The modern world is a web of interconnectivity, with technology allowing us to make social and business ties from one side of the globe to the other. The UK, especially Sussex Businesses, must jump on board to let the economy fly…
Travelling for business is a brilliant way to create new leads and follow future prospects, meet clients, suppliers and colleagues in other parts of the world, build relationships and grow your company.
With the airport expansion debate this year a hot topic on the minds of businesses in Sussex, and the South East as a whole, 2015 has seen opinions quite literally flying through the air. The Airports Commission’s suggestion that Heathrow would be a better choice for expansion than Gatwick raised many a discussion and even argument within the Sussex and Manor Royal business community – now the final decision is being delayed once again. For many, this suggestion was seen as a poor one, with the prospect of a second runway a new hope for international business travel in the South East.
Of the 30 million plus travellers through Gatwick airport, 1 in 5 are business travellers, and the airport now serves 46 of the top 50 business destinations in Europe. The top 10 international business travel destinations include: London, Toronto, Mexico City, Cancun, Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Montreal and Amsterdam.
Gatwick has been competing vigorously since new ownership in December 2009, winning new routes to the UK’s key trading partners and providing direct connections between London and high growth economies including Indonesia, Turkey, and Russia, making it now a key portal to international business negotiations.
Nationally, the UK is highly dependent on international business, with 7.9 million business trips to the UK in 2013. Not only does this fuel our plan for growth as a country, but more specifically it fuels our economy, with 3.2 million visits to London by overseas people in just 2013, spending on average £116 per day on business trips, equating to an overall £4.6 billion over the year according to the Office for National Statistics.
The benefit of modern technology – and the always ‘on’ world – is that workers are no longer chained to their desks, and can easily travel to meet contacts in person and connect with colleagues from around the world. A recent survey by Virgin Atlantic found that 1 in 5 business travellers end up doing business with someone they met on the flight itself. This is hugely beneficial to businesses across the country, and luckily, businesses across the South East, in particular Sussex have a good link to the outside world, and therefore growing investments in Gatwick Airport.
We spoke to Lewis Scott, Regional Director of UK Trade & Investment in the South East about the importance of international trade and business links for our region and in particular Sussex businesses:
How important is it for South East, in particular Sussex based businesses to have easy access to international business routes and resources?
“The ability to meet overseas partners and customers face-to-face is critical to maintain and grow successful relationships and markets. Diversifying markets and profit sources, or extending product lifecycles, by entering emerging or new markets can be critical to companies. However, without access to such markets lots of companies can fall by the wayside or not fulfil their potential.
With Gatwick practically on the doorstep and the relative ease of accessing Europe through the high speed train routes from Ashford, the ease of international travel is a key ingredient in the global success of Sussex businesses.”
How does international business strengthen the local economy within Sussex?
“International trade can be a boon for businesses and for those in Sussex, this is no different. As well as the potential increase of profits and jobs, which filter down into the local community and economy, there are wider benefits for individual businesses. For example it can:
- Widen the size of the market and revenue streams open to a business,
- Support risk management by reducing dependence on one particular market,
- Enable sales outside of the UK season,
- Promote product development and innovation to meet specific market needs, which can often be reflected back into other markets,
- Up-skill the local workforce, bringing wider experience and challenges.”
Where is there most scope for international business growth for the UK? Which countries have most promising assets at this point in time?
“The US continues to be the number one export market for UK companies. But, beyond the US and other developed markets such as Germany or the Netherlands, the depth of international opportunities for Sussex businesses is remarkable. The diversity of the highest growth markets over the last four years underlines this. In Europe, South East exports over the last four years to Iceland and Lithuania grew by 52% and 82% respectively; in Africa, exports to Botswana and Ivory Coast grew 206% and 111%; whilst in North America, product and service exports to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic grew by 100% and 114%.
Whilst some of this growth can be put down to a country’s developing middle class, there are a range of other factors to research and consider. Analysing a market for competitors, customers, business partners, culture or its regulatory framework is key to considering entering a market. UKTI can and will help with market selection and our International Trade Advisers (ITA) are experts in their fields.”
What technicalities do SMEs need to bear in mind when expanding/starting exporting?
“One of the biggest issues to consider when selling overseas is to understand the difference between selling in the EU, selling to countries with whom we have free trade agreements and those where there may be sanctions and/or export controls. Every country outside of the EU will have their own import regulations with most having their own currency.
Whilst there is a lot to consider this should not put businesses off their export journey. The UKTI International Trade Adviser network offers free, professional expertise and advice, and is there to be utilised at every step. The Sussex Chamber of Commerce can also offer useful advice on the necessary export documentation. We know from local Sussex based businesses that we have already worked with that exporting can lead to greater opportunities for new sales and business growth.”
How is the Government helping to improve international business growth for the UK?
“Exporting is GREAT (EIG) is the Government’s most ambitious export campaign ever. It aims to inspire and support 100,000 new UK exporters to sell their goods and services overseas by 2020.
Right now, there are hundreds of export opportunities sourced by the government’s international network, worth over £300m to Sussex businesses. This includes established markets, like the European Union (EU) and US, as well as high-growth emerging markets such as Brazil, India, China and others.
Exporting is GREAT (EIG) will provide advice and expertise to support businesses at every step of the way, from initial interest to market. Every day in every country around the world, there is someone somewhere who wants or needs a UK product or service. The demand is out there and EIG and UKTI South East are ensuring that more Sussex businesses are too.”