The North is better connected to the United States than ever before, leaving it well placed to capitalise on trans-Atlantic economic opportunities.
The US is the UK’s single largest trading partner, accounting for around a fifth of all UK exports, worth more than £100billion in 2016 alone. Of those exports, the majority were services, including travel which is one of the top five British service exports to the US along with telecoms and financial services.
The number of American tourists visiting the UK is also set to grow this year. According to VisitBritain there will about 4.1m visit from US tourists this year, an increase of 18% on 2016. The North West is the fastest growing region in the UK for American tourists, growing at 21% year on year (Jan-Sept 16 vs Jan-Sept 17).
Fresh data shows the North’s primary international gateway – Manchester Airport – saw the number of passengers travelling across the pond increase by 7% in the past financial year – nearly double the national average.
It is now the sixth largest airport in Europe for passengers travelling to America, with 13 separate routes operating, the most recent to launch in May was Seattle with Thomas Cook Airlines.
It is latest route to be added from Manchester, with the likes of San Francisco, Boston, Houston and Los Angeles having launched in recent years. Manchester is the only airport outside of London to offer such connections.
The growth in US connectivity is helping nurture key sectors, such as tech, life sciences and energy, by connecting the North with global centres of excellence in these fields.
There is no better example of this than the Northern Powerhouse delegation which flew to Boston last month to attend the 2018 Bio Conference with UK Trade Minister Baroness Fairhead. Among the delegation were the North Health Science Alliance and leading academics, including from the University of York and Liverpool, who showcased their knowledge and expertise in research and development.
Having a direct flight from Manchester to Boston is key to connectivity between the Northern Powerhouse and high potential markets in the US, stimulating research and development and driving growth on both sides of the Atlantic in the process.
And this is playing through in data that shows the US accounted for 27% of inward investment projects and 15% of jobs created in Manchester in 2017/18. The number of American tourists visiting the North West also grew by 21%, the largest growth of all UK regions, aided by the connectivity and a pan-Northern marketing campaign in the States. Yorkshire, which is also part of Manchester Airport’s vast catchment area saw an 11% growth from USA visitors. The US is the UK’s most valuable inbound visitor market, worth about £3.4 billion (in 2016).
In terms of the most popular routes for Northern travellers, the number one destination is Orlando, followed by New York and Las Vegas, with San Francisco and Boston entering the top 10 this year as new services have been added.
As well as a huge leisure market to the USA, 11% of passengers go on business. The airport’s continued growth across the West and East coasts has unlocked a wealth of economic and trade opportunities in recent years. A prime example being San Francisco, served by both Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook Airlines. When the route launched in 2017 a 30-strong trade tech delegation flew out to Silicon Valley to forge relationships with key US companies.
International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP, said: “The Northern Powerhouse is the government’s vision for a super-connected, globally-competitive northern economy with a flourishing private sector and highly-skilled population ready to take its place on the world stage. Manchester Airport’s connectivity with the US makes it even easier for Northern companies to do business with their American counterparts and I’m pleased to see Seattle added to the list of direct flight destinations.
“DIT will always support businesses in accessing global opportunities through a wide range of support such as our award-winning export credit agency, UK Export Finance, GREAT.gov.uk and our International Trade Advisors.”
Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, said: “Our continued growth to the USA is testament to the fact people want to fly direct from the North, rather than going via other airports.
“It is incredibly pleasing to see that Manchester is above the average growth rate to the USA and our position in Europe is excellent. It cements our position as the hub for the North and the global gateway to the world.
“Our growth is a massive benefit to the entire region, as well as journey time savings, our routes unlock a host of business and economic opportunities, as we plug Manchester into key US cities and destinations.”
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates, said: “Inbound tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and we want to provide a world-class experience to the millions of visitors who travel here every year, more than 70% of whom arrive by air.
“We also want visitors to explore more of the country and making it easier for them to get here by increasing route connectivity and seat-capacity into key northern gateways such as Manchester is a crucial part of our competitive tourism offer.”
Sheona Southern, Managing Director at Marketing Manchester, said: “The US is a vital market for Greater Manchester and a key player in the region’s international growth ambitions. In tourism terms the US is responsible for the second highest number of international visitors to Manchester, just behind Ireland, with visitor spend providing a huge economic boost to the region’s businesses.
“Much of this popularity is of course due to the direct connectivity provided by Manchester Airport. We’re pleased to see that this connectivity has grown steadily, and that we can look forward to welcoming yet more US visitors, investors, and students to our unique region.
“Marketing Manchester will continue its work to support direct routes from major US cities, working in-market across the US to promote Greater Manchester as an amazing place to visit, meet, invest and study.”
Dr Hakim Yadi OBE, CEO of the Northern Health Science Alliance, said: “The Northern Health Science Alliance was delighted to bring out a delegation of UK experts to BIO International Convention in the US, where over 200 leaders from the international life sciences business community attended our events with the Northern Powerhouse.
“The North of England has world-leading expertise across a number of areas in health science, including antimicrobial resistance, digital health and cancer.
“Our health innovation system of industry, researchers and access to the NHS in the North offers huge potential to investment from across the globe which is why it is so important to have a presence at international conferences such as BIO.
“Direct access for those travelling to and from the US is hugely important when establishing those working relationships so to have a global airport such as Manchester is of great importance when working at an international level.”
Seven carriers fly direct to the USA from Manchester Airport with Thomas Cook Airlines and Virgin Atlantic having the most capacity.
Paul Hutchings, Managing Director of Operations at Thomas Cook Airlines, said: “We are proud to call Manchester our UK home. Our Seattle launch last month takes our total number of US destinations from Manchester airport to seven, making us the airport’s largest long-haul carrier.
“We are pleased to see the growing demand to fly direct to the States from the North. Our 2018 Thomas Cook Holiday Report ranked the USA in the top five destinations for Summer 18, we have increased our New York flights to daily and San Francisco, where sales are up 54 per cent, to three times a week.
“We look forward to continued growth from Manchester and with three million seats on sale this year to all our routes, we have the perfect trip for all passengers wanting to go either short or long haul from Manchester.”
Shai Weiss, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: “Our flights from Manchester are hugely important to Virgin Atlantic. Our customers often tell us they love our direct flights to the USA, so I’m delighted we’re able to continue our recent growth and offer more seats from the city than ever before.”
Professor Steve Flint, Associate Vice President – Internationalisation at the University of Manchester: “Direct long-haul air routes from Manchester airport are a major help to the University of Manchester, both in terms of delivering our UK-leading number of overseas students but also for our global research connectivity.
“For the United States, we value enormously the direct flights to Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Houston, both as important destinations for research collaborators in universities and industry but also as convenient connection airports for travel to universities countrywide. These direct routes also help to raise awareness of the NW of England, its Universities, businesses and tourist opportunities for American friends and collaborators.”