Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Spotted in London’s Harley Street, a gold plated mobility scooter with diamanté headrest! The streets may not be paved with gold but the growth of medical tourism most certainly is.


7 Reasons To Celebrate London

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Today London remembers, 10 years on from the scenes of death and destruction. A city that I have called “home” on and off for 30 years. On 7th July 2005, I was at The Snow Ball in Queenstown, New Zealand with a group of friends when images flashed up on a video screen of the carnage across the city. It seemed distant and surreal in equal measure. What was the bombers’ point? The subsequent alert two weeks later and the manhunt when I was back home are a more vivid memory.

The test is what a city and its’ residents do about it.

Looking around London today, London is thriving. A global metropolis that has

  1. Attracted huge swathes of capital from across the globe.
  2. Unprecedented career opportunities for many people.
  3. The most diverse, talented and creative workforce with a global mindset.
  4. One of the most civilised, safe and secure environments to live, work and socialise in.
  5. The most compelling mix of contemporary culture.
  6. Retained its’ status as one of only two true “global cities” (the other being New York).
  7. The most exciting prospects for the next generation to grow up in.

As with all growing capitalist cities it faces distribution challenges. Adequate housing, infrastructure, health and education provision for all incomes.

The “high” security threat is a badge of honour, a reflection that those with incongruent values seek to cut down the tallest of poppies. We must hope that our security forces and intelligence are one step ahead of those who seek to destroy what we have. Can we be certain? Of course not. My memory flashes back to the early part of my career, the IRA atrocities across the city, the daily roadblocks outside my EC3 office and further afield to New York, where several of my former colleagues from my days working on 104th Floor of the World Trade Center perished.

Yet we celebrate the vibrant, innovative and exciting city we call “home” and the fantastic future it provides for our families, friends and colleagues.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Life Experiences: White Knuckle Ride

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The excitement of growing businesses in new markets is the richness and diversity of the life experiences.

St. Moritz, Switzerland this coming weekend hosts the climax of one of the truly unique and compelling sights, The White Turf Festival.  A stunning 2.5 hour train ride from the heart of Zurich for three Sundays in February, the Engadine Valley is host to a seductive cocktail of bravery, extravagant wealth and luxury. Flat and trotting races are complemented by skijoring, six men “water skiing” behind racehorses and travelling at upto 30 MPH.

Most of all there is exceptional people watching…. One of my earliest memories is a Cartier cocktail party with three early 50’s ladies whose facial expression while attempting to nibble on a canape resembled a guppy fish. The cosmetic surgeon had clearly left nothing to chance. Then there was the debonnaire sun-kissed German who arrived with his dog attached to his stripped Charvet tie, proclaiming how he had left the dog’s lead in the nightspot, Dracula after a heavy night’s partying!

Yet amongst the exotic Russians, mildly eccentric European aristos and the odd Al Thani there is a surprisingly warm and inclusive experience for the open-minded visitor…. Of course no trip to St Moritz is complete without a visit to “The Club” and the 7:30AM novice run down the bone-shaking Cresta Run. For the more genteel, the towns and villages in the enchanting valley provide a seductive backdrop of equisite scenery, beautiful walks and fabulous food heavily influenced by the proximity to the Italian border. To pass off this experience as a ringside seat in a rich playground, is to miss a truly one-of-a-kind experience.


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White Turf – At Night










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The “Home Stretch” – Skijoring










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The White Turf










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View From The Stands










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Thrillseekers await at “The Club”










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The infamous “Shuttlecock” corner, a lonely straw bale for protection












© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

The Parisian Paradox

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

In the past week, a UK retail executive slates France, describing Garde du Nord station, “the squalor pit of Europe”. The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, on a visit to London retaliates, accusing the same UK executive of having drunk too much beer. A Boston Consulting Group survey suggests London and New York by quite some margin is a greater magnet for  internationally mobile executives and employees than Paris. Should we be worried or is this knockabout “entente cordiale” chatter? After spending the past few days in Paris, here is my observations:

  • Paris has become a far more international city (almost every retail outlet has people under the age of 40 voluntarily speaking English, almost unheard of in 1994)
  • Customer service and responsiveness varies wildly (it is still a pleasant yet rare event, to see front line staff, predominantly local, offering to resolve and take ownership of service issues)
  • Technological innovation is slow and you would hardly call Paris a well-networked city (WiFi and other technology is still very fragmented in public spaces)
  • Traditional private sector businesses and local workforce expectations are being challenged like never before (availability of work, jobs and reliance on careers for life). The traditional employer-employee bond is mired in mistrust and suspicion about management and shareholders’ intentions.
  • There is an insouciance in the public sector (rail, energy, utilities) with still little visible change of mindset about the need to dramatically improve the customer experience or adapt working practices
  • Working for an International versus a French employer is less viewed as a financial decision, more a pragmatic move (increasing job and career mobility)
  • In a competitive global jobs market, Paris faces an unparalleled challenge retaining smart “twenty something” people, who increasingly love the drive and passion of an Anglo-centric “freedom to fail” business culture (the Sunday evening, “le weekend” commuters on the Eurostar are at unprecedented levels)
  • Recovery will not truly have set in until there is a net inflow of these entrepreneurs and executives (many though are increasingly laying down roots in London or New York and committing to longer-term stays upto 10+ years, so the bounce back will be slow)
  • It remains the capital of the world’s 5th largest economy but you sense it fears the speed with which newer capital cities are attracting inwards investment, jobs and appeal (there is no obvious vision of a Paris 2020) by comparison to a Dubai, Singapore or dare I say it, a London.
  • Paris’s prominence in luxury fashion and culture remains but its’ relevance in global knowledge sectors (technology, financial services, professional services, healthcare and education) is declining
  • There are standards of public behaviour, which are demonstrably more liberal than almost every major global city (attitudes to sex, adherence to laws and ethical “norms”)
  • Investment in infrastructure (public transportation, new high quality offices and housing) is anemic
  • Paris has been more successful than London in attracting larger numbers of Asian tourists (less visa obstacles) but less visibly successful in attracting their inwards direct investment in business (high start-up costs)
  • While hotels might on average be cheaper than New York, London, Hong Kong or Tokyo, eating out and transportation is arguably more expensive for visitors
  • Ultra high net worth French families are continuing to move to less penal tax locations (London, Switzerland), while shoring up their affairs from assertive tax inspectors (more complex transfer of trusts to places like Hong Kong and Singapore) and consciously guarding their wealth (more private sale purchases through third parties and less activity at public auctions)
  • There is visibly a greater willingness to embrace international investment / sponsorship of previously “off limits” French cultural, sporting and nationally important events (Qatari investment in football clubs, horse racing; Nike in athletic events; Deutsche Bank in major art shows)
  • High fixed labour costs and regulations in Paris will increasingly see SME businesses and investors prioritise the digital sales channel for short-term export-driven growth
  • Government policies and prohibitive taxation are leading to a prevailing business culture of “caution”, not great for a surge in top line revenue growth or a rebound in economic confidence
  • Paris remains equally an idiosyncratic (culturally diverse) and frustrating (bureaucratic) place to live, work and start a business but a fabulous place to visit and find one-of-a-kind experiences

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved

Fore! Portugal’s Wild Tee Shot

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Portugal, famed for its’ chickens, has spent a lot of time “counting” and a little amount of time “crowing”, since its’ economy descended into the economic abyss 6 years ago. Yet away from the macro-economic issues, it is clear from a visit to the Algarve last week that there is a huge disparity in the quality of local leadership teams and the performance of businesses. It is most apparent in the so-called upscale or luxury end of local tourism. Quinta Do Lago is famed as one of the world’s Top 10 golfing resorts. Yet here is a classic example of a tourism business that is  missing obvious opportunities to improve its’ top line revenue growth.  They have upto 200 people per day paying in excess of €150 for the privilege of playing each of their three courses in 28C (82F), yet they have drinks buggies that rest idol for 4.5 hours, a practice facility at San Lorenzo (closed for half a day due to regular maintenance), and a food outlet (Laranjal) producing inedible cheeseburgers. The golf shops, locker facilities and food and beverage services wouldn’t be in the Top 1000 of US golf courses. The predominantly British and Irish visitors fueled on late nights of Sagres and Sangria, perhaps do little to show their displeasure but those owning the resorts would be wise to shake up the management teams.

In businesses seeking growth, it is not the search for new ideas where the the highest potential lies for success , it is the shortcomings of the existing practices. What are we omitting to do and why? Answer that question and you will dramatically increase your top line revenue growth. That is of course unless your Owners wish to stick their heads in the sand or are satisfied with management carding bogeys or worse.

©      James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Brands Lost In Translation

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

In beautiful Falsterbo in SW Sweden, a hilarious reminder last week that common sense in one language can be nonsense or even comedic in another. How early, if at all, in your new market entry process do you “road test” your brand names when moving into a new geographic market? This might be water off a duck’s back in consumer retail but you will be surprised how many business in other sectors (financial services, insurance, gaming, luxury) overlook this simple and costly step. Don’t fall into this trap. 

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