packing, storage or direct move, delivery services, insurance, etc.).

Price calculations tend to be estimates, but some companies are willing to set a fixed price. The main factors in the calculation are the volume of the shipment and the destination country. A moving company should be able to provide information on customs clearances, as well as a plan for the move.

While price remains the most important criterion in the selection of moving company for many people, experience and reputation are also important concerns.

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