Are business and leisure travel indicative of a city’s importance on the world stage? On the tube to Heathrow Airport recently, I was struck by the array of languages and backgrounds around me: people from across the world, some involved in fast conversations in a language I didn’t understand and some sharing tips with fellow passengers. The world’s epicentres of economic power may be shifting, but it’s hard to imagine London ever losing its status as a crossroads for business and leisure travellers alike.
A recent report, the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Global Destination Cities, measured the amount of international travel and cross-border expenditure in 132 cities and placed London first overall, with 20.1 million inbound passengers and cross-border spending of US$25.6 billion expected in 2011. The report’s premise is that international travel has positive, intricate effects on the local economy, fuelling not just tourism-related industries but transportation, retail, marketing and advertising. London’s position was seen by London Mayor Boris Johnson as evidence of London’s continued global importance. He stated: “London has yet again proved it is the epicentre of global trade and the best world city to do business with.”
London has several qualities which make it a vital meeting point for global business. Language is perhaps the most obvious, but location is another. London’s position not only makes it a great meeting place for travellers from east and west, but its time zone enables anyone doing business here to communicate with both Asia and North America during the working day. We see this on a regular basis at SilverDoor: because we’re based a 15 minute drive from Heathrow Airport, it’s easy for property partners and clients to visit us wherever in the world they’re from. Our proximity to the airport also allows us to travel quickly and easily to visit property partners abroad.
Reuters reporter Toby Melville asked the report’s author, Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, how much London’s location contributed to its position. Hedrick-Wong argued that its power also lies in the diversity of its visitors: “The top 40 origin cities for London account for only 60 percent of its arrivals (and less for cross-border expenditure); for New York, this figure is 80-85 percent. That tells you how strong London is, in terms of the network effect.”
This variety should provide London with a more robust defence against economic instability, but the report is unlikely to appease those concerned that the city’s economic importance is in long-term decline. However, Hedrick-Wong sees a different future for cities which, like the UK’s capital, have a wealth of cultural and historical riches at their disposal. Of Barcelona, which topped the list according to global arrivals, he explains: “In the last 10 years, Barcelona has leveraged its strong position as a tourist destination, and its cultural heritage, and topped this with initiatives like creating a convention hub focused on creative, high-tech industries. These sectors obviously find resonance with Barcelona’s quirky cultural heritage. It’s very difficult for other cities to replicate this.”
Even in times of slow economic growth, London’s attracts and inspires creative minds from across the country and around the world, and its creative history is written into its fabric, from its architecture and public spaces to its nightlife, bars and galleries. The links between the inventiveness of areas in London and their business output is evidenced by the development of areas such as east London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’, aka Old Street Roundabout, which has become a hub for high-tech industry. So there’s plenty of reason to think that, should the city take advantage of its historical and cultural wealth – as well as its location – it could retain its importance as a world business hub. Make sure you stay ahead of the curve with a stay at one of SilverDoor’s serviced apartments in London the next time you need to visit the city.