'We are seeing the economy bounce back' - Gatwick Diamond chairman positive after latest announcements from Gatwick Airport and what it means for local businesses

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Gatwick Airport has always been an important part of Sussex’s economy.

Not only does it attract businesses to the Gatwick Diamond area, it brings tourism. This was dramatically affected by the lockdown. We saw the South Terminal closed for nearly two years and travel restrictions meant a loss in tourism that inevitably knocked the local economy.

Before the lockdown, Gatwick generated £7.5 billion to the local and regional economy and supported 121,400 jobs in the region. Overall, Gatwick contributed £8.3 billion to the UK economy and supported 136,900 jobs nationally in 2019. In the Gatwick Diamond area, Gatwick supported 68,900 jobs in 2019 with GVA (Gross Value Added) of £4.2 billion.

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The Gatwick Diamond is one of the most economically successful regions in the UK. Within the diamond, Crawley is the largest economy in the Gatwick Diamond. Its Manor Royal Business District is home to more than 600 businesses employing 30,000 people.

Brett North, chairman of the Gatwick Diamond.Brett North, chairman of the Gatwick Diamond.
Brett North, chairman of the Gatwick Diamond.

Burgess Hill is the second largest employment area in the Gatwick Diamond with about 300 companies employing 8,000 in more than 1.8m sq ft of premises.

And last week saw a huge boost to local companies when Lufthansa launched it’s double daily flights to Frankfurt - one of the world’s major financial hubs and home to the European Central Bank. It is also the world’s seventh largest airport for international traffic and that will provide an incredible amount of connectivity for local businesses who trade around the world.

This announcement followed the news that the first Air India flights departed from Gatwick. Businesses across the South East exported £479 million of goods and services to India – more than any region outside London - according to the latest Government figures. The new Air India flights also support tourism in both countries and provide convenient journeys for passengers from the large Indian communities in London and the South East, to visit friends and family in India.

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Stephanie Wear, VP Aviation Development, Gatwick Airport, Jonathan Pollard, chief commercial officer Gatwick Airport, Henri Lange, senior director sales Northern Europe, Lufthansa and Brett North, chairman of Gatwick DiamondStephanie Wear, VP Aviation Development, Gatwick Airport, Jonathan Pollard, chief commercial officer Gatwick Airport, Henri Lange, senior director sales Northern Europe, Lufthansa and Brett North, chairman of Gatwick Diamond
Stephanie Wear, VP Aviation Development, Gatwick Airport, Jonathan Pollard, chief commercial officer Gatwick Airport, Henri Lange, senior director sales Northern Europe, Lufthansa and Brett North, chairman of Gatwick Diamond

This is just another sign Gatwick and the surrounding economy are getting back to where they were before the pandemic. But there are still global factors affecting who businesses are performing, such as the Cost of Living crisis. We caught up with Brett North, chairman of the Gatwick Diamond, at the launch of the Lufthansa flights at the airport and he was very positive with how the area is getting back to full recovery, but understands there is still a way to go.

He said: “It’s an interesting time at the moment. We have lots of businesses doing well and we have some businesses in some sectors, understandably with the Cost of Living pressures, are having a difficult time but they are adapting to move on. The issue for us actually, and most businesses I talk to, is trying to find the right staff with the right qualifications so there is a number of issues like that. But we are seeing the economy bounce back, particularly locally.

“If you go back to where we were in the middle of the pandemic to where we are now it’s been very strong, but there is still a away to go but it’s still a very vibrant economic region and we are starting to get interest from outside the region including politicians who are saying the Gatwick Diamond has a lot going on, we should be thinking more about it. We are very good with local businesses and groups coming all together to promote the Diamond and that is a real strength.”

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And Mr North is delighted to see the connectivity extended at Gatwick with not only the Lufthansa and Air China announcements but also news Delta is returning to the airport, along with Air China.

Gatwick South Terminal.Gatwick South Terminal.
Gatwick South Terminal.

“For local businesses and the Gatwick Diamond is that Frankfurt is a really important city for getting around Germany. It’s got great rail connections but also the connection routes it has going to markets such as Asia, Africa and other areas where we seeing businesses really looking to develop and grow, certainly post-Brexit where we are looking out how more international we can do and what businesses we can attract.

“We have a number of businesses in the Diamond who either have a number of businesses there or have actually got facilities there as well. They are already trying to send staff there or connect so there is already cross-pollination going on between those points so a really key route for us.

“It’s very interesting to see the new routes come on. India is really, really important and that is an area that we needed to see recover. It’s going to be, if it isn’t already, the world’s most populous country. It’s a great opportunity to do business in India and there are a lot of connections there, so that was really important.

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“Now we are seeing China reopen and we are seeing business opportunities come there as well which is critical. We are seeing things get bigger and better and move on. We need to grow dry growth in the region, we need to see opportunities for business and export to new markets and that’s why Frankfurt is so important.”

Jonathan Pollard, chief commercial officer Gatwick Airport, said: “ The years of Covid now start, at long last, feel like something ago.

“As an airport we have got our mojo back. It feels normal, we are looking ahead to a very busy summer season which is another sign of normality. It’s a good time to be at Gatwick.”