Better connectivity for rural areas around the UK could generate more jobs, and through them significantly boost the UK economy.
A new report from Virgin Media O2, titled “The Great Rural Revival” suggests how, by boosting rural connectivity, the UK could create extra 284,000 jobs, improving rural employment by 6.8%.
In the end, that could improve the country’s economy by £65.1 billion. The industries that stand to gain the most from improved connectivity are tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and small businesses.
The Covid effect
There are different ways these industries could benefit from better connectivity, the report argues. Farmers could use them for drone farming, or smart livestock monitoring, while those in the hospitality sector could use it for automated booking apps. It would also allow for cashless payments, video calling and conferencing, and online booking.
Turnover could increase by almost a tenth (9.9%) which would translate to an additional £842 million in profits every year. Rural tourism in the UK has “soared” since the pandemic, the report argues, with countryside retreats taking almost half of all Airbnb bookings in 2021 (up from 23% two years prior). British hotels, B&Bs and holiday parks experienced up to 30% more enquiries.
New applications and digital connectivity has drastically changed the way people travel and spend their money, the report concludes, which is why rural tourism needs to adapt and embrace new technological advances.
“Our findings highlight how improved digital connectivity could unleash growth in the rural economy,” commented Robert Beauchamp, Managing Economist at Cebr.
“These impacts would mainly be felt outside London, in regions like the North West, South West, and Yorkshire & the Humber. Improved connectivity could allow rural businesses to be more efficient, make full use of digital technologies, and create more jobs to strengthen the rural economy. Without improved rural connectivity, problems which could be solved will instead remain and the opportunities related to better connectivity would not be realised, meaning rural communities will continue to underperform relative to their urban counterparts.”
Across the UK, East of England stands to benefit the most from better connectivity, followed by the South West, and Wales.