TRUE BRIT AND BLIGHTY’S GRIT
Lourdes Abeyeratne highlights potential in one of the countries in the United Kingdom
Home to one of the most revered financial centres in Europe if not the world, England has proven to be one of the most popular countries in the region for business and leisure visitors. Making up the United Kingdom along with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, England has experienced steady population growth over the years. The Office for National Statistics reveals that over a third of net international migration from mid-2015 to mid-2016 flocked to the nation’s capital London.
While the UK is the subject of uncertainty arising from its decision to leave the EU, Britain topped Forbes’ annual survey of the Best Countries for Business in 2018 thanks to an attractive business climate. The country’s economic growth continued in 2017 and unemployment reached its lowest level in over four decades.
London is routinely cited as a top travel destination for corporate travellers. A 2012 survey conducted by travel and expense management provider Concur concluded that it was one of the cities in which business travellers spent the most. And global travel management company BCD Travel notes in its 2017 Cities & Trends Report that the financial centre is one of the most visited destinations by European business travellers.
With the largest economy in the UK, England aims to appeal to businesses with an environment comprising a competitive tax regime, sizable labour force, IT infrastructure and corporate governance.
Notable industries include agriculture, finance, manufacturing and tourism, with London serving as a financial and tourism hub. While the services sector is the largest in England, digital publication Real Business identified the food and drink segment, and the manufacturing, engineering and construction industries, to be among the fastest growing in the UK in 2016.
The weakness of the pound resulting from the parting of ways with the EU could also provide export opportunities as the country’s products become more attractive to foreign markets.
Ample investment and employment opportunities also exist as the number of private sector businesses in the UK has increased by an average three percent a year since 2000. A large SME sector accounts for 60 percent of employment while big business – which amounts to 0.1 percent of the private sector – accounts for 40 percent of employment.
Due to a shortage of skilled labour in the country, employment is available across various disciplines such as civil, mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering, nursing and IT. Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership research notes that the emergence of disruptive technology and industries, and an increasing awareness of sustainability issues, present companies with opportunities to lead sustainability initiatives.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) is encouraged and promoted through access to integrated markets with few limits on foreign equity ownership. Department for International Trade data reveals that foreign investment in the UK expanded between 2011 and 2016 – they took the form of new investments, expansion, and mergers and acquisitions.
England also boasts a variety of tourist attractions for corporate travellers. Among the drawcards this year is the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle scheduled for May. Taking place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the event is expected to propel a boom in tourism – for example, ONS data indicates that the 2011 royal wedding attracted an additional 350,000 visitors compared to the same period in the previous year.
Sport is also a major activity in England. Venues of interest include Wembley Stadium, which plays host to major football matches and tournaments including the Football Association (FA) Cup Final; cricket stadiums such as The Oval, Old Trafford, Lord’s and Trent Bridge; the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where the Wimbledon championship is held; and the Silverstone Circuit, which hosts the British Grand Prix.
Moreover, there’s an abundance of attractions for families – for example, the Natural History Museum, theme parks (including Alton Towers Resort and Legoland Windsor Resort), Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower, London Zoo and Buckingham Palace.
Visitors to England can also avail themselves of its active nightlife – bars, nightclubs, live music, theatre and comedy venues are only a few of the numerous entertainment options on offer.
While the UK finds itself in a cloud of economic instability stemming from Brexit, England presents a host of opportunities for visitors looking to invest in one of the leading financial centres of the world. The array of leisure activities also ensures that the country provides multiple dimensions of appeal to travellers who yearn for a well-rounded experience.