IT may have been talked about for a while, but we now have proof that the world’s wealth is moving east.
Consultants Capgemini’s latest World Wealth Report shows that Asia’s rich now control more wealth than those in North America and Europe – nearly £12 trillion worth, or £12 million million.
The Asian continent’s wealth also increased by 10 per cent last year despite faltering performances by the previously-strong Chinese and Japanese economies.
Capgemini also forecast that the Asia-Pacific region is likely to continue to be a dominant force over the next decade, when it said global wealth could increase by another two-thirds.
The trend may be unsurprising, but it calls into question whether we are properly geared up for what it means in terms of trade, and in cultural shifts.
For businesses, we must make sure the export market is fully understood. This is where the big opportunities will lie, even for small exporting companies. However, we also need to realise what the rise of eastern wealth might mean for Scottish tourism, and examine how we can attract and cater for it.
VisitScotland regards China as one of Scotland’s key emerging international markets, which it said has “enormous potential”.
Chinese visitors nearly doubled their spending in Scotland in 2014 to £62 million, and Edinburgh was their second most popular UK destination after London.
The Scottish Government is anxious to exploit this growth by securing a direct air route to China, after former First Minister Alex Salmond’s abortive attempt to persuade a Chinese airline to fly to Prestwick.
The first UK route to China outside London was launched from Manchester two weeks ago, and ministers will be keenly watching Chinese demand on Finnair’s newly restored Edinburgh-Helsinki route, which feeds in to the shortest link between Europe and China.
It has never been easier for Chinese visitors to reach Scotland, with one-stop connections now offered by the Emirates, Qatar and Etihad airlines to Glasgow and Edinburgh via their Middle East hubs.
However, with Scottish aviation back to strong growth and more fuel-efficient aircraft available, it is not surprising that Edinburgh Airport believes a China route is a case of “when, not if”.
Chinese visitors also increasingly see the UK as among the most welcoming, and particularly significant for cultural attractions, research has shown.
While these are opportunities, there are also worrying aspects to the report, which appears to back up the current view that the disparity between the world’s rich and poor is growing rather than narrowing.
That imbalance must be tackled effectively.
It may just be part of a natural recovery from the economic crash of recent years, and that “trickle-down” economics will come in to play.
The troubling thing to ponder, though, is that hasn’t been particularly effective up till now.