Fo­cus on: The Gulf

The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents -

The Ara­bian Gulf is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rapid growth in vis­i­tor num­bers while op­por­tu­ni­ties for Uk-based busi­nesses are also plen­ti­ful. Ben­jamin Coren looks at five key des­ti­na­tions across the re­gion The Gulf is syn­ony­mous with arid deserts and vast re­serves of crude oil, but the re­gion's key ci­ties – in­clud­ing Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Doha, Mus­cat and Riyadh – are vi­brant cen­tres of com­merce and im­por­tant trad­ing part­ners of the UK.

The di­verse re­gion com­prises the na­tions of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates.

And with Brexit loom­ing, the UK is work­ing to strengthen links with trad­ing part­ners in the re­gion. Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May upped the ante in Novem­ber when she vis­ited the Mid­dle East to hold talks with Jor­dan and Saudi Ara­bia, but the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) is the UK'S largest civil ex­port market in the re­gion cur­rently.

The UAE has diver­si­fied its econ­omy away from 'black gold', with non-oil sec­tors now con­tribut­ing to around 70% of its GDP. And the emi­rates' econ­omy con­tin­ues to grow thanks to well-estab­lished in­fra­struc­ture, a stable po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, thriv­ing tourism and on­go­ing de­vel­op­ments in key ci­ties – and re­gional ri­vals – Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Among the big Bri­tish com­pa­nies cur­rently op­er­at­ing in the UAE are Rolls Royce, BP, Shell, BAE Sys­tems and HSBC – but the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade (DTI) says op­por­tu­ni­ties abound in ed­u­ca­tion, pro­fes­sional ser­vices, health­care, in­fra­struc­ture and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Saudi Ara­bia, mean­while, is the largest econ­omy in the re­gion and is the UK’S big­gest trad­ing part­ner in the Mid­dle East. Fol­low­ing the launch of Vi­sion 2030 and the Na­tional Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gramme to di­ver­sify its econ­omy and de­velop pub­lic sec­tor ser­vices, there is re­newed ap­petite for over­seas skills,

par­tic­u­larly in con­struc­tion, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, petro­chem­i­cals and au­to­mo­bile assem­bly.

Qatar is one of the rich­est coun­tries in the world and is set to in­vest up to £140bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture over the next seven years, many of the projects com­ing as a re­sult of host­ing the foot­ball World Cup in 2022.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre (ITC), Qatar’s top im­port in­dus­tries in­clude air­craft, ma­chin­ery, ve­hi­cles, com­modi­ties, gems and plas­tics.

It also has sig­nif­i­cant oil and gas re­serves with en­ergy pro­duc­tion per head dwarf­ing other Gulf coun­tries.

Diminu­tive Bahrain is ranked by the In­dex of Eco­nomic Free­dom as hav­ing the freest econ­omy in the Mid­dle East, and the King­dom is a sig­nif­i­cant bank­ing, fi­nan­cial ser­vices and hu­man re­source devel­op­ment and train­ing cen­tre in the Gulf.

Though much of its growth is de­rived from the oil sec­tor, non-oil sec­tors have been steadily grow­ing with no­table con­trib­u­tors to GDP be­ing fi­nan­cial ser­vices, trans­port, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion.

Oman, too, thrives on its nat­u­ral re­sources, with the en­ergy sec­tor de­liv­er­ing over 50% of the coun­try’s GDP and some 75% of its ex­port earn­ings.

The UK is cur­rently Oman’s big­gest for­eign in­vestor and eco­nomic growth for the na­tion is ex­pected to show im­proved num­bers in 2018. Open­ings for Bri­tish com­pa­nies lie in ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments as it ploughs over £50bil­lion into new ports, air­ports, roads, ho­tels and re­sorts.

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