Events industry 'must offer value-for-money in recession'

20th April 2009

<p>It is a trying time for the events industry at the moment with major conventions being cancelled and companies scaling back budgets in an effort to survive the recession and minimise staff losses.</p><p>Last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) announced that it had taken the "difficult decision" to call off the 2010 British International Motor Show.</p><p>The event is the UK's largest consumer exhibition and has attracted increasing numbers of visitors over recent years, so the revelation was worrying for those in the industry.</p><p>Paul Everitt, chief executive of the SMMT, said the organisers were forced to cancel the show because the difficulties facing the automotive sector mean manufacturers are reluctant to commit to large-scale, international events.</p><p>Shortly after, the organisers of the Royal Show announced that this year will be the last year the exhibition is held in its present form at Stoneleigh Park.</p><p>Hugh Oliver-Bellasis, chairman of trustees for the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), sent a letter to members of the organisation explaining that the event has struggled financially and in its ability to attract visitors in recent years.</p><p>"Today's dire worldwide economic crisis is an added challenge, thus the trustees have concluded that the Royal Show is no longer economically viable," he said.</p><p>From 2010 onwards, RASE will create a new programme of events and intends to use the best and most appropriate elements of the show for individual technical exhibitions or to "graft" on to existing expositions.</p><p>So what is the mood of the conference and events industry at the moment? Do the recent cancellations spell disaster or are opportunities opening up in the calendar?</p><p>Rob Allen, chief executive of experiential agency TRO and board member of industry body Eventia, says: "The prevailing mood is one of anxiety, as companies in just about every industry are reducing their headcount, tightening their marketing budgets and avoiding activity that could be perceived as unnecessary or extravagant."</p><p>Peter Jackson, managing director of eventwise and also an Eventia board member, agrees that the current climate is "tough", but insists that exhibitions and conferences are still happening.</p><p>He suggests that the recession is altering businesses' perspective on events and could necessitate a change in offerings and pricing.</p><p>"I believe that clients' buying criteria have shifted towards agencies that can offer exceptional value, demonstrate great return on investment and be proactive."</p><p>Mr Allen adds that there are opportunities for organisers to modify event formats so that they engage with customers, pointing to the example of face-to-face marketing, which has become a "prime and successful" way of connecting with consumers.</p><p>"Venues and organisers should be analysing the market, their offer and their own supply chain, in order to better understand how they should adapt to fit their clients' needs in such challenging conditions," he asserts.</p><p>"Focusing on these needs and striving to be as flexible as possible in the face of client constraints will ensure that they provide the best support and genuine value to those clients," Mr Allen suggests.</p><p>As for the future of the business, Mr Jackson believes it is "potentially rosy", particularly with during the run-up to the Olympic Games in 2012.</p><p>"The current economic climate and exchange rates make London and the UK more attractive for major events and provide a great platform for attracting major events into the capital from abroad," he concludes.<br/><img alt="ADNFCR-1753-ID-19128497-ADNFCR" src="" /></p>