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Belgian Tourism Officials Suing Weather Forecaster Over Rain Predictions


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  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)

So beware what you forecast!!!!!

Tourism officials at several Belgian resorts plan to sue the weather service about a long-term forecast for a rainy summer which led to widespread holiday cancellations.

Several seaside resorts were incensed about a commercial weather forecaster that predicted bad weather for much of the summer, which hoteliers said has cost them "millions of euros" in lost trade. The tourist officials said a report by private weather bureau Meteo Belgique, which predicted only five days above 25 Celsius in July and bad weather in the first half of August, had been "disastrous" for business. Members of the local hotel and restaurant federation said they would now take legal action against the bureau on the grounds of publishing "misinformation".

The 40-mile stretch of coastline in Belgium generates an estimated £2.2 billion per year for local hotels and restaurants – a third of which comes during July and August. Daniel De Spiegelaere, head of tourism in the upmarket seaside town of Knokke-Heist, said local hotels had been "inundated" with cancellations after the weather forecasts were published in the Flemish tabloid newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws.

He said, "We have been inundated with people cancelling their holidays. From hotels to beach huts, they have all been affected. "They predicted the first two weeks of August to be bad and, consequently, we immediately got cancellations. This is totally unacceptable to our members. "These long-term predictions are unscientific and have been proven to have only 50 per cent reliability. It does say so on the weather bureau's website but only in the small print. The headline, of course, has already done the damage."

Leopold Lippens, the Mayor of Knokke-Heist, said the Flemish Tourist Office would seek compensation for loss of trade running into "millions of euros". He said, "We all know Belgium is not California but we do get good weather. There is absolutely no scientific basis for making predictions so far in advance. They even said September would be a washout. We will sue on the grounds of misinformation. These people must pay for the huge losses."

He said organisers of a music festival in the Swiss resort of Lugano took similar action a few years ago when a private weather company predicted bad weather. "Hardly anyone turned up and the organisers took the company to court and won. We are confident we can do the same," said Mr Lippens.

Geert Hoorens, of Westtoer, the local regional tourism office, said, "Can you imagine the weather forecasters in somewhere like Provence or Cote d'Azur telling people: 'there's going to be bad weather so everyone go and holiday in Marrakesh and Luxor?'." Dirk Van Cutsem, who runs an 80-bed hotel at Ostend, said, "I and a lot of my colleagues in the hotel trade along the coast support any legal action because long-term forecasts of bad weather is baseless and badly damages our prospects."

Xavier Lizin, of Meteo Belgique, hit back at the criticism, insisting that the forecasts are sufficiently reliable to broadcast and publish. He said: "We develop seasonal trends on the basis of objective factors. Of course, they are not as reliable as a forecast drawn up, say, only three days in advance but businesses and other bodies repeatedly ask for long-term forecasts."


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