untitled (14)The New Lunar Year starts on January 31, and following from the Year of the Snake (2013) comes the Year of the Horse in Chinese Astrology.

According to Astrologists, the Year of the Horse is about an external display of pomp, preening and grooming. The horse is about being quick witted, sharp and intelligent. For many Chinese this will be an opportunity to express themselves more independently than in 2013, a year that was about collaborative working and effort.

Apparently in China, this means that even more Chinese people will be out and about attending theatres, concerts and other external events. There is a consideration that their population will generally be more overt. For more information please go to http://www.chinese-astrology.co.uk/horse.html

So what does this signal for the UK?

Well we can make a safe assumption that the increasing rate of tourists from China will not slow down. Both for pleasure and for business. And after our Prime Ministers visit to China in December and George Osbornes visit earlier in 2013 with a trade delegation there has been a very clear message given to those willing – that the UK will be open for their money, their business and their visitors in 2014. In fact we are going so far to attract our Chinese visitors that a recent announcement from Maria Miller (Secretary of State for culture, media and sport) Visit Britain has four aims specifically to;

1) Provide a world-leading welcome to Chinese visitors, such as Mandarin speaking staff, translated websites and visitor information.

2) Recognise and meet the distinct cultural needs and expectations of Chinese visitors.

3) Cooperate, as a united industry, to identify the opportunities to make Britain the most welcoming European destination for Chinese visitors.

4) Monitor and measure the perception and reality of our welcome, and make improvements.

Full article can be seen on Visit Britain’s web site here http://www.visitbritain.org/opportunitiesadvice/chinawelcomecharter/Index.aspx

So what relevance does this have for SME’s here in the UK and in particular Wales?

2014 will be a significant year here in Wales for a number of reasons.

Culturally because it is the Dylan Thomas Centenary year and this will attract a significant amount of overseas tourism not just from North America but also Asia. For businesses that are involved with the Dylan Thomas Centenary year this can only be a positive that the UK has opened it’s doors, rolled out the red carpet and embraces the visiting Chinese. The Hotels and Restaurants of Laugharne should enjoy a record year and cement the legacy of someone and something very special in the memories of far reaching tourist places.

Even on the sporting field Wales will benefit from increased Chinese viewing figures of the Premier League via internet TV. The Premier League didn’t get off to a great start in China, by signing a three year deal in 2007 with a Pay Per View TV company. This decimated viewing figures from anything up 300m viewers down to just thousands. Since the deal has expired, and the rise of Internet TV channels, the viewing figures have increased back to the figures of old and with both Swansea and Cardiff being exposed to that volume of Chinese people this can only be beneficial in raising awareness of clubs and cities outside of England. The shirt sponsor of Swansea is the Hong Kong based Financial Services group Goldenway and this also is bringing greater exposure of Swansea to the Chinese. Now with the great Michael Laudrup in his second season, and the former Old Trafford great Ole Gunnary Solskaer Wales have two iconic international football managers with great appeal to the Chinese football following public.

And turning to the business marketplace in Wales – we are aware of the need for inward investment for infrastructure projects such as the Severn Estuary barrage and the Tidal Lagoon Project here in Swansea. Perhaps Chinese funds may find their way to enabling these projects to come to fruition. We also have some of the UKs greatest deep water ports on our welsh coastline bringing in and taking out raw materials and products to and from the Western and Asian economies. Offshore wind has taken a knock recently however the opportunity to invest in these new sources of energy still exist alongside increasing our nuclear power output. Will these projects be rewarding enough for the Chinese investors or will they turn their attention to our mid size enterprises, undertaking buy and build strategies absorbing our creative industries, manufacturers and technical expertise? It is apparent that our knowledge is a sought after commodity, and a fair bit of that knowledge and specialism sits in some of our most successful SMEs servicing parts of Asia now.

So be ready, the Chinese are coming in increasing numbers. In a year that will see an increasing keenness for external engagement by a booming nation demographically and economically our nation must also groom itself in readiness for the opportunity that this may bring. A well groomed horse attracts a lot of attention, but also needs some green, green grass for sustenance.