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Weak economic growth, inflation and procurement are biggest obstacles faced by venues & agencies

 Economic recovery, inflation and rising business costs are the biggest challenges for the conference and events industry at present, according to a survey conducted in association with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the HBAA and Conference Centres of Excellence. Procurement & the RFP process were also cited as key obstructions to business growth in 2013.

Completed by over 80 agencies and venues, the survey sought to gauge the industry’s trading outlook for the remainder of 2013 and 2014. The outcomes of the survey were presented to the HBAA’s members at the Association’s Annual Forum by PwC’s head of hospitality & leisure research Liz Hall.

On the whole, confidence regarding business outcomes appears to be on the up, with 86% of respondents claiming to be ‘more optimistic’ than six months previously. However, 81% of the surveyed businesses listed weak economic growth as one of the three biggest obstacles facing their trade, whilst inflation and rising business costs was a key issue for 49% of companies.

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A further 32% of survey respondents chose ‘structural issues’ such as changes in meeting trends as one of the biggest obstacles, and 20% selected technology-based issues. Other concerns included over-supply and price discounting, location, weak regional economies, attracting talent, and short lead-in times. It was also stated that increased competition from ‘secondary stream’ venues whose core business is the provision of leisure facilities has resulted in ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unmatchable’ rates.

Yet optimism in trading for the remainder of 2013 remains high, with 83% of those surveyed being ‘more optimistic’ about the rest of the year, and 80% of businesses feeling similarly about trading in 2014.

Juliet Price, executive director of the HBAA, commented: “The economy has dominated the thoughts and worries of the event industry in the last half-decade, and although it remains a concern for venues and agencies, it’s great to see that as a sector, we are becoming more optimistic about the future of business trading. The survey results are especially important in understanding where the concerns of our members lie so that the Association can offer support and look for solutions accordingly.”

Liz Hall, head of hospitality & leisure research at PwC, said: “While it’s still early days in any economic recovery, we are cautiously optimistic about prospects. Business travel should benefit from improved confidence and the economic pick-up: positive signs for conference and meetings venues.”

Conference Centres of Excellence’s executive director Anthony Lishman commented: “Our venues have been listening to the changing needs of clients and adapting accordingly, to ensure a professional and competitive service with exceptional quality standards and value for money. With an on-going commitment to investment in customer service, venue facilities and particularly in technology, we feel confident that our venues are well placed to meet future needs of our customers and embrace the challenges of whatever the future economic conditions may hold. Maintaining a strong focus on the overall customer experience - pre, during and post-event - will remain top priorities into 2014.”

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