The UK conference business is worth an estimated £7.7 billion annually in direct spend by organisers according to the latest industry research released today the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD).The total value of conference activity is even higher when account is taken of delegate expenditure on such items as drinks in the bar, meals in local restaurants, entertainment and visits to attractions, and transport costs.
The ‘British Conference Venues Survey 2004’ results were released by BACD at its Spring Convention and AGM in Birmingham.
The results are based on detailed questionnaires completed by venues across the UK, giving information on the conferences and meetings staged during 2003. Some 200 venues contributed to the research.
Commenting on the research, Tony Rogers, BACD executive director, said: “This research is absolutely key in giving us estimates for the overall volume and value of the conference market in the UK today. It’s particularly encouraging to see the growth in the numbers of conferences taking place, underlining the continued importance and relevance of face-to-face meetings in this ‘virtual’ age.”
Nearly two-thirds of the venues surveyed highlighted that business was up in 2003 over 2002. Encouragingly 71 percent anticipate further growth in their conference business in 2004, compared with just 4 percent who expect to see a downturn in activity.
Venues staged an average of 386 conferences in 2003, an increase of 32 percent on 2002 which reported 292 events per venue. Not surprisingly, hotel venues were used for some 58 percent of conferences, followed in popularity by dedicated conference/training centres (18 percent) and then unusual venues (12 percent).
On average, conference venues have 11 meeting rooms, with each meeting room hosting 35 conferences/meetings during 2003.
In recent years factors such as price and value for money have again featured very strongly in organisers’ selection criteria. Venues confirm that, in 2003, they achieved an average day delegate rate of £47.30 (inc. VAT), and an average 24-hour or residential rate of £167.20.
The average duration of conferences was 1.6 days, although 63 percent of conferences lasted between four hours and a day. A further 21 percent of conferences were of two days’ duration, with 16 percent lasting for three days or longer.
The research confirmed that conferencing is a year-round activity, and thus important for venues and destinations and for all those whose livelihood is dependent on conference and meetings activity.
However, the peak months for conferences were again similar to previous years, with September and October the busiest months, followed by June and November. The period from March-May also showed healthy levels of activity.
Venues were invited to comment on factors that had affected their business performance in 2003, either positively or negatively. The most significant factor was seen as the economy, mentioned by 46 percent of venues. Other important factors highlighted included improved sales and marketing (44 percent of venues), staff development and training (35 percent), and new investment by the venue (30 percent).
The research has been released by the Association on behalf of the research sponsors*. It has been carried out each year since 1993 and was undertaken by research company, Tourism Enterprise and Management, in partnership with Questions Answered.
Conferences were defined by the research as a ‘paid-for facility containing at least three meeting rooms for hire with a minimum capacity of 50 theatre-style in its largest room’. Conference venues were analysed by six categories: purpose-built conference centres; conference/training centres; multi-purpose venues; hotels; universities or other educational institutions, and unusual venues such as museums, theatres, castles or sporting venues. A conference within the survey was defined as “an out-of-office meeting of at least four hours’ durations involving a minimum of eight people”.