Events industry 'resilient' in big freeze

18th January 2010

Over the past few weeks the "big freeze", as the media have dubbed it, has dominated headlines, with images of snowmen, sledgers and stranded cars appearing across TV screens and newspaper pages.

The wintry conditions have had a major impact on both individuals and businesses, with transport networks struggling and even warnings of gas supplies running low.

According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), the estimated cost to the UK's gross domestic product (GDP) could be around £1 billion, which will have a "short-term" impact on the economy.

The CEBR stressed that much of the lost GDP will be made up in the coming weeks, but warned that some cash-strapped businesses that are already struggling could be pushed over the edge.

"All the past research shows that the impact of extreme weather on GDP is surprisingly small," said Douglas Williams, chief executive of the CEBR.

Although the big freeze has claimed one major events victim - the National Motorcycle Show at Manchester Central - the industry has been reasonably resilient.

Event organisers Bike Shows Europe said that 45 exhibitors were unable to get to the show because they were stuck in snow, while various bike displays and stunt shows could not be staged.

But all is not lost for the event, which organisers are hoping to simply postpone, having been offered a potential date for April.

Brian Kirsch, managing director of insurance company Event Assured, said that the Manchester Bike Show was the most high-profile casualty of the adverse weather, but that generally the industry had not suffered.

"People do try and go ahead with their events," he said, adding that it is only under extreme circumstances that they are cancelled, as was the case for the Motorbike Show.

"Those two days were probably the worst of the entire period - so it has to be pretty extreme for people to say 'we've got to abandon this event'," Mr Kirsch added.

The Tullett Prebon London International Boat Show is an example of an exhibition that has continued undeterred, despite the bad weather. The event got underway on January 8th and continues until January 17th at ExCel London.

Andrew Williams, managing director of National Boat Shows, which stages the show, predicted that the effect of the weather would be limited.

"Clearly the weather could have some impact right now. People who are involved in boating are used to harsh conditions and I don't think that will stop many people coming here," he said.

Mr Kirsch added that his company had not seen evidence of widespread cancellations. He had just one client, who deals in equestrian events, having to cancel a show due to the frozen ground being unsuitable for horses.

"We've not had a lot of people phoning up saying we need to call things off but having said that, this is not a peak time of the year," he confirmed.

Mr Kirsch said that in actual fact, the summer weather usually has a bigger impact on the industry, when lots of events are staged outside.

"The summer just past was quite good but 2007 and 2008 were two very bad, very wet summers," he commented.

"In 2008, we had one client try to organise a series of country fairs and out of 13 events they had to abandon or cancel three of them in that year and the underwriters paid quite a lot of money for that, because the ground was completely waterlogged and they couldn't set the thing up," he said.

The summer weather turns out to be a bigger risk than the winter, Mr Kirsch concluded.