The lifting of travel restrictions is expected to have a significant impact on small businesses in the UK, according to a survey from Hitachi Capital.

The study found that 43% of directors surveyed were looking at regions outside of the UK to grow their businesses. This equates to approximately 2.5m businesses.

The results follow recent changes to the UK’s traffic light system, which saw 36 new countries added to the green list.

Joanna Morris, head of insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “The evolving progress being made in lifting travel restrictions is another step forward in rebuilding business confidence after a torrid time for many small businesses.

“As confidence levels continue to return, more and more plans that had been pushed back can now be given the green light.  Confidence breeds confidence, and with this comes the ability for small businesses to plan beyond the pandemic to a five, 10 or 20-year horizon.”

The figures also show that there has been a 4% drop in businesses wanting to grow in the UK’s domestic market (from 81% to 77%). The industries with the largest rise in businesses looking overseas were the media sector (52% to 62%) and the transport and distribution sector 48% to 58%.

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By GlobalData

The most popular countries for potential business were generally in Europe. Both EU and non-EU countries saw increased interest, with more than half of respondents listing them as possible areas for growth. North America was also a popular region for 46% of businesses, and 23% were looking at opportunities in Australia following the UK’s recent free trade deal.

Morris continued: “While quarantine regulations were an essential measure in keeping us all safe, they have inevitably impeded the ability of many small businesses to make deals, scout opportunities, expand a team and, ultimately, to secure growth.

“This has had an impact on both the growth of individual enterprises, but the UK economy as a whole. While technology has enabled businesses to continue to operate, there have been limits to what is achievable when face-to-face meetings aren’t an option.”