It's been a rough few years for UK business. The level of economic disruption has been unprecedented amid consecutive years of COVID lockdowns, spiralling inflation (which was exacerbated further by the Russia and Ukraine conflict) and political turmoil including the disastrous mini-budget.

It didn't come as a surprise, then, to see the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) revision in January of its forecast for the UK: that the economy will shrink by 0.6% this year. It's the only major G7 economy in the world expected to do so.

It's in this difficult environment that UK companies and entrepreneurs - particularly those in digital services and consultancy - are flocking to Dubai. As someone who has been a business owner in Dubai since 2005, the difference I see between now and then is incredible. There are people moving here from the UK and Europe on a daily basis. And the movement has become ever more rapid in the past year.

Recent figures quoted in business media from Cavenwell, a Dubai business consultancy, support this trend. It said that in the first half of 2022, 20% of its enquiries came from UK entrepreneurs and SMEs. That jumped to 45% in the second half of the year.

There are numerous factors behind this, and we can start with the contrasting economic fortunes of the UK and UAE. Where the IMF is forecasting the UK economy to shrink by 0.6% in 2023 - with only minor growth expected in other major European economies like Germany (0.1%) and France (0.7%) - it is projecting 4.2% growth in the UAE. Dubai itself, meanwhile, saw 4.6% growth in the first nine months of 2022.

The UAE is among the countries leading the way and that's as a result of how it handled the pandemic - keeping itself free of extensive COVID restrictions - and the global economic shock of the past year. Inflation has been controlled and managed, and there's no energy crisis. Costs are not escalating and British businesses are seeing Dubai in particular as a place where they can get much higher returns.

In addition, with its range of tax exemptions, Dubai is a very business friendly and pro-entrepreneurial environment, making it attractive to those service companies able to do business anywhere in the world and which don't rely on face-to-face working. Many companies can operate in Dubai through telecommunications - which post-pandemic has become increasingly common in the UK anyway - and use Dubai's direct transport links as and when physical client meetings are required. You are only one flight away from any other major destination in the world.

Another key factor to mention is that for entrepreneurs in Dubai, it's not just about work but also play. It's well known for having the best quality of living with its skyline, restaurants, bars, clubs and beaches. And it's also becoming ever more Western friendly, as evidenced by Dubai's recent suspension of the 30% alcohol tax.

In fact, it's becoming increasingly difficult to set Dubai apart from the likes of Ibiza and Miami, the only major difference being incredibly strict crime control. Where this has given Dubai a bad reputation in the past, it can also be seen as a positive: if you're lying at the beach and decide to go for a swim, you can leave your phone and purse on your sunbed and know, 100%, they'll still be there when you get back.

The final factor to mention is that Dubai is becoming the archetypal location for glitz, glamour and the super wealthy. More than anywhere else in the world, it's the place to be seen, and to network. If you go to the Zuma restaurant, you are going to walk past five billionaires on the way to your table, and chances are you are eventually going to network with some of them. It's the same anywhere else in the Dubai International Financial Centre: you're going to network with somebody influential.

It's the world's new playground for billionaires and is becoming the focal point of entrepreneurial opportunity. When you combine that with the luxury lifestyle and economic benefits, why wouldn't UK business owners consider moving there?

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