Scots tourist chiefs urge for weatherproof events

SCOTLAND’S national tourism agency is taking on one of its biggest challenges yet – the weather. A new report produced by VisitScotland says that climate change is making Scotland even wetter for longer periods, which is having a serious ­impact on the success of crowd-pulling events across the nation.

It is advising organisers to weatherproof their events with a range of measures that might keep them open during even the biggest deluges and avoid substantial financial losses.

The report – Extreme Weather: Impact On Tourism And Events – says that Scotland’s climate has changed over the course of the last century, leading to generally drier summers, wetter winters and more extreme downpours.

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Last year proved to be the second wettest in the UK for a century with the damp conditions having a damaging effect on many outdoor events, ­resulting in low attendances, cancellations and, in some ­cases, illnesses.

The Great Scottish Swim at Strathclyde Park – the venue for the Commonwealth Games swimming events – was cancelled after a number of swimmers at an earlier event became ill. Pollution caused by heavy rain led to the loch becoming contaminated with the norovirus. Similarly, competitors at a Tough Mudder event in July – in which participants tackle obstacles on a muddy course – went down with an E.coli infection, probably caused by slurry or animal ­faeces in the mud.

The Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace, which attracts thousands of visitors, became one of many high-profile events that had to be abandoned after car parks became waterlogged.

“Others went ahead but ­suffered serious disruption in atrocious weather conditions,” the report says. Across the UK, cancellations of agricultural shows and other country events led to estimated losses of £243 million.

A survey by EventScotland found that almost 70 per cent of 2012 events surveyed were “adversely affected by the weather,” the report adds. Most of these experienced reduced attendances, increased costs, increased site reinstatement costs and increased ­financial risk and delays.

Report author Ruth Monfries, an insight analyst, said: “No-one comes to Scotland for the weather because we know how changeable it can. Having said that, 2012 was unprecedented in terms of the number of cancellations and what we want to get across is that ­organisers do not have to be ­victims of this if they plan ahead.”

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Monfries said organisers should check official flood risk maps to ensure outdoor events do not take place on flood plains and also check drainage systems, particularly in urban areas. They should also ensure a supply of permeable surfaces for car parks and pathways, as flooded car parks are one of the main reasons for cancellations, and also check insurance policies to guard against financial losses.

Events organiser John Diamond, of Diamond Event Services, said: “One of the things you have to make sure of is being able to cope with bad weather. If it buckets it down the main thing is to keep the event safe.

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“The weather can be disastrous but it’s not true that you can’t do anything about it. You just have to plan ahead.”

Monfries is hoping her ­advice will not be needed too much this year but appreciates 2013 has not been promising so far. “I’m sure we are going to have a lovely summer,” she said.