Colors: Purple Color

Birmingham’s business community has announced its full backing for the city’s bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The bid was confirmed when the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Steering Group formally announced the bid and revealed that “an enhanced and refurbished Alexander Stadium” will be pivotal to the Games.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), is a member of the Steering Group, and he said: “Today’s announcement represents a huge opportunity for the Greater Birmingham region and has the full backing of the region’s business community.

“It will once again put Birmingham on a global stage and at the same time create job opportunities in the build-up as well in the work that will be required on some of the sports infrastructure in the city.

“We greatly look forward to working with the business community in the city to promote Birmingham’s bid and if successful to ensure we make the very best of the Games. Every aspect of business in the city, from the shops and theatre to the bars and restaurants will benefit.”

As well as the GBCC, Birmingham’s bid has the full support of: Birmingham City Council; three regional local enterprise partnerships: Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP; Black Country LEP; Coventry and Warwickshire LEP; the West Midlands Combined Authority; the West Midlands Growth Company; and the newly elected Mayor of West Midlands, Andy Street.

In a statement, the group said: “Birmingham can demonstrate the very best of Global Britain to the world with this bid, which showcases its strengths of youth and diversity alongside its world class reputation for sport and culture.

“Birmingham’s decision to bid has been measured and purposeful, based on a feasibility study that explored both how the Games would be delivered and why it would be beneficial for the city and the wider region. Ninety-five percent of proposed competitive venues are already in place.

“With a strong cultural programme running in parallel with sport, Birmingham is ready to extend the hand of friendship, competition and understanding to the 71 competing nations.

Sitting at the heart of the UK, and standing for the diversity of the Commonwealth, Birmingham is well positioned to attract people to the Games and to ensure that the benefits of hosting extend from the city and region, to the UK and the Commonwealth.”

Unique to England and Wales, there are two different forms of legal ownership: freehold and leasehold.  Freehold remains the majority type of ownership in the UK however with the large number of new build developments and conversions being sold, leasehold ownership is becoming more common place, particularly in places like London where 95% of new properties sold 2016 were classified as leasehold.

Unlike Freehold which is the outright ownership of a property and the land it stands on, leasehold ownership is buying the temporary right to use the property – which is yours for the duration of the lease.

Dan Lowery, Director of Romans Surveyors explains further: “The leasehold homeowner has a lease with the landlord (Freeholder) which states how many years they own the property and what restrictions may be imposed on how they live in the property such as whether pets are allowed or whether they can make substantial alterations.”

When the lease expires, the property can return to the landlord however in reality most people never actually get to the end of the lease and renew it long before then.

“The length of a lease can affect the value of a property typically the shorter the lease, the lower the asking price.  On the whole, when the lease gets past 90 years, it is usually a good time to start looking into extending it.  Once the term falls below 80 years the costs to extend can increase significantly, and if selling is part of your plan, this can affect the asking price and whether a buyer can get a mortgage on the property or not – which limits potential buyers.

New figures show that it was a record April for the number of overseas visits to the UK and spend.

VisitBritain figures show that 3.7 million visits were made to the UK in April this year, up 19% compared to the same month last year and the highest April since records began. Overseas visitors spent a record £2 billion in April, 20% up on the same month last year.

Today’s figures come on the back of a record first-quarter for inbound visits to the UK and spend.

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:

“Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and it is very encouraging to see this continued growth as we head into the peak summer season and beyond. We continue to drive home the message of value and welcome globally, particularly in our high spending markets China and the US and the valuable European market.”

Today’s figures bring the number of inbound visits to the UK for January to April this year to a record 11.8 million, 11% up on the same period in 2016 with visitors spending £6.2 billion, up 14% and also setting a new record.

Growth this year has been led from long-haul regions including North America with more than one million visits from January to April, up 16% compared to the same period last year.

There were a record 8.3 million visits from the EU from January to April this year, up 7% on 2016.

Strong growth has also been seen in holiday visits with a record 4.4 million visits from January to April this year, up 26% on the same period in 2016.

Latest flight booking data from ForwardKeys shows that bookings for international arrivals to the UK during the summer are currently tracking 12% ahead of the same period last year.

Tourism is worth £127 billion annually to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.

A wide range of insurance options – some compulsory and others advisable – are available to landlords letting a property in the UK.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, has had her say on cover available and urged landlords to protect themselves.

“Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of something going wrong and a landlord being left out of pocket, even with the most committed and reliable tenant in place, so adequate insurance is a must,” she explains.

“By selecting the right products landlords can cover themselves against most eventualities, ensuring ultimate peace of mind.”

Allison has identified six popular types of insurance that every landlord should consider:

1) Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance is widely considered to be the most important type of cover and a priority for all landlords. Mortgage lenders are likely to insist on a landlord holding a policy – and even those without a mortgage are advised to cover themselves.

A good policy will cover the cost of rebuilding or repairing a property should it be affected by issues such as storms, floods, vandalism, fire, damage to water or heating systems, subsidence, falling trees and much more.

Your policy will also cover loss of rent, but only in the case of an insured peril, such as a fire or flood.

Buildings insurance will, in many cases, cover malicious damage by tenants, providing a further benefit to landlords.

2) Contents insurance

Contents insurance is just as important as buildings insurance, particularly if a property is let fully or part-furnished. This insurance protects all contents – such as furniture, sofas, televisions, carpets and other possessions – against theft or damage.

One tip is to ensure a policy offers a ‘new for old’ term, meaning landlords can replace existing items that are damaged or stolen with brand new versions. Landlords do not need to insure their tenant’s belongings, so should only purchase cover for their own items.

3) Landlord liability insurance

This crucial policy covers landlords in the event of somebody being injured or killed while on their property. It also protects landlords against any tenant who opts to sue following an accident. Those who let to students may find this type of cover is a requirement of their university, while local authorities often stipulate a minimum level when letting to applicants on housing benefit.

Landlord liability insurance is sometimes offered as part of another landlord policy, but if it is not it is well worth taking out.

4) Rent guarantee

Even tenants who tick every box during the application stage can go on to default on their rent. A change of circumstances – such as the loss of a job – is sometimes all it takes. But landlords with a rent guarantee plan in place – such as Leaders’ Premier Rent Guarantee Service – will still receive their monthly payments, typically up to a maximum amount for an agreed period.

5) Home emergency insurance

Landlords are unlikely to want to have to respond to every incident in a property, so instructing a quality letting agents to manage their tenanted home and investing in home emergency insurance is a wise move. Home emergency insurance covers the cost of arranging repairs in the event of, for example, a burst pipe, gas leak, burglary or pest infestation. It guarantees a qualified tradesman will be available to resolve emergencies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

WaterSafe, the UK national accreditation body for approved plumbers, has created a quick and easy five-step guide for new home owners in the Midlands to check their plumbing is in tip top condition.
The scheme is launching a Moving House campaign this week to guide new home buyers on what they should look out for in their new home when it comes to plumbing, pipes, taps and fittings.
The campaign has been launched to coincide with the housing market’s summer time boom in sales.
The guide was put together following a survey with WaterSafe approved plumbers to find out the most common problems they get called to help with and their top advice.
The survey revealed the plumbers’ top five tips are:
  • Find your internal stop tap – where your water supply comes into your home – you may need to turn the water off in an emergency
  • Check the boiler’s service history and that there is a lid on the cold water tank (usually in the loft) – and always use a Gas Safe registered engineer for servicing
  • Look out for leaky taps, toilets and radiators – tell-tale signs are low water pressure, rust and water stains on the floors or carpets, or mould on ceilings and walls
  • Find out if your home has any lead water pipes – these are shiny when scraped with a screwdriver. Lead can be harmful so it’s a good idea to replace these
  • Check if you have a water meter – as you’ll be billed for the amount of water you use if you do. It’s usually in the ground outside the front of your home, or inside near the stop tap.
Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “There’s lots to think about when you’ve just moved into a new home, but our campaign is about making it easy for people to check the plumbing basics.
“That campaign advice is based on the invaluable experience of our approved plumbers who are often the first port of call when there is a problem – particularly for issues like finding and turning off the stop tap when there’s a water leak.
“We would urge home buyers to follow our top plumbing tips about what to look out for so they can ensure their plumbing is working as it should and keeping their tap water fresh and healthy.”

Rapid growth in the use of contactless cards means cash will be overtaken as Britain’s most frequently used payment method by the end of 2018, according to a new report published by Payments UK, the trade association for the payments industry. This latest forecast still does not herald the demise of cash – even in ten years’ time it is still expected to make up 21% of all payments.

Analysis carried out for UK Payment Markets 2017 forecasts that debit cards will become the most frequently used payment method in late 2018, three years earlier than previously predicted due in large part to the increasing popularity of contactless.

There were nearly 2.9 billion contactless payments in the UK in 2016, more than 2.7 times more than in the previous year (1.1 billion). Contactless payments made up 7% of the total number of payments in 2016, with the continued growth meaning that by 2026 more than one in four (27%) payments in the UK is expected to be contactless.

Debit cards were used 11.6 billion times in 2016, 14% more than the previous year, with just over one in five of these transactions made using contactless. Cash was still the most frequently used payment method in 2016, used for 15.4 billion payments (3.8 billion more occasions than debit cards). Four out of ten (40%) payments in 2016 were made using cash.

By 2018, when debit cards are forecast to overtake cash, 13.4 billion debit card payments are predicted, of which 4.6 billion (or one in three) are expected to be contactless. Cash is expected to be used for 13.3 billion payments in 2018, meaning it won’t be the most frequently used payment method for the first time.

Adrian Buckle, Chief Economist at Payments UK, said:

“The popularity of contactless means that we expect debit cards to overtake cash as the UK’s most frequently used payment method in late 2018, three years earlier than we previously thought. This is a significant shift but it’s vital to note that even in the face of this change, we believe any claims the UK will soon become a cashless society are wide of the mark.

“People will always want to choose the payment methods that best suit them, and cash will remain a frequently-used payment method for the foreseeable future. In ten years’ time, we will still be using cash for one in five payments in the UK, even as mobile payments and other innovations provide ever greater choice about how to pay.”

In total, 38.7 billion payments were made in the UK in 2016. UK Payment Markets 2017 also publishes data and 10-year forecasts for the other main payment methods, to give a complete picture of the UK’s payments landscape for both consumers and businesses, across every different payment type.

YPO, the premier chief executive leadership organization in the world, concluded its second-annual YPO Innovation Week by announcing the winners of the Global Innovation Awards, which honors those YPO members who have created transformative innovations and nurture continued growth and opportunity for leaders around the world.

In addition to recognizing the top ten innovators from among more than 24,000 YPO members across 130 countries, the Global Innovation Awards also honors Asia’s top innovator and the top young adult innovator, who is a child of YPO member (ages 17-29).

“The Global Innovation Awards highlight those distinguished innovators who are leading the way in creating forward-thinking companies and significant opportunities for this and the next generation. These leaders are making an indelible mark in the world,” said Keith Alper, Chair of YPO Innovation Week.

During May, 2017 YPO Innovation Week connected influential entrepreneurs, innovators and thought leaders to exchange ideas about inspiration, breakthroughs and transformation through more than 50 signature events, live two-way interactive video casts and livestream events around the world. At the conclusion of the week, YPO announced the top Asian innovator in Hong Kong and the Global Innovation Award winner in New York City.

Figures released by Utilitywise have revealed that businesses in the Midlands could collectively save as much as £27m on their water bills. This follows deregulation of the water market in England, giving business owners the chance to renegotiate their existing water contracts or look to a new supplier.

Utilitywise, the UK’s leading energy and utilities consultancy, estimates that savings on water tariffs will be around 10%, dependent on region. Around 164,000 businesses in the Midlands now have control over who supplies their water, giving the local water market a value of approximately £276m.

In the month following water deregulation on 1st April, Utilitywise has received more than 50,000 business engagements regarding water supply. This represents a 740% increase from the month prior to deregulation, as business owners look to take advantage of potential savings on their water bill in a time of economic uncertainty and rising costs.

The water market in England is now valued at £2bn, giving businesses the opportunity to access up to £200m of potential new savings.

While the initial response to water deregulation has been encouraging, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of businesses that are missing out on its benefits. Separate research from Ofwat, the industry regulator, and Utilitywise both revealed that less than half of the 1.2 million business responsible for their own water supply were aware that they would soon have a choice of water retailer.  

Brendan Flattery, CEO of Utilitywise, said: "We are delighted to see such a high number of enquiries since the water market deregulated, but also believe that more can be done to make businesses aware of its potential benefits. A deregulated market could produce savings of as much as 10%, as well as improved service and greater choice. To compliment this, bundled utilities contracts, such as those offered by Utilitywise, which combine electricity, gas and water, have shown to save businesses up to 25%. Ofwat has a responsibility to ensure that these companies are aware of the water options open to them and to push for greater margins of savings for smaller businesses, like we have seen in Scotland.”

The Scottish Water market deregulated in 2008 with similar low margins. After three years the regulator intervened, widening the retail margin to allow savings of 20%+ for all businesses. Since the intervention, roughly 50% of businesses have switched, which could provide a clear blue print for Ofwat and the English water market.

Andy Poole, specialist water policy advisor at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "We believe the new water market will bring opportunities for many small businesses to take advantage of the different services and tariffs on offer. Competition should drive up services, standards and trust for small business customers. We encourage businesses to examine what they are being offered by their current supplier and compare it with what others are offering. They should look at price, advice and support, innovation and technology, customer service, combined utilities and other additional services. There’s no need to rush into a new contract you’re not sure about- see what suits you best, before making an informed decision.”

Business leaders today expressed concern at the Bank of England’s prediction around earnings and economic growth following the Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.25 per cent.

The bank said has cut its forecast growth for 2017 to 1.9 per cent and revised its inflation prediction, likely to be 2.7 per cent this quarter, up from the 2.4 per cent rate forecast in February. Average earnings growth for 2017 was also adjusted to 2 per cent, down from the 3 per cent predicted in February

Raj Kandola (pictured), Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce senior policy and patron adviser, said: “Amidst the uncertainty created by Brexit negotiations, the Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep interest rates at a record low level.

“However, it was concerning to see the Bank the England revising downwards its predictions around people’s earnings and the overall economic output for the UK.

“Although we are mindful of the fact that previous predictions made by the Bank have turned out to be incorrect, if real wages are falling in real times (once adjusted for inflation), then this will no doubt have a detrimental impact on an economy that’s driven by the resilience of consumer spending.

“We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that poor wage growth is not just down to uncertain economic and political conditions, it also reflects long standing productivity issues which have blighted our regional economy.

“Whoever forms the new government will need to implement a robust Industrial Strategy which at its heart will tackle structural productivity issues and invest in infrastructure development to shift away from a reliance on consumer spending in order to bring economic growth to the country as a whole.

"Despite the mixed picture, research from our latest Quarterly Business Report shows local business confidence is at its highest level since late 2014 and it will be interesting to see if this confidence continues into next quarter as surveying for our next report will begin shortly."

A high profile case featured by the BBC, in which fraudsters put a five-bedroom home up for sale without the owner’s knowledge, illustrated the need to take advantage of the Land Registry’s anti-fraud measures, property specialist lawyers at Clarke Willmott LLP said today.

The case, which was highlighted on the BBC’s Rip off Britain and The One Show, replayed how two fraudsters used identity theft to transfer the deeds of a property into one of the fraudster’s names following which the property was put up for auction.

Mark Buckerfield, a partner in the Residential Property Team of Clarke Willmott, said: “Property fraud is a real threat and people who have paid off their mortgage are in a particularly vulnerable position as there are no lenders or other interested parties involved. Similarly people who do not live at their property need to be on guard.

“There are protective measures that property owners can take, for example registering with the free Land Registry alert service which ensures they receive a warning as soon as anyone attempts to deal with their property.

“However, although the alert service is an effective warning service it does not automatically block any dealings. In the case highlighted by the BBC, the fraudsters were able to intercept mail, forge signatures and attempt to sell the property through auction with no viewings.  Fortunately the victim stumbled across the advertisement three days before the auction and was able to stop the men in their tracks.

“It shows the lengths fraudsters will go to and for that reason registering a restriction on the property register is more secure. This can be done by a solicitor for around £200 - £250 plus VAT, which is not a huge amount to pay to protect an asset as valuable as a house.

“Sadly it is not something that many people do, but really should be something people consider, especially if they have made their last mortgage payment or the property is vacant or let.”

This summer, Marks & Spencer (M&S) will become the first high street retailer to set a new standard in hypoallergenic jewellery – as it launches Skin Kind™.

From May 2017, every item in M&S’s fashion jewellery range will meet its new Skin Kind™ standards, so that even customers with the most sensitive skin can wear stylish accessories with confidence.

The project began last year when M&S discovered that more than one in four [28%] of customers didn’t wear fashion jewellery because they were concerned about potential allergic reactions. To help address these concerns, M&S partnered with Birmingham based, world leading precious and base metal experts at the AnchorCert Group’s analytical testing laboratory to find a practical solution for customers.

Victoria Gallant, jewellery technologist at M&S explains: "Fashion jewellery is one of the easiest ways to update an outfit or transform from a casual to evening look and should be something everyone can wear. We were surprised to hear so many customers were worried about buying jewellery because of allergy fears and we wanted a solution to put their minds at rest. Now Skin Kind™ is the standard across our entire range - all customers can wear M&S jewellery with confidence.”

Whilst more than a quarter of consumers have concerns, the reality is that approximately 10-15% of people suffer an adverse skin reaction to certain metals1. The project team analysed data from over 1000 individuals with known skin reactions to identify the most common metal allergens2. Using the results, the team developed a brand-new testing method that is now applied to M&S jewellery to assess the reactivity of metals used and help prevent any skin reaction.

The result is M&S’s new Skin Kind™ jewellery, designed to be extra kind to sensitive skin. To achieve this, M&S has used the research findings to change the specification and manufacturing process of its jewellery – minimising the effect of the most common metal allergens. M&S has also introduced new comfort focussed product criteria as standard across the range. For example, all M&S earrings posts are now made of titanium - one of the most non-reactive metals.  Strict weight limits are set for fashion earrings to make them easier to wear all day and smooth edge clasps and connectors are used on all fastenings to minimise any irritation.

Nyasha Pitt, Commercial Director at the AnchorCert Group said: "For those with sensitive skin, buying jewellery can be a mine field. We use our globally-recognised expertise to work closely with both manufacturers and retailers to ensure that jewellery is fully compliant with relevant legislation. Partnering with M&S to develop Skin Kind™ has been a fantastic experience for our team and we are incredibly proud to be part of such an innovative product range, which sets the gold standard for hypoallergenic jewellery.”

Qatar Airways has been named the “Airline with the Best Business Class”, and the “Airline with the Best Cabin Crew” at the prestigious Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2017, based on votes submitted by the readers of the regional edition of the prestigious industry magazine. Qatar Airways Country Manager - UAE, Mr. Rohan Seneviratne, collected the award on behalf of the airline, which added to the international recognition and the growing list of awards that the carrier has received.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “This is another proud moment for Qatar Airways. In everything that we do, we aim to go above and beyond, to set new standards for the airline. We have a vision of being not only a world leader, but of providing an unforgettable experience for our passengers throughout their entire journey; from booking their flights, to spending time in our impeccably appointed aircraft, to transiting through our award-winning Hamad International Airport. Our focus is, and will continue to be, on our passengers, which makes receiving recognition from Business Traveller Middle East all the more rewarding; it proves that we are delivering on our promise to provide the finest possible in-flight experience.”

At the 2017 Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai, Qatar Airways is hosting the Middle East reveal ceremony on Monday 24 April, for its highly-acclaimed, boundary-breaking new Business Class Qsuite, with international media, travel trade leaders, industry representatives and VIP guests in attendance.

Throughout ATM, guests and visitors to the Qatar Airways stand will be invited to experience the new Qsuite first-hand at the airline’s exhibition stand in Hall Two ME1445. The stand will give visitors the opportunity to be among the first to experience the comfort, entertainment and hospitality offered on board all Qatar Airways flights.

Qatar Airways also recently launched a new next generation user interface for Oryx One, its award-winning in-flight entertainment system that features up to 3,000 movie, television and game options. The platform will make it even easier to navigate the wide selection of blockbuster and classic movies, global music selection and the latest TV box sets; ensuring passengers the very best entertainment experience from the moment they step on board and every minute in the air.

A leading businesswoman who has helped to transform the fortunes of companies across the West Midlands and beyond has urged small, ambitious firms to start thinking globally.

Angela Maxwell, CEO of Acuwomen, is leading a Department for International Trade (DIT) West Midlands workshop to encourage small businesses from the region to start exporting their goods and services.

Kick Start is a free event at the Custard Factory, Digbeth on 4 May, where she will work with businesses to inspire them to think seriously about new markets.

She said: “We all operate in a global marketplace – there’s no getting away from that – and there are myriad opportunities for every type of business that has the ambition and the desire to invest in exporting. DIT’s Exporting is GREAT campaign demonstrates just how much a business can benefit from expanding their horizons and I’m pleased to come on board and be part of a campaign to help West Midlands companies. Exporting doesn’t happen overnight but the number of success stories from this region, especially among businesses that didn’t think there was any demand for their offer, is inspirational.”

She said that joining forces with DIT for Kick Start was the perfect opportunity for businesses that are focused solely on the domestic market to future-proof their success.

According to DIT research, 85 per cent of companies said that expanding their global reach led to a level of growth that they said would not have been achievable otherwise.

Angela added: “These statistics speak for themselves: there is a distinct difference between companies working only in the home markets and those who export. Of course, there are issues such as capacity and finance that have to be dealt with but there is a lot of support on offer. It’s also important to be positive; some businesses are put off exporting because they think it is daunting or complex, but it really isn’t. It’s a really interesting way to grow a business and expands your outlook.”

In addition to Angela’s Kick Start programme in Birmingham, international strategy and marketing expert John Harrison from JH Market Strategy will be holding two sessions at the NMC Centre in West Bromwich.

Businesses across the Midlands have continued to develop and grow despite increasing costs and uncertainty around Brexit, according to the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) results from the region’s Chambers of Commerce.

The collective results of the eight Chambers, which together represent over 14,000 companies showed that 85% of businesses across the Midlands reported increased or steady domestic sales, up from the previous quarter. Export activity remained strong across the region with 87% reporting increased or sustained activity.

However, despite this growth, 47% of companies reported pressure to raise prices, as they begin to feel the pinch from increasing costs such as the National Living Wage, higher business rates and the sharply rising costs of raw materials resulting from the fall in the value of Sterling since the EU Referendum last June.

The region is also experiencing a significant skills shortage, hindering growth. More than half of businesses (57%) reported difficulty finding the right staff at the start of 2017, particularly for skilled manual/technical and professional roles.

Overall, the latest QES results suggest that while businesses continue to grow in the face of significant headwinds, upfront costs and volatile market conditions continue to add to the uncertainty many businesses are feeling. It’s vital that these upfront costs are addressed in order to allow businesses in the region to truly flourish in a post-Brexit Britain.

Around half of businesses (53%) have seen input prices increase over the past year but of those that have, less than half are willing to absorb the costs with 54% planning to offset the rise. Most will be passing the cost rise onto customers or finding cheaper suppliers according to new ICAEW research. Reducing wages and  planned investment are among the least popular options to offset the increases.

Companies that have seen increases in prices cite a rise in the cost of raw materials (35%) and the cost of services (29%). Other reasons include the changes in the exchange rate and the price of labour (Other totalling 30%). Those businesses who export and whose input prices are in foreign currency have been more impacted. Despite this, only 54% are planning to offset the increase in input prices in the next 12 months.

Stephen Ibbotson, ICAEW Director of Business, said: “Businesses are facing pressure from the fall in sterling and rise in commodity prices which together have driven up prices. Whilst many have sought to protect customers from those rises by absorbing the costs, that is no longer sustainable. It is not surprising therefore that more than half of companies are planning to offset the rising costs. UK companies cannot put off decisions that will undermine or hinder the economic progress made in recent years and need to take advantage of new opportunities.”

Those businesses who are planning to offset plan to increase prices charged to customers (82%), find cheaper suppliers (48%) and revise product specifications (31%). Reducing headcount (27%) and planned investment (14%) are among the least popular options.

The changes in the pound since last year has had a varied impact on UK businesses. Over a third (37%) believe the devaluing has had little or no impact on their business, 37% a negative impact and 24% a positive impact -  especially among exporters. Increased costs (77%) was the main reason companies felt the changes in the value of the pound had had a negative impact.

Stephen Ibbotson concluded: “Government needs to spell out and put in detail how it can partner with business to make the long-term investments necessary to secure the UK’s economic future and make it the best place to do business.”

Saudi Arabia and Oman will lead the GCC’s multi-billion dollar investments in cultural tourism, with a series of projects to develop new world-class cultural attractions, according to a report published ahead of Arabian Travel Market, taking place 24 – 27 April 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

According to the research, compiled by Colliers International, Saudi Arabia is ready to invest up to US$2bn – one of the highest commitments of any government to cultural tourism in the region – with a number of projects and targets set out under Saudi Vision 2030.

Under the vision, by the year 2030, Saudi Arabia will: increase the number of public and private museums from 155 to 241; increase the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites from four to 10; and increase the number of archaeological sites suitable to visit from 75 to 155. In addition, the Kingdom will increase the number of archaeological heritage sites from 10 to 28 and increase the number of activities and cultural events from 190 currently to 400 annually.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Cultural tourism sits perfectly alongside this year’s theme of experiential travel as travellers look to explore destinations and enjoy a more holistic holiday experience. What we see today in Saudi Arabia, and other GCC countries, is an open commitment to strengthen this sector and capitalise on the current global trend.”

In 2015, Oman pledged investments of $2.5bn for the Omagine Project – a mixed-use development set on 245 acres of prime beachfront facing the Gulf of Oman, which is an integration of cultural, heritage, educational, entertainment and residential elements.

Its completion will add to Oman’s growing cultural tourism sector, which includes 18 museums, four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Royal Opera House Muscat and Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, among others.

Press said: “Across the GCC, there is a rising demand for authentic and enriching travel, full of experiences and opportunities to learn about the unique history and culture of this region. For this reason, we can expect many more project announcements of this kind over the coming years.”

Already gaining popularity with tourists thanks to its collection of world-class hotels, beaches and golf facilities, Saadiyat Island in the UAE will receive a further boost with regional and international visitors when the first of its highly-anticipated museums, opens later this year. By 2020, the island will be home to Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Zaha Hadid designed, Zayed National Museum.

In Dubai, the $300m Dubai Opera launched in 2016, with the first shows including Les Miserables and Cats. Dubai has also seen an increase of 127% in the number of visitors to its most popular museums and galleries, taking the total number of visitors to just five of the Emirate’s museums to 1.75 million in 2015. These numbers will receive a further boost over the coming 24 months with the opening of the Museum of The Future in 2017 and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, in 2018.

At the newly launched Al Habtoor City – home to St. Regis Dubai, W and Westin Dubai – 2017 will see the debut of the region’s first permanent show, La Perle.

With over 450 performances per year, the show is to be presented in a 1,300 seat, purpose-built, state-of-the-art theatre, filled with 2.7 million litres of water. Highlighting its commitment to regional culture, La Perle is ATM’s Experiential Travel Partner for 2017.

Craig Hartenstine, Executive Producer, La Perle, said: “The arrival of La Perle at Al Habtoor City marks a new chapter for live performance in the Middle East. This will be the first time in the region a show will become a permanent destination-defining attraction to be enjoyed by visitors all year round.”

In Qatar, where a year-round calendar of culture and performance events has played a significant role in driving visitor demand, a number of new attractions are also under development. The projects, headed by Qatar Museum Authority, have so far included Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Orientalist Museum. Over the coming year these museums will be joined by the highly anticipated National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel.

This year’s ATM will have a wide variety of emirates and countries focusing on culture in their strategies, including Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India.