European Business Travel: Central Europe
By Sam Lucas
The largest country in Central Europe, France, has many strings to its economic bow. Financial services, banking, insurance, agriculture and tourism are just some of the major sectors of the French economy. Two of the world’s top five largest banks are French-owned, whilst AXA is the world’s largest insurance company. Paris is vital to France’s economic pre-eminence; were it a country, it would rank as the world’s 17th largest economy, bigger than that of Turkey and the Netherlands. La Défense, situated in the north west of the city, is Europe’s largest purpose-built business district. With its wide shopping boulevards, world-class museums and numerous fine-dining establishments, Paris is an ideal location for conducting business in a culturally rich atmosphere.
An hour-and-a-half flight east from one of Paris’s four airports will take you to Berlin, the sprawling capital city of Germany. Since the re-unification of the country in 1990, the German economy has thrived, becoming the largest and most powerful in Europe. Due to its size and dense modern transport networks, the centres of business are spread across Germany; Frankfurt is home to the stock exchange, Deutsche Telekom AG has its headquarters in Bonn and the ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ of the automobile industry is centred around Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Munich. Germany is therefore a perfect business location, allowing visitors to choose between the Bavarian charm of the southeast, the practicality of the densely packed Ruhr area and the endless historical attractions of Berlin.
Just a short distance south of Stuttgart and Munich is Switzerland, one of Europe’s key financial centres. Whilst Germany has relied heavily on the size of its workforce to achieve a strong economy, Switzerland has exploited the inventiveness of its population to create a thriving manufacturing sector and a powerful banking industry. Regularly pointed to as one of the richest countries on earth, a 2013 report found that Switzerland had the highest average wealth per adult in the world. Geneva, in the extreme south west of the country, has an old and well established finance sector which specialises in private banking. It is also home to the world-famous Geneva Motor Show – one of the world’s most important automotive shows – and has a long tradition of luxury watch making.
Whilst these countries can now claim to be among the most economically powerful in the world, none can rival the Netherlands in terms of historic importance to world trade and finance. The Dutch Golden Age of the 17th Century, centred in Amsterdam, saw the Netherlands create the world’s first ever stock exchange and the first central bank. Visitors to Amsterdam can see some of the birthplaces of modern financial power, and this guide has recommended a knowledgeable and imaginative operator who provides highly-regarded tours of Amsterdam’s financial district.
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