Birmingham at night
According to the report, the city’s visitor economy was worth £7.1 billion in 2017, up 9.2 per cent on the previous record set in 2016.

Visitor numbers have soared in Birmingham and the West Midlands, putting the region on the brink of a “triumphant return to the world stage”, a major new report published by the University of Birmingham's City-Region Economic Development Institute (REDI) has revealed.

The report is the third annual Birmingham Economic Review, produced by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) and City-REDI, which aims to accelerate economic growth in the West Midlands.

The report includes detailed data and analysis of Birmingham’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This year’s report highlights the changing perception of the city and the West Midlands, as an increasingly attractive place for investors and visitors. The West Midlands is the UK’s leading region outside of London and the South East for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), according to figures from the Department for International Trade.

In 2018/19 there were 171 new FDI projects in the West Midlands, creating 9,424 new jobs.

Fifty seven of those investments were in Birmingham, creating 1,521 jobs.

However the number of new jobs created by these investments has decreased, as the number of jobs created in 2018/19 was lower than in any year since 2011/12.

The majority of FDI projects were in the information, technology, and engineering and business, professional and financial services sectors.

The USA was the largest source of investment into Birmingham. This year’s report cites India is the second largest source of FDI in Birmingham instead. Investments from Germany have typically been the largest source of FDI in Birmingham for several years, however investment from the country into the city has sharply declined.

The report points to issues relating to Brexit-related uncertainty as the source of the decrease. Birmingham’s visitor economy has ballooned in both numbers and value. According to the report, the city’s visitor economy was worth £7.1 billion in 2017, up 9.2 per cent on the previous record set in 2016.

The number of full-time jobs supported by tourism industry rose by 7.2 per cent between 2016 and 2017, from 70,635 to 75,748. Since 2009, the economic impact of Birmingham’s visitor economy has increased by over half – to £2.5 billion.

The report, for the third year, also recognised the city’s dwindling employment rate. Birmingham’s employment rate is estimated at 65.3 per cent for 2018, below the national rate of 75 per cent. Unemployment rate also remains high in the city, at 7.8 per cent for those aged 16-64, almost double the national rate of 4.3 per cent.

However, the report says that the working age population in Birmingham is significantly more diverse than the rest of the UK. According to the latest data from the Annual Population Survey used in the report, 40.2 per cent of Birmingham’s population is non-white, making the city the most diverse of all the English core cities.

The report says that the diverse population offers a number of benefits to the city and wider West Midlands region, including international connections, a variety of languages, and a vibrant blend of different cultures.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of GBCC, said: “Our fourth annual Birmingham Economic Review demonstrates that Birmingham is on the brink of a triumphant return to the world stage.

“With a number of international spotlights due to be shone on the city and the region, including the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture 2021, this report provides a great amount of information on how Birmingham and the West Midlands is faring.

“Although there are significant up-hill challenges to face, including the impact of Brexit, adapting to the Clean Air Zone, rising congestion and threats to the completion of the HS2 project in full, this region remains ambitious and resilient.”

Simon Collinson, deputy pro-vice chancellor for regional economic engagement and director of City-REDI, University of Birmingham, said: “This report highlights continued growth momentum in our region, with increased GVA and FDI in the West Midlands and strengthened regional outcomes for innovation and infrastructure investments.

“In these time of uncertainty however, we face a tough challenge; to maintain the growth momentum while rebalancing our regional economy, or risk leaving more households behind.  

“For these reasons, we have a specific focus in this year’s Birmingham Economic Review on inclusive growth, with data and discussion on skills, employment and communities.”

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