Since its formation in 1989, Leisure Industry Week has grown to become a leading UK trade show serving the out-of-home leisure sector. In the run-up to the 2010 edition, which takes place at the Birmingham NEC on September 21-23, InterPark spoke to event manager Chris Brown, who said that despite the economic downturn LIW remains stronger than ever.

InterPark: Does LIW’s sustained growth over 21 years confirm many industry observers’ opinion that the leisure/amusement industry is recession proof?

Chris Brown: As with all trade shows, LIW reacts to and is representative of the industries and communities that it serves. Over the past 21 years LIW has gone through its ups and its downs, just as every business will have done through two recessions. Yet through innovation, strong industry relationships and a core of exhibitors who support the event year in year out, LIW continues to provide the largest and most diverse meeting of leisure businesses in the UK. I don’t think that any of our visitors or exhibitors would hold their hand up to the idea that the leisure industry is recession proof, but I do strongly believe that through greater collaboration between industry bodies, operators, suppliers, government agencies, trade shows and the media we should be making the most of the current trading conditions and continue to communicate to the public that a day out, short break or holiday in the UK can rival any other global visitor experience.

IP: Does LIW remain primarily a UK show, or do you embrace international exhibitors/visitors?

CB: In its infancy LIW was known as International Leisure Industry Week, being the only show for active leisure in Europe at that time. The event drew a significant audience from overseas, but at the same time such an innovative and successful show attracted competition from abroad, and today you’ll find a global calendar of events playing host to their domestic markets. However, with the assistance of UK Trade and Investment we are able to fund and host a delegation of Scandinavian visitor attraction operators at LIW this year. We will look to develop this in future years to ensure the latest products and services by UK companies are seen by a much wider audience without the expense of having to travel to international events.

IP: What are the main challenges currently facing the leisure and attractions sector? How have the organisers of LIW sought to address these challenges?

CB: Having asked this to a couple of colleagues in the industry who run attractions, their main concern is retaining the additional visitors they have seen during 2009 and the first half of 2010, as consumers may increasingly return to overseas holidays. From a political perspective they’d like to see a trial on Double Daylight Saving in the UK, which would create an extra hour of daytime and boost overall tourism earnings by an estimated £3bn; the reintroduction of paid for museum visits; and the VAT on visitor attraction tickets cut to five per cent. LIW provides a platform not just for showcasing products and services, but for debate and networking. Through the show’s partnership with BALPPA, and support from VisitEngland, as an industry we will be debating the possible reintroduction of paid for museum visits and how a national framework for tourism can help visitor attractions thrive in the current market. Following this debate, VisionXS will host a follow-up to their July conference, where the most recent analysis on catering spend and dwell time will be presented. As for the networking, there will be a VIP and BALPPA member lunch on Wednesday, September 22, followed by the industry debate and VisionXS workshop, before the attractions industry party that evening in Birmingham.

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