Viewpoint: It's time to put on a show, says William Lees-Jones

15 July 2021
Viewpoint: It's time to put on a show, says William Lees-Jones

Cultural events, the final casualties of Covid, are finally opening up, and they're bringing hospitality with them, says William Lees-Jones.

As the great British summer gets under way, hospitality operators across the UK are looking ahead with optimism to the final stages of restrictions lifting. While we continue to navigate the ever-changing challenges of the pandemic, there's a lot to be hopeful about.

One of those things is the return of cultural events across the UK. From festivals and gigs to theatre and concerts, these events play a huge part in our emotional wellbeing and enrich us in many ways by bringing communities together again. They also provide economic opportunity, attracting visitors back to towns and cities and in turn generating revenue along the leisure supply chain for hotels, restaurants, pubs and other attractions.

At JW Lees, as a Manchester brewery and a sixth-generation family business, civic pride is something we're extremely passionate about and we strive to make our environment a better place to live and work. I believe it's more important than ever for businesses like ours to collaborate with events, such as the Manchester International Festival, which attract international acclaim, to ensure that they not only continue to survive, but to thrive as we reopen.

These events offer a rich and diverse combination of arts and culture and provide a unique platform for the hospitality sector to shine, with food and drink playing an intrinsic role in the overall offering. Whenever you bring people together, what they eat and drink requires the same considered curation as the artists they will observe or the music they will hear. It's a relationship that enhances the experience for all, as well as providing visibility and brand awareness.

For example, Manchester's Festival Square plays host to a range of the city's most celebrated independents and talented chefs hosting pop-up events and bringing the excitement of culinary experiences to visitors once again. At the same time, these events provide an outlet for operators to generate additional revenue while their sites are operating at reduced capacity.

Events provide an outlet for operators to generate additional revenue while their sites are operating at reduced capacity

Well-executed cultural events with a varied programme encourage a broad spectrum of visitors. The businesses that support their delivery not only share the positive glow of the festival's success, but the introduction to new customers. These events provide an opportunity for consumers to rediscover parts of the UK closer to home. By businesses working together to support the success of cultural events, we can make the most of the growing staycation market and attract more visitors to boost local economies as they recover from the pandemic.

According to the 2020 Business Visits & Events Partnership's Great Britain Report, the events sector is worth £39.1b to the UK economy in terms of direct spend, with music, festivals and cultural events making up £2.4b. The events sector, and those across the leisure supply chain, will continue to be a major contributor, not only in revenue terms, but also by creating jobs and rebuilding the UK visitor economy.

Events and hospitality businesses and their suppliers were the first hit by the pandemic and are among the last to recover. It's imperative that our sector remains at the forefront of government thinking, allowing for devolved local management in the regions that have shown how quickly they've been able to pivot operations and businesses to deliver the cultural enrichment that we're all craving.

William Lees-Jones is managing director of JW Lees Brewery

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