More events, but lower spend, new UKCAM Survey reveals

New research into the UK’s conference and business events sector, entitled the UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2016 (UKCAMS), reveals that, in 2015, more business events were held at UK venues but that they delivered fewer delegates.

The research estimates that the sector was worth an estimated £19.2bn in venue and destination direct spend in 2015, a figure that represents a fall of £2.4bn compared with the previous year.

The findings mirror other recent research, which has suggested organisers are being asked to deliver more with static event budgets.

Now in its 23rd consecutive year, UKCAMS 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 new findings show that the overall number of business events in 2015 (an estimated 1.34m) rose by 600,000 compared with the 2014 figure of 1.28m. However, a decrease in the average size of events (70 delegates per event as against 81 in 2014) led to a fall of some 10m in the total number of delegates, with 94.1m delegates generating approximately 144m business event days in 2015, compared with 104m delegates and 162m business event days in 2014.

However, continuing optimism in the market was reflected in sustained levels of investment by venues, with 79% having undertaken some investment in 2015.

The proportion of venues investing more than £500,000 was up on 2013 and 2014 levels, with purpose-built convention centres being the heaviest investors.

Venues also indicated that their overall business performance was up in 2015 compared with 2014, and 61% anticipated that 2016 results would show further growth.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • There was an average of 383 business events per venue in 2015 (compared with an average of 366 in 2014), the highest level since 2008. The majority of events (61%) were held in hotels
  • The average event duration was 1.5 days, although most events (67%) lasted a day or less. Average duration varied from 1.4 days for non-residential events to 2.0 days for residential events
  • The average daily delegate rate achieved by venues for business events was £37 (inc VAT). The average 24-hour/residential rate was £139 (inc VAT). These figures are very similar to the average rates achieved in the period 2013-2015 of £37 and £137 respectively.

The lack of growth in rates achieved also suggests that the market is still highly competitive.

Other important influencing factors for event organisers, as noted by venues, were the provision of free Wi-Fi as well as the availability of flexible event spaces.

Compared to three years ago, the one source of business and lead generation that had grown was social media – highlighted as important by three-quarters of venues. Venues also indicated some growth in business from third party websites, and from PCOs and agents.

Simon Gidman, head of business visits and events for VisitEngland and principal sponsor of UKCAMS 2016, added: “The UK events industry has a lot to look forward to over the next few years. England plays host to a series of significant scientific and business events including the prestigious EuroScience Open Forum in Manchester (2016) and the International Festival of Business in Liverpool (2016).

“In 2017, Hull will be crowned UK City of Culture resulting in a number of exciting events coming to the progressive Yorkshire city. The UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2016 provides key insights into the sector’s scale and characteristics, essential reading for all who want to keep abreast of the sector’s changing dynamics and growth potential.”

The research was carried out by Tony Rogers (pictured) of Tony Rogers Conference & Event Services and Richard Smith of RJS Associates.

Copies of the full UKCAMS 2016 report are available priced £145 + VAT. Visit http://www.ukcams.org.uk .

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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