Colors: Purple Color

A week of webinars and online export advice sessions are taking place next month (July) to help businesses across the Midlands that want to start or expand overseas trading.

Delivered by the Department for International Trade (DIT), the Midlands Engine and the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce’s ERDF SME International Growth Project, Export Web Week (July 16-20) offers busy companies the chance to learn about exporting for the first time, build on existing export successes and discover new growth opportunities.

Businesses will be able to take part in Twitter chats and webinars, as well as gain access to export experts from DIT’s global network of British Embassies and overseas delivery partners, with whom they can identify and discuss opportunities from a wide range of countries, from the comfort of their own desk.

Ian Harrison, head of exports in the Midlands at Department for International Trade, said with 25 separate events – most of which are just one hour long – taking place across the five days, there are many chances for ambitious companies to get involved.

“As an organisation dedicated to helping businesses export, we organise dozens of events every year that provide valuable information and support. Our role is about actively engaging businesses, talking to them and introducing them to their likeminded counterparts, but we are aware that it can be difficult to commit to half a day or a day out of the office,” he said.

“For that reason, we’ve organised a series of online events that people can take part in, which will allow them to gain maximum benefit while taking less than an hour out of their working day. We think that this is an innovative approach that will be welcomed by businesses.

“There are webinars on myriad topics – from finance to finding new markets – as well as the chance to speak to trade advisers about the international support we can offer. There’s something for everyone.”

A new campaign has been launched to challenge businesses to reduce their paper usage, following recent research which found that a third of workers in the West Midlands admit to printing out unnecessary paper documents every single day.

In a survey of 1,000 employees, conducted by award-winning mobile data capture solution WorkMobile, 39% of businesses have not yet implemented a paper-less policy to try and reduce paper usage. And such a heavy reliance is having a detrimental effect not only on business costs but also on the environment.

Responding to the findings of The Death of The Paper Trail report, WorkMobile is launching a Paperless Challenge campaign to invite businesses in the worst performing sectors – construction, utilities and education – to do away with day-to-day printing, and instead, turn to digital solutions.

The challenge asks participants to undertake a one-month stint of being completely paper-free, with the aim of illustrating just how many efficiencies can be made through replacing paper in the workplace with digital versions.

To aid the process, WorkMobile is offering £500 worth of digital data capture products, along with £500 of expert consultancy to the businesses that agree to take part.

Colin Yates, chief support officer of WorkMobile, said: “It’s shocking to see just how much paper waste some businesses in the West Midlands are producing on a daily basis. Although some may see the transition to becoming paper-free as a giant task, our aim is to take the stress out of the process, providing a solution that helps companies save money, safeguard their assets and communicate effectively – all while reducing their ecological impact.

“We believe our Paperless Challenge will illustrate the many benefits of a paper-free office to those that will see the greatest impact.”

Cologne Bonn Airport has today celebrated the arrival of easyJet’s inaugural flight to Germany’s capital city. Taking the number of operations from the North Rhine-Westphalia gateway to Berlin Tegel up to at least 15 daily services, the low-cost carrier (LCC) immediately becomes the 10th largest carrier – in terms of seats – at Cologne Bonn this summer.

Commenting on the arrival of the airport’s 30th airline partner, Johan Vanneste, CEO, Cologne Bonn Airport says: “The connection between Cologne Bonn and Berlin is one of our busiest routes. We are very pleased to be able to offer our passengers even more choice on this route thanks to easyJet’s commitment.”

Marking the return of easyJet to its carrier roll call after a two-year hiatus, Cologne Bonn welcomed the first flight with a traditional cake in celebration. Adding 33 weekly flights to Germany’s largest city, the LCC significantly boosts the airport’s domestic connections, resulting in Cologne Bonn offering close to 20,000 weekly seats to Berlin Tegel in S18 (according to OAG Schedules Analyser, week commencing 10 September).

Thomas Haagensen, Group Markets Director, easyJet comments: “We are delighted to include Cologne Bonn Airport in our route network. The new route to Berlin Tegel is an attractive connection for leisure and business travellers alike.” He added: “With our extensive European and domestic route network, all with attractive and frequent flights, we have increased our share of business travellers to 75% of the DAX30 companies in Germany, and this number continues to grow. Particularly on our German domestic routes, business travellers already account for 41% of our passengers."

easyJet will be operating the 463-kilometre sector using its fleet of A320s based at Berlin Tegel and joins Eurowings’ established link to the capital.

Bay Gardens Resorts has expanded its portfolio to four hotels on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

Sanovnik Destang, Executive Director of Bay Gardens Resorts, announcing the acquisition of the 35-room Palm Haven Hotel, said it would be renamed Bay Gardens Marina Haven.

"The hotel is in an incredible location," Destang reported. "It's now our closest hotel to the Rodney Bay Marina, which is an exceptional facility for yachties as well as those looking to take advantage of numerous activities in the marina, from restaurants and bars to shopping."

The newest addition to the Bay Gardens family of hotels will re-open in mid-July after undergoing a soft renovation and staff training to align service delivery at the property with Bay Gardens' award-winning standards.

Located in St. Lucia's Rodney Bay area, Bay Gardens Resorts currently consists of three Green Globe-certified hotels: Bay Gardens Inn, Bay Gardens Hotel and Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa.

"There will be no reduction in staffing levels for Bay Gardens Marina Haven either during the period of renovation or upon its anticipated reopening in July," Destang assured.

The hotel is within a five-minute drive of Bay Gardens Inn and Bay Gardens Hotel and 10 minutes from the Beach Resort. Marina Haven guests will enjoy the full benefits of a Bay Gardens experience, including six complimentary one-hour passes to Splash Island Water Park, the use of beach chairs, the ability to charge consumption across properties to their rooms, and free non-motorized water sports. Complimentary shuttle service will be provided between all Bay Gardens Resorts facilities.

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham welcomed today’s announcement that the city is among the leading contenders to host Channel 4.

Seven cities and regions have been shortlisted to bid for the broadcasting giant’s second National HQ and/or a creative hub.

Birmingham will be competing against Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds. They will also be considered for the creative hubs. The West Midlands has been selected as a candidate for the headquarters or a creative hub, so Coventry will be included in the process.

Six smaller cities have also been shortlisted to battle to be the home of two new creative hubs. They are Belfast, Brighton, Newcastle-Gateshead, Nottingham, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent.

The winners will be announced on October 1.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “It’s good that we have passed this first hurdle, although the strength of the region’s offering means that it should no longer be a surprise.

“The Chamber, our members and the whole business community is very excited by the opportunity and we all look forward to playing our part in the next stage of the process that we hope will ultimately see C4 HQ here in the region.”

A tough new zero tolerance policy is being launched by Sandwell Council and its waste partner Serco in a bid to reduce the increasing number of employees being verbally or physically assaulted by members of the public.

It follows news that there were 35 reported incidents in a 14-month period when binmen, street cleansing employees and operatives working at the tip were verbally or physically assaulted by members of the public.

Incidents range from verbal abuse when collection vehicles are temporarily blocking the road while employees empty bins to actual physical abuse with items being thrown at crew members and workers being knocked down by drivers while working on the footpath.

One incident resulted in a prosecution for dangerous driving after a motorist drove into an operative who was at the rear of a refuse vehicle emptying a bin.

Now the waste partnership and union representatives have warned that it will not hesitate to immediately report to the police any incidence of violence and aggression to employees.

The police are increasingly taking these sorts of cases seriously and will prosecute where there is the evidence and public interest to do so.

Due to the increasing number of incidents, partners have come together including Sandwell Council, Serco and the unions GMB, Unison and Unite to agree a charter that outlines what behaviours are unacceptable and all employees will be trained to manage violence and aggression they experience in the workplace.

Councillor David Hosell, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for highways and environment, said:  “The employees deliver a very valuable service to residents in the borough.

“The level of abuse they endure from members of the public is not acceptable and I urge the residents who do this to reconsider their behaviour.

“It is not easy to manoeuvre large vehicles on busy roads and although we try to avoid extremely busy areas at peak times it is not always possible."

John Mason, contract general manager for Serco, added: “We have a duty to ensure that we carry out our services for residents in a safe way for everybody and we also have a duty to protect our employees whilst they carry out their work."

Gill Ogilvie, GMB regional organiser, and Darren James, GMB branch secretary, said: "The GMB is very pleased to have worked closely with Serco Sandwell Environmental Services."

Tony Barnsley, branch secretary for Sandwell General UNISON Branch, added: “Staff do a brilliant job keeping Sandwell borough clear of rubbish. They deserve everyone’s thanks and praise, not abuse. UNISON welcomes the message from Serco that abuse of our hardworking members will not be tolerated.”

Brian Rickers, regional officer for Unite West Midlands, said: "Unite the Union are very pleased to have worked closely with Serco Sandwell Environmental Services. The implementation shows a real desire to protect our members from abuse whilst doing a very difficult job for the public of Sandwell.

"In implementing this policy, the employer and the union have proactively made a very clear statement to members of the public that any act of aggression towards our employees will not be tolerated.

“Our members deserve not to be abused for undertaking their day to day jobs serving the people of Sandwell.”

The Certificate of Excellence honours hospitality businesses that consistently deliver great service across the world. To achieve the accolade, restaurants must maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five stars, and be listed on the website for at least twelve months.

Over the last two years, the restaurant and bar has held a five star rating on TripAdvisor, and is renowned for combining luxury and friendly service with a vibrant atmosphere.

Opened by Walsall College in 2015, the Littleton is part of its £11m business and sports hub. Headed up by AA rosette winning chefs, Steve Biggs and Paul Ingleby, the 40 seat restaurant offers a contemporary menu of British inspired cuisine, created using best-quality fresh food focusing on locally sourced ingredients.

During its first year, the Littleton was commended by ‘The Best of Walsall’ as being one of the best English restaurants in Walsall.

The restaurant has held a 5 star hygiene rating for the last two years, and has won two national Business of the Year awards.

The Littleton restaurant came second in the 'Restaurant of The Year' category and placed 51st in the whole of the UK.

Head Chef at The Littleton, Steve Biggs, said: "We are delighted to receive the Certificate of Excellence. Last year, we were ranked in the top ten of all restaurants in Walsall on the Trip Advisor website, and this year, we were named the best in the area. This is a testament to the hard work and efforts of all of our staff to ensure that we improve year on year, and give guests an outstanding dining experience.”

Littleton Supervisor, Emma Huckle, said: “We’ve received 5 star reviews since we opened in 2015. We’re delighted that diners are coming from all parts of the West Midlands and beyond. We see an eclectic mix of customers coming to the Littleton, from business people enjoying lunch and after-work drinks, to families and friends celebrating birthdays and evening meals.”

Trip Advisor commenters have described the food as ‘exquisite’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘well presented’. Staff could not be more helpful, and many say they have recommended the bistro to friends and family.

The Littleton, located in The Hub next to Walsall College’s Wisemore Campus, is also creating chefs of the future through its apprenticeship programme.

In addition, The Hub includes a 40-station gym, a multi-purpose sports hall, dance and fitness studios, spa, sports training and injury clinic, a business incubation centre for start-up businesses, as well as conference and event facilities.

Network Rail and Northern have announced they will be commissioning an independent report and recommendations into the preparations and processes leading up to the implementation of the recent timetable change. Customer groups, transport and Northern stakeholders will be invited to contribute to the report.

Since the introduction of the new timetable on Sunday 20 May, many train customers have faced delays, cancellations and overcrowding. The timetable change, the biggest in decades, is designed to boost capacity with better trains and more services in the long-term. However more immediately it has not delivered an acceptable service for customers, especially on routes around north Manchester extending up to Blackpool.

The multi-billion pound investment plan in the north will mean improved connections, shorter journey times, larger and better trains and more comfortable journeys. There will be more frequent trains delivered through track and train upgrades as part of the Great North Rail Project.

This is in addition to measures announced yesterday to tackle the current disruption.

Martin Frobisher, managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “We recognise how tough it has been for customers, particularly since the May timetable change last weekend and we’re sorry for that. We are working hard with Northern to get service back to where it needs to be. We will work as one team to achieve this.

“The independent report  will ensure lessons are learned and that there are no repeats of current problems as we prepare for the next major timetable change in December this year.”

David Brown, managing director of Northern, said: “We are doing everything we can to minimise cancellations and delays and keep our customers informed. It has been difficult for many of our customers and I am truly sorry for this.

“There is urgent work to do to fully understand what did and didn’t work on all aspects of planning and delivery of the new timetable.

“We are committed to working with Network Rail and Northern stakeholders to deliver the services our customers expect and deserve.”

Yesterday marked the official implementation day for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which has been implemented to enhance privacy for all individuals across the European Union, including the EEA countries. Another primary motive of the implementation is to further the control that citizens have over their personal data and how it is used by data collectors.

The management and protection of sensitive data has been headline news in recent weeks, particularly with Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg facing questioning from the US Government and European Parliament on how Facebook harvest users data. Companies who are GDPR compliant must be able to prove that they only store data which is relevant and for a limited period.

Julie Cunningham, President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: “GDPR can appear extremely complicated for businesses. As a Chamber, we have received a high volume of enquiries from organisations across the region with regards to both the implementation and interpretation of GDPR.

“The multi-faceted nature of the regulations and their implementation means that specific questions for some sectors may not be included in general overviews. Therefore, Black Country Chamber members with specific questions around GDPR should contact their Account Manager here at the Chamber.”

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) website has a practical section containing useful links and a rundown of changes for specific sectors, including expanded guidance on data protection. Please visit for more information.

Investing in leadership and people management skills is key to businesses boosting productivity, according to a report released by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.

The majority of respondents (98 per cent) to the Chamber’s Growth Through People: 2018 Campaign Outcomes report believe there is a clear link between investment in leadership and people management skills and improved productivity.

But 32 per cent do not feel their organisation has a clear strategy in place on investing in these skills.

The report, sponsored by South & City College Birmingham, was compiled on the back of the Chamber’s Growth Through People campaign – a month-long programme of workshops, seminars, panel discussions and thought leadership content designed to help businesses boost productivity through effective employee management.

Henrietta Brealey (pictured), director of policy and strategic relationships at GBCC, said: “Our research demonstrates that businesses in the region see a clear link between investment in leadership and people management skills and improved productivity.

“However, a significant proportion of employers are not making proactive plans in this space.

“Boosting productivity is a top priority for both local and national stakeholders. Our research suggests that improving investment in these skills should be high on the agenda in policy programmes such as the Industrial Strategy.

“It also shows that more individual businesses could benefit from investing in these skills.”

The report also identifies the main barriers preventing employers from investing in leadership and people management skills.

While budgetary concerns were a significant barrier for 31 per cent of respondents, the most commonly cited issue was lack of staff time (41 per cent).

Ms Brealey added: “For many of us, time is our most valuable asset. However, it is important for employers and employees to look beyond the short term cost of being out of the business.

“The right training and development activity can offer significant mid and long term gains in improved performance.

“We look forward to the return of our Growth Through People campaign in 2019 where we’ll be giving local employers access to opportunities to “try out” relevant training and professional development sessions free of charge.”

Mike Hopkins, Principal of South & City College Birmingham, said: “The Growth Through People campaign confirms the importance of effective leadership and management to our economy and its importance to the productivity agenda.

“The campaign also identifies the need for these skills to be constantly updated given the wide-ranging challenges businesses face.

“South and City College Birmingham has already recognised this challenge and has been working closely with the Chartered Institute of Management to provide a portfolio of high quality courses, online learning materials and Management Apprenticeships.

“The Business Services Team is ready to provide easy access support that can really make a difference.”

The 2018 Growth Through People campaign comprised 17 free-to-access workshops and thought leadership events, alongside informative content. It was attended by more than 450 delegates.

Delegate feedback demonstrated the impact the campaign had on participating employers:

·         9/10 learned something new that they intended to apply in their own organisation

·         95 per cent would be likely to attend future Growth Through People events

·         93 per cent felt the event they attended met their expectations

Recruitment continues to be a major concern for businesses across the West Midlands, a new regional survey reveals.

The newly-launched West Midlands Quarterly Economic Snapshot offers an up-to-date picture of business performance and is now the most comprehensive regular report of its kind in the region.

The findings are drawn from official statistics sourced from various bodies, including IHS/Markit CIPs and the Office of National Statistics along with data gathered from quarterly economic surveys by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

The surveys comprise information gathered from local businesses on key indicators such as sales, exports, recruitment plans and turnover projections.

In total, just under a thousand businesses completed the survey with 72 per cent of them operating in the services sector and 28per cent in the manufacturing sector.

The biggest problem concerned recruitment trends with 50 per cent of firms saying they faced difficulties. Broken down, 63 per cent of manufacturers and 45 per cent of service firms said they faced labour problems.

However, there was brighter news with 67 per cent of all firms expecting their turnover to increase in the next 12 months and 62 per cent predicting profit levels to rise.

Thirty per cent reported an increase in export sales whereas 11 per cent recording a decrease.  Fifty-nine per cent expected their overseas orders to stay the same for Q1.

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “The data from the Snapshot offers an interesting compliment to the official employment statistics for the West Midlands.

“Based on just under a thousand responses from businesses across the region, half of the firms surveyed faced recruitment difficulties and almost two thirds of manufacturers that attempted to recruit encountered problems– businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire were particularly affected.

“Once again, this points to skills shortages continuing to affect local firms’ ability to source the right people for the right roles.”

Corin Crane, chief executive of Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is good news that a relatively low figure of 11 per cent of firms reported a decrease in export sales in Q1 2018.

“With Brexit negotiations moving on to what a future trading relationship will look like between the UK and EU, the nitty gritty of trade specifics and the guarantee of a two-year implementation period, businesses can now benefit from genuine clarity from the Government.”

Louise Bennett, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber, said: “It is good to see, throughout the Quarterly Economic Snapshot, that our West Midlands businesses are feeling confident and resilient, despite some economic and political uncertainty, notably Brexit.

“Confidence across the professional, financial and services sectors is less notable than the manufacturing sector, but relatively strong compared to other parts of the UK. In particular, these sectors have the opportunity to grow through investment in leadership and management and skills and looking at diversified export potential.”

Eurostar, the high-speed rail operator connecting the UK with mainland Europe, has reported a 24% surge in inbound bookings for this coming weekend, with thousands of fans and well-wishers expected to travel to the UK to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot.*
Friday 18th May is the busiest day for travel to the UK, with over 10,000 passengers arriving in London by Eurostar. The Brussels route has seen the biggest uplift in traffic, with 54% more passengers compared to the same weekend in 2017.

Liv Garfield, Chief Executive of water company Severn Trent, was named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year at a special ceremony last night.

The 42-year-old, who has been in charge of the company, which serves eight million people in the Midlands and north and mid-Wales, since 2014 was the FTSE 100’s youngest ever female CEO.

The judging panel outlined Liv’s strong customer-focused approach and business acumen as two reasons as to why she won the award.

Since taking over, she has ensured the business has a strong customer focus while also making sure she has championed diversity, inclusion and engagement. That focus has led to Severn Trent being named in the Social Mobility Index, taking a leading role in considering the needs of women entering, or in, menopause and also signing up to the Dying to Work charter to better help employees with a terminal diagnosis.

“This is an incredible honour, not only because I remember taking a huge amount of inspiration from some of the previous winners of this award but also because of the awesome story of Madame Clicquot herself, who was a strong role model at a time when women in business were almost unheard of,” said Liv.

“I truly am delighted but also a little humbled – I know I wouldn’t have been able to win this award without the help and support of absolutely everyone at Severn Trent who works to keep customers’ water flowing every second of every day, so this is as much a win for them as it is for me.”

Ruth Chapman, Founder, Matches Fashion was announced as the runner-up for the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award.

City of Wolverhampton’s new city centre market will open for business on Tuesday, July 17, with an official opening event four days’ later.

The city council is relocating the market from its current Market Square base.

Southside will be its new home, where it will boast 20 cabins and 48 stalls, fronting Cleveland Street.

It will offer the flexibility to trade from bigger cabins, event space, a secure site with measures in place to combat hostile vehicles while still allowing access for traders to load and unload, CCTV, integrated lighting and power, free WiFi, canopy-covered walkways, offices, customer toilets, and comprehensive parking and storage facilities.

The new market will also provide increased footfall from the Wulfrun Centre and transport Interchange, as well as situating the market in a student catchment area.

Councillor Steve Evans, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Environment, said: “We are delighted to confirm the new city centre market will open in July.

“The current market traders have been accommodated and based on the expressions of interest we’ve received, we expect occupancy at the new market to be close to 100 per cent once it is open.

“The addition of new traders will provide a more varied range of sales lines to differentiate it from a traditional market offer.

“The new market, partly funded by the sale of Market Square as part of the Westside scheme, has loads of potential – and we want this to be the people’s market, where events are also encouraged.

“It will prove a major asset to the city centre.”

The market move will see 48 tented stalls and 16 purpose-built cabins transferred from Market Square in phases.

The Market Square location is to be absorbed into the new £55 million leisure-led Westside development by developer Urban&Civic.

This will deliver a multi-screen cinema, restaurants, bars, hotel, multi-storey car park, apartments, and public realm to the heart of the city centre, in two phases, over five years.

The city centre market is one of three markets in Wolverhampton, with Bilston and Wednesfield markets also popular places to shop.

The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience, set up by leisure and attractions company, Little Lion Entertainment, is firmly focused on the future as it welcomes a new Managing Director, Glen Mintrim, to help further grow the brand and drive it forward.

Since opening its London site in 2016, following a successful crowdfunding campaign, The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience has only increased in popularity with those travelling across the country to experience the 90’s nostalgia. This surge in bookings led to the Crystal Maze LIVE Experience opening in Manchester on 1st April 2017 to enable more people to work against the clock to solve both mental and physical challenges to win crystals in each of the four themed zones.

Glen Mintrim, former managing director of STA Travel’s UK business, will take the helm with a focus on experience operations to exceed Crystal Maze LIVE’s commercial success, particularly in the competitive corporate event industry.

Keen to hit the ground running in his new role, Glen comments: “Being a part of such a unique company is a welcomed challenge; I’m ready to get stuck in. Seeing how quickly The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience has become so well-known indicates that there are only good things to come.

“In the 90’s I loved the TV show so it was a dream to race through the Aztec zone and try to grab those crystals! Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to make it onto the leaderboard - maybe next time!”

Having previously worked at companies such as Emirates, TUI and British Airways, Glen is eager to put down roots in Manchester after travelling around the world and studying in both Dubai and South Africa.

Welcoming Glen’s appointment, CEO Tom Lionetti-Maguire said: “We are excited to have Glen joining the Little Lion Entertainment Family. We are not a big faceless corporation, so one of our main focuses with That Crystal Maze LIVE Experience brand is that we are a team because every employee matters, and has such a key role to play, which is especially true in Glen’s case.

“As our Manchester site reaches its first birthday, it’s all hands on deck to ensure our growth continues so we look forward to Glen’s input, especially with his worldwide business exposure. We’re excited to see what the next year brings – be sure to expect unexpected news!’

Four full themed adventure zones, a crystal dome and over 30 maze masters at each site ensure the ultimate experience as groups of eight enter the maze every seven minutes. As of late, The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience has seen a growth in commercial bookings of both sites for corporate away days as more companies are searching for a unique experience to further team bonding.

More than 20 West Midlands companies have made their first steps towards trading with countries in South East Asia after meeting export experts who flew in from the region.

The Fast-Track Your Growth in South East Asia event saw more than 70 one-to-one meetings take place in Birmingham between a wide range of local companies and trade advisers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Organised by the ERDF SME International Growth Project and Britain in South East Asia (BiSEA), the event was hailed a success as the experts said a number of businesses were already in a good position to start – or grow – their exports in the next financial year.

Peter Rimmer, executive director of the British Business Group Vietnam, said: “It has been a really useful event, seeing a good selection of clients, some who are very ready to start trading, while others will need a little longer to begin.”

Olivia Widen, of the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore, said: “The UK’s key strengths are in areas such as education, technology, healthcare, aerospace and renewable energy. There’s a misconception about the difficulties of accessing the South East Asia markets, but it is far easier than China, for example.”

Andy Smith, International Relationships Manager for the ERDF SME International Growth Project, said: “Local businesses are really opening up to the possibilities in the South East Asia region, which is the fastest-growing in the world. We were pleased to see so many companies from many sectors who have the ambition to see what opportunities there are.

“There’s no substitute for speaking to the trade advisers from the regions because they have the expertise and contacts to help them get on the right route for exporting.”