Why you Need to Travel Post-Brexit
A few weeks ago Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was finally triggered, starting the long, two-year process of negotiation on Britain’s trade deal.
While the nitty gritty of Britain’s trade deals with Europe continues to get thrashed out, and with calls from some quarters to delay Brexit until a trade deal is struck, not to mention the impending 'snap General Election', complete clarity may still be a way off.
Here at CTM fortunately we have yet to notice any major effect from Brexit. So far we have even seen a slight increase in bookings from 2016. If anything, the business travel community currently seems more concerned with the ban on laptops and electronic devices in carry-on luggage on certain flight routes than the potential impact of Brexit.
Yet there is still a great deal of uncertainty, so it’s understandable for some companies to instinctively tighten their belts in response, perhaps choosing to hold video conferences over face-to-face meetings.
But we know that progressive businesses take a different view. They know that in an uncertain but competitive economic climate there is an even greater need to travel in order to do business. This may mean exploring emerging markets further afield, in African countries for example, or simply travelling more frequently to strengthen existing relationships.
Equally encouraging was the recent news from the 2017 European Business Travel Barometer survey, which showed that nearly three quarters of UK businesses now view business travel as an investment instead of an expense.
The Personal Touch
On a human level, meeting clients in person often cements relationships which might otherwise wither if left to emails and phone calls and as we’ve said before it’s much easier to build rapport when you’re taking the time and trouble to actually meet your customers in the flesh.
Doing so also helps you gain a better understanding of their issues and therefore leaves you better placed to meet their needs and deal with any potential roadblocks.
Our trade body the GTMC has found that many smaller, more agile companies are spending more on business travel than ever.
According to research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) in 2016, the general outlook for British business travel is still fairly positive. They predict that 'international outbound travel will grow at 9.8 percent in 2016 and 8.9 percent in 2017,' so only a slight 1 percentage point drop is anticipated, while also pointing out that, 'Domestic business travel accounts for 65 percent of all business travel in the United Kingdom.'
One of the key lessons from the GTMC’s UK conference last November was the rise of growing new markets. Findings from their data partner Oxford Economics showed that global markets are shifting all the time and that it’s well worth looking beyond Europe.
Despite a slight slump predicted for early 2017, business visits and investment is soon expected to grow to pre-Brexit levels.
Europe is only Part of the Picture
Interestingly, when you look at annual growth in terms of employment and GDP, Europe now actually lags behind all other continents, including Oceania, with Asia and Africa leading the charge.
Average GDP growth for European cites is at 2.2%, while for Africa it’s more than twice that at 4.9%.
In terms of job growth, only 3 of the world’s top 20 cities are in Europe, including London itself, with the likes of Beijing, Manilla and Guangzhau all growing rapidly. So all this points to a growth in opportunities outside of the EU.
The GTMC’s persuasive infographic (below) on the economic impact of business travel claims that business travel boosts British trade by a whopping £6.5 billion and that even a 1% increase spent on air travel for business is worth a staggering £160 million.
Government’s Export Effort
You needn’t go it alone, help is at hand. The UK Government has recently launched a website, with the strapline ‘Exporting is Great’, dedicated to supporting companies who are keen to explore best practice for exporting and key export markets.
The site includes a free showcase portal where companies can promote their products and services to an audience of international buyers as well as a database of over 1500 qualified opportunities from overseas companies looking to import goods and services from the UK.
And of course we’re here to help you stay out on the road meeting customers and doing deals, while still controlling costs and saving unnecessary expense where you can of course.
Many of our own SME clients have found a strong parallel between travel and growth. Now more than ever it’s time for British businesses to do all they can to get out there and promote UK PLC. If you sit back and wait, the risk is that your competitors will steal a march on you and exploit those new opportunities before you do. So get out there and travel, see the whites of your customers’ eyes and then enjoy the fruits of your labours.