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New research into the UK’s conference and business events sector, entitled the ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2015’ (UKCAMS), values the sector at an estimated £21.6 billion in venue and destination direct spend in 2014. The total represents an increase of some £2 billion compared with the previous year, due mainly to an increase in event size.

The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey’, now in its 22nd consecutive 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 business events sector and are widely used to inform investment, advocacy and marketing activities.

The research findings also reveal that the overall number of business events in 2014 (an estimated 1.28 million) was similar to 2013. However, the increased average size of events led to a total of 104 million delegates generating 162 million business event days, compared with 91 million delegates and 148 million business event days in 2013.

Increasing optimism in the market was reflected in higher levels of investment by venues, with 78 per cent having undertaken some investment in 2014. The proportion of venues investing more than £100,000 was up on 2012 and 2013 levels. Venues also indicated that their overall business performance was up in 2014 compared with 2013, and 65 per cent anticipated that 2015 results would show further growth.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • There was an average of 366 events per venue in 2014 – this was on a par with 2013 (356 events) and 2012 (373 events). The majority of events (61 per cent) were held in hotels
  • The average event duration was 1.6 days, although most events (64 per cent) 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 £46 (inc VAT). The average 24-hour / residential rate was £126 (inc VAT). This compares to an average for the period 2010 to 2014 of £43 (inc VAT) for day rates and £129 (inc VAT) for 24-hour / residential rates.
  • The lack of growth in rates achieved suggests that the market is still highly competitive. It may also highlight the influence of company procurement departments, identified by venues as one of the main challenges to their conference and meetings business
  • Other challenges noted by venues were keeping pace with technology demands and the provision of Wi-Fi with sufficient bandwidth
  • Interestingly, issues around compliance, contracts and T&Cs, staff recruitment and retention, and the payment of commission to agencies were rated as only a moderate challenge by venues.

Simon Gidman, Head of Business Visits and Events for VisitEngland and principal sponsor of UKCAMS 2015, comments: ‘England’s events industry has a lot to look forward to over the next few years. In addition to major global sporting events such as the England Rugby World Cup in the autumn of 2015, England plays host to a series of significant scientific and business events including the prestigious European Science Open Forum in Manchester (2016) and the International Festival of Business in Liverpool (2016). The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2015’ provides important confirmation of the energy and vitality of the sector, and really positive indicators for its future growth.

Other sponsors of the research are: The Meetings Show, venuedirectory.com, Visit Guildford for Business, Conference Centres of Excellence, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, and Hiscox Event Assured.

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

Copies of the full UKCAMS 2015 report are available priced £145 + VAT. Visit http://www.ukcams.org.uk to download an order form.

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