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UK conferences at highest level in almost a decade, report reveals

Survey says 2016 saw highest number of meetings in UK since financial crash - and reveals sector worth £19.4bn

Pictured: Tony Rogers of Tony Rogers Conference & Event Services, who carried out the survey with Richard Smith of RJS Associates

Last year saw the highest number of face-to-face conferences and meetings at UK venues since 2008, according to the UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2017 (UKCAMS).

And UKCAMS, now in its 24th year, estimates that the sector was worth an estimated £19.4 billion in venue and destination direct spend in 2016. This rise is in line with inflation compared with the estimated value of £19.2bn in 2015.

“We believe that the UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2017 provides further confirmation of the energy and vitality of the conference and meetings sector,” said Tony Rogers, who has been involved with the 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 findings show that the overall number of conferences and meetings in 2016 rose by 8 per cent year on year to an estimated 1.45 million. However, a slight decrease in the average size of events - from 70 delegates per event in 2015 to 67 per event last year - combined with a small reduction in the proportion of residential events means that the overall value of the sector has remained constant rather than increasing in line with meetings activity.

Other indicators of market buoyancy revealed by this new UKCAMS research include optimism on the part of UK venues about the prospects for future business performance, with 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 more than 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 97.5 million delegates accounting for approximately 151.2 million delegate days (compared with 94.1 million delegates and 144 million delegate days in 2015)
·         The average daily delegate rate achieved by venues for conferences and meetings was £39, up from £37 in 2015. The average 24-hour / residential rate was £142
·         Other important influencing factors for event organisers, as noted by venues, were the provision of free Wi-Fi, venue location, accessibility and the availability of flexible event spaces 
The research was carried out by Tony Rogers of Tony Rogers Conference & Event Services and Richard Smith of RJS Associates.

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