Manch­ester busi­nesses re­cov­er­ing af­ter at­tack im­pact

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BUSINESS -

Like other ter­ror at­tacks in Europe: Lon­don, Paris and Brus­sels, Manch­ester was fun­da­men­tally a hu­man tragedy. But even in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, Manch­ester was res­o­lute that it would carry on; it was "busi­ness as usual". Growth in pro­fes­sional ser­vices, tourism and the bur­geon­ing tech sec­tor over re­cent years means it is now the UK's sec­ond city in terms of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

How­ever, busi­nesses in the area near to the Manch­ester Arena said they ex­pe­ri­enced a no­tice­able drop in trade fol­low­ing the event on 22 May in which 22 peo­ple were killed. Howard Burns, who runs a jew­ellery busi­ness that has been in the city since the late 1800s, says that in the days im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the at­tack "there was no one shop­ping here".

"I think that the re­tail busi­ness in Manch­ester dropped off an aw­ful lot just af­ter the bomb be­cause peo­ple were wor­ried to come into Manch­ester.

"Some peo­ple were fright­ened of be­ing in a crowded area, some peo­ple were just scared of any­one with a ruck­sack on their back, and any­one who acted sus­pi­ciously."

Manch­ester City Coun­cil says it had of­fered sup­port to firms clos­est to the arena, in­clud­ing busi­ness rate re­lief.

Cllr John Flana­gan, Manch­ester City Coun­cil's ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber for fi­nance, says: "Busi­nesses within the in­ner cor­don were im­pacted most acutely, and we have been in con­ver­sa­tion since the at­tack to sup­port them, in­clud­ing busi­ness rate re­lief, and the Manch­ester Busi­ness Con­ti­nu­ity Fo­rum has been up­dat­ing and re­view­ing their con­ti­nu­ity plans."

He added that the coun­cil and tourism groups would "con­tinue pro­mot­ing the city as a key UK des­ti­na­tion, and to make sure vis­i­tor per­cep­tions are not af­fected in the longterm".

Cer­tainly in Paris, the tourism sec­tor re­ported a sharp fall in the num­ber of vis­i­tors to the city fol­low­ing the at­tacks in 2015.

Fewer tourists meant lost busi­ness for restau­rants, shops, tourist at­trac­tions and trans­port.

Chris­tian Spence, head of re­search and pol­icy at Greater Manch­ester Cham­ber of Com­merce, says: "Broadly . . . we don't ex­pect any­thing in the long term; cer­tainly not be­yond some of the com­pa­ra­bles we've seen in other cities who've faced sim­i­lar in­ci­dents."

Manch­ester's eco­nomic data for the sum­mer months will not be avail­able "for a long time", but cham­ber mem­bers ex­pect the im­pact on busi­nesses in the city to be short-lived, Mr Spence adds.

Ac­cord­ing to its lat­est Quar­terly Eco­nomic Sur­vey, the city's Cham­ber of Com­merce is pre­dict­ing that UK growth will be 1.6% this year and 1.5% in 2018, while growth in Greater Manch­ester will be 3.25%.

Mr. Spence says: "For those busi­nesses that were clos­est to the ter­ror site it­self, of course there was a colos­sal im­pact in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, which lasted for around a week as the cor­don stayed in place.

"Oth­er­wise more widely the ma­jor im­pact will have been around our con­fer­ence and ho­tel fa­cil­i­ties. That's a rel­a­tively short-term im­pact . . . but it will have hit some of those busi­nesses.

Af­ter Lon­don, among Bri­tish vis­i­tors, Manch­ester is the sec­ond most vis­ited city in the UK.

The tourist econ­omy is worth around £7.5bn to the Greater Manch­ester re­gion. Tourism was a sec­tor that felt an im­me­di­ate im­pact fol­low­ing the May at­tack.

The gen­eral man­ager of the Lowry Ho­tel, Adrian El­lis, says: "Our ho­tel, and along with the other ho­tels in the city, lost a con­sid­er­able amount of busi­ness, mostly with con­certs can­celling be­cause the arena was closed and still is closed."

The Manch­ester Arena is due to re­open in Septem­ber 2017. Con­certs by acts in­clud­ing Ce­line Dion, Ra­dio­head, Bros and Blink-182 have been can­celled or re­ar­ranged. Mr. El­lis, who is also chair of Manch­ester Hote­liers' As­so­ci­a­tion (MHA), said the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor was notic­ing an im­prove­ment now.

Per­haps in­evitably, other mu­sic venues were af­fected too.

One of those to ex­pe­ri­ence a no­tice­able drop in vis­i­tors was the iconic Band on The Wall club, run by chief ex­ec­u­tive, Gavin Sharp.

He says: "Prob­a­bly the best ex­am­ple is Craig Charles, who plays with us the last Satur­day every month . . . it al­ways sells out; it's quite a main­stream, broad au­di­ence.

"The Satur­day af­ter the bomb was Craig's show and it didn't get to sell out that time, and in fact 60 peo­ple who had bought tick­ets didn't turn up for the show, so even though they'd spent the money they de­cided they weren't go­ing to come into the city cen­tre."

But the mood in the city is op­ti­mistic, par­tic­u­larly among those in the tech sec­tor. It is Manch­ester's fastest grow­ing in­dus­try.

Katie Gal­lacher, head of Manch­ester Dig­i­tal, says the in­dus­try had been rel­a­tively im­mune to events. She and many oth­ers in her sec­tor are try­ing to en­cour­age dig­i­tal and tech pro­fes­sion­als to re­lo­cate to Manch­ester.

"We're still see­ing com­pa­nies re­lo­cat­ing here. It's a re­ally great place to be, and the com­mu­nity's stronger than ever."

--- BBC

Busi­ness groups in Manch­ester ex­pect the fi­nan­cial im­pact on the city to be short-lived. (Getty Images)

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