Your business may be ready to expand this year but what locations are best equipped for the job? The New European Economy’s Top Twenty Business Destinations list reveals the cities and countries that are fuelled by educated workers and tempting business incentives, offering stable financial and political climates and an openness to trade, that all generate an appealing relocation opportunity. Acting as a barometer of attractiveness for future inward investment, these regions are lucrative foreign direct investment (fdi) and business destinations, and our list reveals the most promising locations. From Leipzig to London and from Greenland to Gozo, these areas can work magic on your business. Ireland takes first place, with its capital city Dublin, Europe’s third best city for inward investment, becoming a focus for investment in software and IT. Many of the world’s biggest and most successful players, such as Microsoft, Pfizer and Abbott, have already chosen Ireland not least because of its ability to innovate. And as we look towards 2016 and beyond, high-value fdi in areas such as the life sciences, finance, manufacturing and IT will continue, and Ireland will maintain its exciting success story by offering a wide range of talent, a sophisticated regulatory framework and a high quality of life.

Estonia comes in a close second with its economic freedom being one of the highest in world, ranked 9th out of 175 countries by the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom. Since January 1, 2015 Estonia has attracted a total of €15.9 billion worth of investments of which 27% have been in the financial sector, 17% in real estate activities, 15% in wholesale and retail trade, 13% in manufacturing and 8% in professional, scientific and technical activities. Not be dismissed, Switzerland is the world’s most competitive economy and is renowned for its inventive spirit. Switzerland is a key location for the research and development of Google products and attracts companies such as EFW Capital Advisors. Switzerland’s pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is unparalleled so companies like DDW Swiss have firmly set down roots. Regions ready for your business are not solely based in Europe. Foreign investment in the US is still booming and the state of Ohio is a welcoming recipient of foreign investment. Ohio is a great place to do business and companies from at least 42 countries have made investments there. Honda is the state’s largest foreign investor, which has had operations in Ohio for many years. You may not be ready to fully invest in another country just yet but the New European Economy’s Top Twenty Business Destinations list also includes the best business destinations for conferences, incentive tours and staff weekend breaks. Iceland was on several top 10 lists of places to visit in 2015 and Rough Guides chose Reykjavik as one of Top 10 cities to visit last year. Only 3-5 hours from mainland Europe, Reykjavik offers several luxury and lifestyle hotels and there are also numerous venues to choose from accommodating up to 2,500 guests. Lisbon, Hvar and Cape Town are also all ready to make 2016 a year to remember. Whether 2016 is your year for investment or incentives, read on to discover the Top Twenty Business Destinations.

1) Ireland, with its small but highly international economy, impressive exporting sector, and a significant number of multinational corporations, continues to lead the world in attracting high-value fdi projects. One of the only two English speaking countries in the Euro Zone, Ireland saw
fdi increase by 4% last year, with capital investment hitting approximately £3.8bn. Exports continued to increase in 2015, displaying an extraordinary 13% growth in the first three quarters, compared to the same period in 2014. The island has always been regarded as a centre of excellence for education and ranked 1st in the world for availability of skilled labour in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2014.

2) Estonia has a favourable geographic location on the Baltic Sea, offering growth potential with good access to Russia, the CEE countries and the EU. Estonia is known for Skype just like Finland is known for Nokia, but this tech-savvy country has much more to offer. Children as young as seven are taught the principles of coding and such solid beginnings result in a driven, forward-thinking and entrepreneurial population. The government is equally grounded and offer pro-business legislation. Estonia has been open to foreign investors for longer than two decades. The rapid start began with the successful privatisation process in the 1990’s and its close integration with Scandinavian countries and good connections with central Europe makes Estonia a functioning transit country.

3) Want to host an event that inspires, leaving attendees with fresh perspectives, new ideas and full of energy? Then Reykjavik is your conference city. What differentiates outstanding businesses from good ones is how well the business fares in developing the creativity of its employees. What better way to do that than team building in Iceland? A visit to the Viking Maritime Museum is essential as the sea and fishing are the inherent foundations of Reykjavik’s history. It may be the capital of Iceland, but there is nothing frosty about Reykjavik and the Reykjavik Convention Bureau will give you a warm welcome.

4) USA-Huntingdon Foreign investors spent $2.1 billion to acquire, establish or expand in Ohio in 2014, and the state landed a $200 million project from a Chinese manufacturer last year. Ohio is brimming with optimism and produces a positive balanced environment with a $1.4 billion budget surplus, a high credit rating and a pro-business tax climate.

5) Situated in the east of Germany in between Berlin and Dresden, Leipzig is a varied and vivacious city. For numerous years the ‘Spirit of Leipzig’ has attracted businesspersons, scientists, artists and students to the city. This spirit is still strong, contributing wholeheartedly to European economic, academic and cultural life. Leipzig offers superb venues, unique locations, outstanding hotels and innovative service partners, and is a fast-paced, lively and appealing location.

6) The financial, legislative and cultural heart of Portugal, Lisbon, the city that receives approximately 2,800 hours of sun a year, has a warm disposition. Lisbon has won countless awards including Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2013 and is an ideal location for a conference. Team building has never been so much fun with a huge choice from speedboat tours to wine tasting to treasure hunts.

7) Cape Town has retained its position as the number one destination for business events in Africa and moved up by 11 rankings in terms of worldwide performance to number 41. The best that Cape Town has to offer venue-wise is the Cape Town International Convention Centre, with a team to help with every aspect of planning. It achieved the best financial results in its 12-year history in 2014/15 and things are only getting better. A multi-purpose conference centre in the centre of Cape Town’s business and entertainment district, it would make any event a show stopper.

8) Endless sunny days, unspoiled hillsides of pine forests and a beach scene to compete with any in Europe, Hvar is a great place to go on holiday. But it is a very strong contender as a conference destination too, landing a top spot in the top ten. A lively and fashionable location, Hvar, loaded with culture and history, is perfect for business events and a magnificent place to explore. There are plenty of hotels that will cater for conferences including Hotel Podstine and numerous tours to entertain delegates on a free afternoon. The Hvar Tourist Board holds the answers.

9) Why should Hamburg appear on your conference itinerary? Contemporary hotels, innovative architecture and celebrated restaurants are constantly emerging, yet despite these developments, Hamburg still maintains its historic charm. It is easily accessible by air, rail and road, but by whichever means you get there, Hamburg is a top business destination. It is a convenient city with the Congress Centre Hamburg situated near the city centre and just beside the Dammtor railway station. It’s like the city was built for business.

10) If London isn’t on your list of places to host then it should be. There is a multitude of venues available from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and anything in between. The capital of the UK boasts 45 universities and colleges so there is no shortage of expert speakers for your conference. With a huge variety of hotels from budget to five stars, and food from 70 different countries on offer, including 60 Michelin starred restaurants, this city caters for everyone.

11) Long considered a centre for business, Frankfurt, Europe’s largest financial centre, is at home in our top ten. Offering conference venues, hotels with seasonal cuisine, excellent infrastructure and a great cosmopolitan city, Frankfurt has everything at its fingertips. One of the principal global fairgrounds, the Messe Frankfurt Convention Centre, is a prime example of a prime conference location with high-tech fittings and technology, a central location and space to accommodate up to 3,400 guests. With further development of the exhibition grounds underway, there is more brilliance to come.

12) Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is a must on any destination listing. It exudes energy and is renowned for its well thought-out, organised approach. Hosting a conference in Stockholm would be problem-free. In 2010, it was the first capital to be named ‘European Green Capital’, reinforcing this city’s pioneering approach. A seminar in Stockholm would be a winner anytime of the year as all the seasons have their unique charm.

13) The UAE, especially Dubai, has become a celebrated incentive destination as new visa releases and increased flights have facilitated easier access. In 2014, the UAE was one of the most popular destinations for MICE in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Dubai has successfully marketed itself as an exceptional incentive destination, with the Dubai Tram and an increase in the number of available hotels, supporting the influx.

14) Greenland escaped the worst of the economic downturn, undergoing GDP growth of 7.5% from 2008 to 2011, while most of Europe weakened. As ice in the Arctic continues to melt, Greenland’s mineral and energy resources – including iron ore, lead, zinc, gold and oil – are all becoming hot property for foreign investment, together with its tourism and fisheries sectors. Greenland was granted the award for ‘best country to do mining in 2013-2014,’ together with Mongolia, Azerbaijan, and Australia, at the Mines & Money conference and the Exploitation Licence and Impact Benefit Agreement for the Qaqortorsuaq/White Mountain (Naajat) Anorthosite project shows that mining is here to stay. Legislative initiatives include access to funding and improving Greenland’s corporate tax rates.

15) Switzerland has ranked as the most innovative country in the world for the last few years and tops the Global Competitiveness Index for the seventh year in a row. Favourable factors for fdi include its economic and political stability, transparent legal system, excellent infrastructure and efficient capital markets. Several international businesses base their European headquarters in Switzerland, attracted to the country’s low corporate tax rates and multilingual employees. Aargua, the Swiss high-tech canton with a Triple A rating, is perfectly positioned within Switzerland, and one of the country’s driving forces in the technology sector.

16) Finland may not be the largest or most talked about country in Europe but its central location in the expanding markets of Northern Europe, home to 80 million consumers, provides an ideal entry to the East. Its technology scene is flourishing especially after the huge success of Nokia and Angry Birds. But the tech sector isn’t the only area worth your investment. The economic competitiveness and the education and innovation structures of Finland have been globally acclaimed. Positioned in 8th place in ‘The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016’, out of a total of 140 economies, seeing €5bn of investment in 2015, Finland is an unassuming favourite.

17) Qatar, once one of the poorest Gulf States, is now one of the richest countries in the area. It is a dynamic and valuable economy at the hub of Middle Eastern and European trade and the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) announced that it will introduce revised regulations which will ease onshore access for foreign investors. The QFC is one of the leading business and financial centres in the world, with a blue-chip licensee base and global names like Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Barclays Bank. Qatar’s wealth is not as reliant on oil since the economy became more diversified. And with a significant drive for further economic diversification in the coming years, companies in the QFC will profit from a robust economic environment, with a solid strategy for efficiency.

18) Gozo is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago and a very popular tourist destination, but the island is also the ideal destination for investment and relocation. Gozo recorded a significant increase in tourism in 2015, with more than 60% of hotels and other tourist establishments confirming that they performed better than 2014. ‘Only Made in Gozo,’ is set to attract foreign investment through sales of typically Gozitan properties, creating a tourism niche, protecting and restoring Maltese heritage for sustainable development.

19) Jersey, located fourteen miles from France and one hundred miles south of England, attracts more than £42 billion of fdi per annum. With strong government support for the digital and tech industries and 48 miles of coastline, this is a great location for business and pleasure. Enjoying full fiscal autonomy and favourable low tax rates, Jersey is a prosperous, self-governing Crown dependency. A pro-business island, it can be reached from over 30 UK and European cities within an hour, making it an ideal fdi destination.

20) The economy in Slovenia, supported by a stable financial system, is now growing solidly and €5m will be spent on an internationalisation programme this year and €8m in 2017. Furthermore, €1m is budgeted for attracting foreign investors, increasing to €6.5m next year. The goal is to make the economy ‘highly internationalised’ by 2020, so get in there early. The Slovenian capital Ljubljana is the European Green Capital 2016, attracting and hosting numerous events and celebrations.

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