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New research shows more, but smaller, UK business events and lower overall spend

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 with fewer delegates.
  The research estimates that the sector was worth an estimated £19.2 billion in venue and destination direct spend in 2015, a fall compared with the previous year.  The findings mirror other recent research which suggests that organisers are being asked to deliver more with static event budgets.

The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey’, now in its 23rd 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 show that the overall number of business events in 2015 (an estimated 1.34 million) rose by 600,000 compared with the 2014 figure of 1.28 million. However, a decrease in the average size of events (70 delegates per event as against 81 in 2014) led to a fall of some 10 million in the total number of delegates, with 94.1 million delegates generating approximately 144 million business event days in 2015, compared with 104 million delegates and 162 million business event days in 2014. This fall in the average size of events also means that the estimated value of the sector, £19.2 billion, is £2.4 billion lower than the 2014 total (£21.6 billion).

However, continuing optimism in the market was reflected in sustained levels of investment by venues, with 79 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent) were held in hotels
• The average event duration was 1.5 days, although most events (67 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 £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, comments: ‘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.’

Other sponsors of the UKCAMS research are: IMEX Exhibitions,, 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.

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