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Local leaders brainstorm on future economic development

KEY members of the TCI’s public and private sectors met to discuss the future of the financial services industry during the second annual Economic Conference last week.

The one-day national conference coordinated by InvestTCI brought scores of interested people to Beaches Resort and Spa in Providenciales. The seminar was held on Friday, November 8, and hosted under the theme, ‘Financial services – Building block of a strong, diversified economy’. During sessions, members of the private sector including bankers, lawyers, company managers, accountants, and Government officials debated various topics, ideas and strategies focused on the growth of the financial services sector.

The keynote address of the conference was delivered by international speaker Lorna Smith, former executive director of BVI Finance and founder and chief executive officer of LGS and Associates. Premier and Minister of Finance Sharlene Cartwright Robinson also brought remarks at the conference and zeroed-in on the Government’s role in fostering a successful industry.

She outlined ongoing initiatives and commitments already made by the Government to strengthen the sector.

“We see the financial services sector as an integral part of the country’s economic advancement,” she said, “where businesses and industries continually feed off of one another, growing larger and larger as the economy grows.

“It is a critical component of a diversified economy; creating a sustainable cycle of overall economic activity.” She stressed that an effective and efficient partnership between the financial services sector, public and private sector entities is vital to the expansion of the TCI’s economy. “The TCI has experienced a real GDP growth rate of 2.5 percent in 2018 and is expected to see a 3.2 percent growth rate in 2019.

“These targets are being achieved in the wake of two major storms in 2017. “Economic growth, for the most part, has been carried by the tourism and hospitality sector for the past 30 plus years.”

Cartwright Robinson underscored the importance of a diverse financial system. She said: “We are ever mindful that a country’s economic health should never be tied to a single industry or market sector. “This conference is an important platform that gathered leading industry players in the financial services sector, the Government and its ministries, departments and agencies, as well as other service providers in the various sectors of the economy.

“We are able to share, learn and collaborate toward the enhancement and advancement of the financial services ecosystem of the TCI, and to ensure that it is one that engenders growth,” the premier added.

In 2018, a Government report prepared by an international consultancy team concluded that the TCI needed to diversify its economy and create more good quality professional employment opportunities for its citizens.
The report also recommended a need for substantial investment in the TCI’s financial services industry, and highlighted how easily the territory could lose what little it has. Following the report, the Government took several steps in keeping with the recommendations of the study.


Why AI-Powered Hotel Revenue Management Is Taking The Hospitality Industry By Storm

Automation has become the driving force in the evolution of revenue management. Leveraging advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the best of today’s solutions make pricing decisions and rate updates automatically. This allows revenue managers to focus their time on tactics and strategy rather than spending it crunching data and punching numbers into spreadsheets. The speed and complexity of the pricing decisions, and financial outcomes they generally produce, are unmatched by the most seasoned revenue manager using the most advanced solutions on the market only a few years ago. Such has been the blindingly rapid pace of technology innovation.

The ability to integrate new sources of data has also played a key role in driving smarter pricing decisions. Advanced revenue management solutions leverage not only the repository of historic data that resides in a hotel’s property management system, but also, in many cases, a vast array of market intelligence and other data, from competitor rates data to booking trends data. This makes it possible to more accurately forecast demand, and, as a result, increase hotel revenue and profitability in unprecedented ways.

That being the case, it’s no surprise that next-generation, AI-powered revenue management has taken the industry by storm. Some of the leading AI-powered solutions, often replacing legacy solutions that use a hands-on, rules-based approach for generating pricing decisions, now automatically generate in excess of a 100 million decisions across tens of thousands of properties each day. The results are impressive, with major hotel brands seeing their revenue numbers increase by millions of dollars a year. Smaller properties, too, are seeing substantial gains, in some cases driving incremental sales lift by more than 15 percent.

Interestingly, AI-powered solutions sometimes produce pricing decisions that revenue managers may view as overly aggressive, irrational, or just plain wrong. Therein lies the power of big data and machine learning compared to the data processing and analytical capabilities of mere mortals. Even the most experienced revenue managers report that they have sold rates recommended by AI-enabled solutions that they would not have published in the past.

AI-powered revenue management is all about smart pricing. It’s about using demand forecasts, competitor rates, and price sensitivities — while taking into account any number of other inputs, including demand drivers like seasonality, special event dates, and day-of-week differences —to maximize room occupancy at the best possible price. Smart pricing also means considering other factors, such as the type of room, the length of stay, and the extent to which a discounted price promotion could potentially dilute revenue and profits in the long run. The combinatorial complexities involved in smart pricing are nothing to sneeze at.

Smart pricing is channel agnostic. Rather than thinking in terms of “OTA booking versus direct booking,” for example, smart pricing considers the relative value of all distribution channels, weighing how much each channel drives guest room demand and will help achieve the overriding objective, which is to maximize the profitability of hotel inventory. Smart pricing calculates demand from all sources, including OTAs. In an ideal world, algorithms then automatically apply the right tactics and strategy to funnel business through the most profitable channels.

The goal of maximizing profitability holds true not only for guest rooms but also for other property assets and revenue sources. Banquet and event function space, in particular, now increasingly factors into the equation. According to “The 2019 Global Meetings Forecast,” published by American Express, demand for function space was expected to grow by 3.2% this year. For some hotels, function space revenue now accounts for almost half of their total revenue. It only stands to reason, then, that hotels would be eager to apply revenue management strategies to their group sales and catering activities.

Total revenue management, as this bigger-picture approach to revenue optimization is often called, takes into account a guest’s potential spend on recreational facilities, restaurants, spas, and various other ancillary revenue streams when making pricing decisions. For hotels with casino operations, even the “theoretical loss” (the amount of money a specific category of player can be expected to lose during their stay) should ideally factor into guest room and group sales pricing decisions.

Empowering a hotel with the ability to make smart pricing decisions in an automated fashion makes the business case for investing in an AI-powered revenue management solution compelling. It is compelling in terms of driving increased profitability. It is also compelling in terms of averting potential revenue loss that can result when a hotel fails to maximize occupancy or, worse, experiences a loss in occupancy. Consider: A mere $2 reduction in the ADR for a 500-room hotel with a 75 percent occupancy rate would cost it more than a quarter million dollars in lost profit in a single year.

Other benefits abound. The business intelligence gleaned from the reporting capabilities, for example, can help improve sales effectiveness, generate competitive intelligence, and provide valuable insights into occupancy trends, guest demographics, market positioning, and channel profitability. A marketing department can use the forecasts as a guide for determining when to increase promotional spend to spur demand. An operations team can know when to increase (or decrease) staffing based on projected occupancy. In short, the benefits tend to go well beyond the department known as “revenue management,” ultimately transcending all parts of the organization.


How Brexit Went So Wrong: A Crisis Of Leadership

To quote Shakespeare, the past 3 years of UK politics have been “A Comedy of Errors.” Former prime minister Theresa May endured repeated humiliations as Parliament rejected her Brexit deal with Europe. Boris Johnson has hardly fared better. Despite declaring he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than request another Brexit extension, last week Johnson, still very much alive, was forced to ask Brussels for precisely that. Johnson’s continued theatrics raise a deeper question. How did Brexit go so wrong? In short, Britain has experienced a catastrophic leadership failure. 

Prepare to fail

From the outset, Brexit was plagued by an utter lack of planning. Former PM David Cameron, who agreed to the referendum to please his anti-EU allies, never believed it could succeed. Indeed, Cameron even ordered the Foreign Office not to prepare a contingency in case that nation decided to leave the EU. 

During the campaign, remarkably little attention was paid to the logistics of how Britain would decouple from Europe. Instead, “Leave” leaders made emotional appeals about immigrants and exaggerated claims about future health funding. Instead of preparing for hard policy decisions, these leaders clung to a nebulous and naïve vision of Brexit. 

For all the talk of a “better deal” for Britain, leaders apparently forgot that Europe had every incentive to put the screws to the UK. Europe would also demand that Britain discharge its existing commitments to the EU. The rosy picture the Leave campaign painted contrasted sharply with the tough situation British negotiators experienced in Brussels. Not only did unrealistic expectations create a trust gap with the British public, but the lack of planning created political divisions that have weakened the British negotiating position. Instead of articulating a clear exit plan beforehand, the British government appears to be improvising its most important decisions. 

Self-inflicted wounds

Negotiating a complex set of economic and legal arrangements between Britain and Europe was never going to be easy. However, Britain’s leadership has made the process significantly more difficult. Much of the current gridlock originated with two disastrous decisions in 2017. The first of these was the decision to trigger Article 50 and begin the two-year countdown to leave the EU. When the Brexit deal proved more contentious than expected, Britain was forced to scramble to meet this self-imposed deadline. Then recognizing the impossibility of reaching a deal in time, Theresa May’s government twice had to go to Brussels to request an extension. Now Johnson has requested a third extension, further hurting the credibility of British leadership. 

The second mistake of May’s government was calling a snap election in June 2017. Hoping to strengthen their hand, the ruling Conservatives expected to increase their parliamentary majority. Instead, the vote boomeranged on them, and they were forced into a coalition with the Northern Irish DUP to maintain power. Tied to their minority coalition partner, the Conservatives lost control of Brexit. Instead of being able to negotiate a “Conservative” Brexit deal, they needed a deal that pleased the DUP too. Aspects of a DUP-approved deal were opposed by some Conservatives, killing May’s efforts to deliver Brexit and exacerbating nasty divisions within the Conservative party.

Loss of faith

Britain’s leaders worsened an already challenging situation by losing the confidence of their people. Before the vote, the hyperbolic and sometimes downright violent rhetoric of campaigners increased national polarization. After the vote, the government’s disorganization and apparent unpreparedness to deliver Brexit further eroded the electorate’s trust. The ongoing spectacle of threats and ultimatums seems likely to alienate people further.

Instead of leading, leadership has resorted to political games. Particularly notable was Boris Johnson’s attempt to suspend Parliament for several weeks to limit their opportunity to review the latest Brexit deal. Not only did Johnson manage to spark outrage across the political spectrum, but he also was rebuked by Britain’s Supreme Court. Parliament responded with escalation, pushing a requirement that Britain could not leave the EU without a deal. Dysfunctional politics are hurting Britain’s institutions at home and its standing abroad. 

“Remain” or “Leave”, there is no denying that Brexit has been terribly managed. Leadership failures have reduced British politics to a farce and Brexit to a punchline.   


Government must change immigration policy to protect tourism workers

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is asking the Government to change its proposed new immigration system to protect the county’s tourism and food businesses.

It says that some firms could be forced out of business if ministers push ahead with plans for a points-based immigration system with salary floor after Brexit.

Migrant workers would be able to come to the UK only if they had the offer of a job paying at least £30,000 a year.

Chamber chief executive Rob Johnston said: “Our research shows that Cumbria’s hospitality and food-processing sectors rely heavily on migrant workers from the EU.

“We found hotels in the Lake District where migrants make up more than half the workforce.

“The overwhelming majority of these jobs have salaries below the £30,000 threshold.

“If the supply of migrant workers were to be turned off, there would be dire consequences. We’ve spoken to businesses that have told us they might have to stop trading.

“Recruiting local people to replace migrant workers isn’t a realistic option in many parts of Cumbria.

“South Lakeland and Eden have the lowest unemployment rate in the UK, 1.8 per cent, and Carlisle isn’t far behind.

“Given too that our working-age population is shrinking, it’s vital that employers retain access to migrant workers.”

The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on immigration policy, is consulting on the proposed post-Brexit system.

Cumbria Chamber plans to submit a detailed response before the deadline on November 5.

Mr Johnston said: “We don’t like the concept of a £30,000 salary floor but, if it is implemented, there should be exemptions for food processing and hospitality businesses.

“That’s an argument we’ll be making forcibly.

“Food processing and hospitality are big earners for the Cumbrian economy and it would be foolhardy to undermine them by restricting the supply of labour.”


How Can The Hospitality Industry Ride The Wave Of The Experience Economy?

A recent study by McKinsey and Company showed that global spending on experiences like concerts, amusement parks, eating out, and traveling has grown more than 1.5 times faster than spending on personal consumption, and about four times faster than spending on goods. This emergence of the experience economy is a trend that hotels and other hospitality businesses should leverage for higher revenue and improved brand loyalty by providing exceptional experiences. 

In the last year, India had about 10.56 million foreign tourists, and reported about 1.68 billion domestic travelers in 2017. The largest growing segment of these travelers are millennials, and that is because of a few different reasons. In comparison to previous generations, millennials tend to have a much larger overall awareness of the world and a much higher disposable income as well. More so, millennials are much more likely to spend on experiences over basic services.

Guests are constantly seeking great experiences with every hospitality brand they interact with on their travels.. Participants in the hospitality industry that fail to design and provide engaging guest experiences won’t be able to measure up to modern guests’ expectations.

In order to design and create such experiences, hotels and other hospitality participants will have to embrace and implement new and innovative technology platforms that will allow them to manage and create end-to-end experiences for guests. More so, these experiences will need to be comprehensive and tailored to the specific travel intent of each guest.

Even with the disruption of OTAs, hotels are still a space where guests still expect the hotel to act as the service provider and personalize their journey and experience. Hotels should take advantage of the ability to establish direct relationships with guests in a market where in addition to OTAs, Google and Amazon are becoming increasingly interested.

Hotels need to constantly improve and reinvent their core offerings and identify possible reasons if and why their guest experiences are not matching up to expectations. In order to stand out in the experience economy, hospitality businesses need to ensure the highest possible levels of guest satisfaction and embrace technology for personalization and constant analysis of guest reviews and feedback.

Some experiences can only be had in certain destinations. A traveler can only experience Oktoberfest in Germany, or can only take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower in France. Hospitality businesses need to explore ways to ensure that guests have the serendipity of discovering these new experiences, all while keeping them engaged on their platform without them having to search for those experiences elsewhere. Hotels need to help their guests with area advice, available excursions and events in the area by partnering with non-competing travel operators to be the single source of guest experiences and add ancillary revenue while beefing up the guest experience.

Travelers have now started creating their own travel experience instead of being passive consumers. Consequently, hospitality businesses need to provide guests with platforms that serve hyper-personalized options for guests to create their experience from. These platforms will allow for delight in the guest journey, and will ultimately build brand loyalty and add revenue to hotels.

From tailored guest-centric experience packages, access to mobile concierges or in-room smart technology, hotels need to create experiences for guests that supercede mere service, or a product like a comfortable room.

Guests are constantly searching for new places and platforms that will allow them to have memorable and unique experiences they can share with friends and family. Not paying attention to rising trends in this new experience economy could prove to be the downfall of many hospitality businesses, unless new technology and innovative guest experiences become a core part of guest management.


3 reasons why the U.S. economy may have already peaked for the year

The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.1 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter — a pace that will likely prove to be the high-water mark for the year before growth weakens in the coming months.

That’s the assessment widely shared by economists in light of the rising threats facing the U.S. economy, from a raging trade war to more cautious spending by consumers and businesses to a global slowdown. Their collective forecast is that last year’s 2.9 percent growth — the fastest year of expansion since 2015 — will be followed by a more tepid 2.3 percent gain this year.

That pace would roughly match the average annual growth since the current expansion began in 2009. In two months, it will become the longest post-recession recovery on record. But it has also been the slowest since World War II.

The Trump administration, defying the assessments of mainstream economists, insists that its program of tax cuts, regulatory reform and tougher enforcement of trade deals will produce dramatically higher annual growth above 3 percent for the next six years.

Here are three key reasons why economists think growth has peaked for the year:

A pendulum swings back

Half the 3.1 percent growth rate in the January-March quarter that the government reported Thursday was due to two temporary factors: A surge in business efforts to restock shelves. And a big narrowing in the trade deficit.

In the calculations that produce the nation’s gross domestic product, a widening trade deficit subtracts from growth. By contrast, a narrowing trade deficit, like the one last quarter, raises growth. Yet economists predict that the pendulum will swing back to a wider trade gap in the current April-June quarter. That’s because neither a sharp drop in imports nor a big surge in exports in the first quarter is expected to persist.

For that reason, analysts foresee second-quarter growth slowing to around a 1.5 percent annul rate — just about half the first-quarter figure.

Fading stimulus

President Donald Trump’s signature domestic achievement was the passage of a $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017. Billions in additional spending for domestic and military programs that Congress approved in early 2018 also delivered a stimulative lift to the economy.

The tax cuts allowed companies, which received a major portion of the bounty, to spend more on plants and equipment. Business investment grew sharply as a result. So did stock buybacks, which helped boost the stock market.

And for households, tax cuts began showing up in paychecks early last year in the form of lower withholding amounts, leaving consumers with more money to spend. Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity, averaged a sizzling 3.3 percent annual rate over the final three quarters of 2018.

But the initial surge from the tax cuts and the increased government spending are waning now. That’s a major reason why economists think growth this year will slow to a modest 2.3 percent annual pace, in line with the pattern of the past decade.

An ominous trade war

A return to a 2.3 percent growth rate, while slower than last year, would still likely leave the economy with enough steam to keep unemployment, already near a 50-year low, at a healthy level. What concerns economists is that some further shock might significantly slow growth.

Analysts are warily monitoring an array of risks, from disruptions resulting from a British exit from the European Union to weakening manufacturing and retail industries to jitters over congressional investigations into Trump’s presidency.

But the gravest perceived threat may be the escalating trade war between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies. Stock markets have been falling since talks broke off this month and the Trump administration announced that it was boosting tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing vowed to retaliate against U.S. products as it has done with previous Trump tariffs.

For economists, the concern is that the disruptions in trade could become severe enough to trigger a recession in an already weakening economy.

“If the trade war escalates, that could cause unemployment to start to rise and that could cause consumers to cut back on their spending, which would then prompt businesses to cut back,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s. “Then the recession risks become very high.”

Yet Zandi said he thought that risk could fade if the United States and China can at least declare a truce in their trade war, which would keep punitive tariffs from widening further.

Economists are watching for such an outcome, with Trump and President Xi Jinping set to meet on the sidelines of a Group of 20 major nations’ summit next month in Japan.


Trade and the economy have become the new roller coaster for markets

Trade headlines could be a big factor for markets in the week ahead, but investors will also be attuned to fresh inflation data and moves in the bond market, which is flashing new worries about the economy.

Stocks were on a roller-coaster ride in the past week, as markets reacted to worsening trade tensions and concerns that negotiations could be prolonged, causing pain for the global economy. But the bond market’s move was perhaps even more dramatic, as yields fell to levels last seen in 2017, and the futures market began to price in three Federal Reserve interest rate cuts by the end of next year.

“There’s not a lot of economic data next week, so events hang over us,” said Marc Chandler, chief global strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex. “It’s more about the evolution of old issues than new issues, like trade and Brexit.”

Brexit will continue to be a focus in global markets. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May stepped aside Friday after failing to get agreement on a plan for the U.K. to leave the European Union. Chandler said investors will be watching the jockeying among candidates hoping to succeed May, with hard-line Brexit proponent Boris Johnson expected to seek the job, among others.

As for trade, Chandler said it’s possible that President Donald Trump’s comments that Huawei could be part of a trade deal may be the start of a new approach by the administration to tone down its rhetoric. The telecom giant has been blacklisted by the U.S. and is expected to be denied access to U.S. components for its equipment.

“In some ways, it’s a headline problem. We think of it more as event risk,” said Nadine Terman, CEO and CIO at Solstein Capital. “China thinks in dynasties, and U.S. investors seem to think in durations of days and months, so I think we are misunderstanding the duration of their negotiating strategy.”

She said the issues between the two countries go way beyond trade and extend to China’s military aspirations in the South China Sea and its global campaign of influence through the Belt and Road initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature program.

“It’s now become more nationalistic, emotional, to say: ‘We’re going against the U.S., and we’ve got to be in it for the long haul.’ I don’t think you have the same emotion here in the U.S. You don’t have the same nationalistic pride to say ‘we have to fight China at all cost,’” she said.

In the past week, Wall Street increasingly began to expect the Trump administration to turn up the pressure on China with another wave of 25% tariffs on the $300 billion or so in goods remaining that have no tariffs. Those tariffs would directly hit American consumer goods and are expected to take a bigger bite out of the economy.

Fears of a trade war hurting global growth and concerns that the U.S. is already beginning to weaken were evident in the bond market. Treasury yields, which move opposite to price, reflected lowered growth expectations. The 10-year hit a low of 2.29% on Thursday and was at 2.32% Friday.

J.P. Morgan economists Friday downgraded their view of the economy, slicing second-quarter growth to just 1% from an earlier forecast of 2.25% and first-quarter growth of 3.2%. The economists blamed weak U.S. manufacturing data. They said risks were signs of weakness in the global economy and indications that the trade war was hurting business sentiment.

“The concerns the markets have right now are that we’re moving towards a worst case scenario, and that could persist for quite some time,” said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. short rate strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “If that’s the case, then the market is believing economic data, and the Fed will likely need to respond to that by trying to offset and prevent a recession.”

The most important data point in the coming week will be Friday’s personal consumption expenditures, which includes the PCE deflator inflation data that the Fed monitors. It was at 1.6% year-over-year last month and is expected to be the same for April, well below the Fed’s target of 2% inflation.Core PCE inflation 10-year chart.

Inflation has become a key focus on Wall Street, particularly after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said low inflation appears to be transitory and not enough of a concern to make the Fed cut interest rates. Powell and other Fed officials have stressed the Fed is pausing in its rate-hiking cycle, is monitoring the economy and does not yet know which way it will move next.

Solstein Capital’s Terman said she is watching the PCE inflation report to see if it confirms her view that inflation and the economy will be weaker this summer.

She also expects the markets to be choppy, and by late summer, around its annual Jackson Hole symposium, the Fed could indicate it could cut interest rates.

“People are going to start getting even more concerned this summer about the U.S.,” Terman said.

Terman said she has been positioned for lower inflation and slower GDP growth with key holdings in utilities, REITs, Treasurys and gold.

“What would do well this summer? Staples, utilities, health care, REITs. You want fixed income. You want to be underweight tech, energy, financials and industrials,” she said.

Home prices data is expected Tuesday and advanced economic indicators Thursday. Earnings reports include Costco, Ulta Beauty and Dollar General.

Markets will also be watching the outcome of European parliamentary elections, and if there is a strong showing by populists, there could be a negative impact on the euro and risk assets.


Membrane Technology for Food and Beverage Processing industry update – Company profiles, market forecast, market size 2019-2025

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Would banning tips improve hospitality work?

Some American hospitality companies are experimenting with banning tipping and raising staff wages instead.

Minimum wages are supposed to ensure that everybody who works earns enough to live. For as long as they’ve been around, people have disagreed over how high the minimum wage should be (and even whether there should be one).

But you’d probably struggle to find anyone who thinks someone in the USA could live on £1.65 an hour, which is the US government’s minimum wage for some workers. For comparison, the UK’s hourly minimum wage for over-25-year-olds is £8.21.

The reason this minimum wage is so low is that the government expects the workers being paid it – usually hospitality staff – to also receive tips from their customers. Indeed, they expect customers to tip enough to put the employee’s average hourly wage up to at least £5.63. (If they don’t, the employer has to cover the difference.) That’s why when you go out to eat and drink in the States you’re heavily encouraged to tip, and tip well.

Paying people in this way, however, throws up a host of problems. Wages can vary wildly each month, and the unpredictability makes it hard for workers to budget. Staff feel like they have no choice but to appease badly behaved and abusive customers, and customers feel guilted into tipping even if the service they received was poor.

Perhaps most worryingly, the tipping system creates big wage inequalities. Implicit or explicit prejudice means customer-facing staff often receive different amounts of tips than their colleagues of different races, genders, nationalities or sexualities. And workers who don’t deal with customers get zero tips directly, and subsequently often end up making much less money.

Because of these problems, some businesses are trying out banning tips. Instead, they uniformly up all staff wages and pay for the raise by increasing the prices they charge customers. But this system causes problems of its own. Restaurants who tried it said their diner numbers went down, as people were put off by the higher food prices. And wait staff who had previously got the most tips hated the change – and often quit – because while many of their back-of-house colleagues were getting paid more, their own salary decreased.


Brexit kills a small town’s tiny tourism business

Not much happens in Gadheim, a Bavarian hamlet of 89 souls. A handful of part-time farmers cultivate wheat, barley and rapeseed. A hotel trains apprentices in gardening and carpentry. Birds tweet, cars whoosh by. The landscape undulates, mildly.

But Britain’s impending departure from the European Union has disturbed the rustic peace. Whenever the club’s composition changes, the French National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (ign) calculates its new geographical centre. Over the years eastward enlargements have tugged the point from France to Belgium and then southern Germany; since 2013, when Croatia joined, it has sat in Westerngrund, a town in north-west Bavaria. But in April 2017 the ign judged that Brexit would shift the eu’s centre 70km farther east, to Gadheim.