New research into the UK’s conference and meetings sector has revealed that, in 2016, the highest numbers of face-to-face meetings were held at UK venues since 2008.
This is despite, or possibly because of, the uncertainty and instability created by Brexit. The research, entitled the ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2017’ (UKCAMS), estimates that the sector was worth an estimated £19.4bn in venue and destination direct spend in 2016, a rise in line with inflation compared with the estimated value of £19.2bn in 2015.
The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey’, now in its 24th year, has a specific focus on the value and volume of the market and the performance of meeting venues. It also highlights key market trends identified by venues. The results provide a definitive insight into the conference and meetings sector and are widely used to inform investment, advocacy and marketing activities.
The research findings show that the overall number of conferences and meetings in 2016 (an estimated 1.45m) rose by 110,000 (or eight per cent) compared with the 2015 figure of 1.34m. However, a slight decrease in the average size of events (67 delegates per event as against 70 in 2015) combined with a small reduction in the proportion of residential events meant that the overall value of the sector has remained constant rather than increased in line with the increase in meetings activity.
The meetings industry remains extremely competitive, and venues are constantly seeking ways to obtain an edge on their competitors. Clients are negotiating hard and research shows that price and value for money factors are key criteria for event organisers when selecting their next venues.
Other indicators of market buoyancy revealed by the new UKCAMS research include optimism on the part of UK venues about the prospects for future business performance, with some 59 per cent of venues predicting that business will increase further in 2017. At the same time, product investment levels are at their highest level since 2011, with over four-fifths of the survey respondents indicating that they had undertaken some capital investment in 2016.
Other key findings from the research include:
· There was an average of 419 conferences and meetings per venue in 2016 (compared with an average of 383 in 2015), the highest level in the past ten years. The majority of events were held in hotels, followed by unusual/multi-purpose venues
· Conference and training centre (536 events) and hotels (459 events) hosted higher than average numbers of events
· In 2016, there were an estimated 97.5m delegates accounting for approximately 151.2 million delegate days (compared with 94.1m delegates and 144m delegate days in 2015)
· Other important influencing factors for event organisers, as noted by venues, were the provision of free Wi-Fi, venue location and accessibility, and the availability of flexible event spaces.
"We believe that the ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2017’ provides further confirmation of the energy and vitality of the conference and meetings sector," commented Tony Rogers, who has been involved with this research since its inception in 1993. "It also offers an invaluable insight into the sector’s scale and characteristics, and into current and emerging trends. It is essential reading for all who want to keep abreast of the sector’s changing dynamics and growth potential."
The 2017 UKCAMS research was sponsored by: IMEX Group, venuedirectory.com, Visit Guildford for Business, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, and Hiscox Event Insurance.
The research was carried out by Tony Rogers of Tony Rogers Conference & Event Services and Richard Smith of RJS Associates.