A report by the British Council shows that culture is key to commerce – with people overseas who have experienced UK culture significantly more interested in doing business with the UK, and rating the country more highly as a business destination.
The British Council’s Culture Means Business report draws on research by Ipsos MORI and YouGov in ten key overseas economies including Brazil, Russia, India and China. Researchers spoke to more than 10,000 educated young people (16-34) - the potential business leaders of tomorrow.
In all countries, people who have been involved in activities including learning English, experiencing UK arts, or studying for UK qualifications, have a greater interest in doing business with the UK than those with no significant experience of UK culture. On average across all the countries, the level of interest is 11 percentage points higher - 44% versus 33%.
The most marked difference is in Russia, where 52% of people with experience of UK culture are interested in doing business with the UK, compared with only 31% of people with no cultural ties. Thailand shows the second greatest gap – 59% versus 42% – followed by Turkey and Spain, with a difference of 15 percentage points.
The report also highlights the continuing need for improved links with Pakistan. Only 8% of Pakistanis with no experience of UK culture are interested in doing business with the UK – and, even among those who have experienced UK culture, the number is only 9%.
Other key findings of the report include:
- 50% of the young people questioned worldwide are interested in studying in the UK
- 61% are interested in visiting the UK as a tourist.
The Culture Means Business report reinforces recent comments by UK Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, who said in a speech at the British Museum: “Culture is able to deliver things which few other sectors can […] It allows us to build international relationships forging a foundation for the trade deals of tomorrow; it cultivates the creativity which underpins our wider industrial efforts.”
John Worne, the British Council’s Director of Strategy, said: “It’s a fact that the English language, the UK’s arts, culture, education and qualifications are big engines driving UK attractiveness as a place to visit, study and do business. Maria Miller asked for evidence, and the British Council is proud to be able to show that the UK’s educational and cultural sector is delivering for her, for culture, for business and for the UK economy.
“What this report underlines is that it’s not a choice between culture or business - they are two sides of the same coin. As well as being big businesses in themselves, UK culture and education do a great job for the whole of UK plc, opening doors and attracting talent, trade and tourism. The constant challenge is to turn the UK’s ‘soft power’ into hard exports and convert willing audiences around the world into business partners and paying customers.”
A report compiled for the Arts Council this month shows that art and culture make up 0.4% of UK GDP – a significant return on the less than 0.1% of government investment in the sector. The same report also states that more than £850 million every year is spent by visitors to the UK on arts and culture.
The research on the relationship between cultural interaction and levels of business interest was carried out between 2010 and 2011 – with further research for other elements of the report conducted in 2012 and 2013.