23rd July 2007
1) Two-thirds of reporting venues stated that conference business in 2006 was higher than in 2005. A similar percentage of venues are optimistic about business to be achieved in 2007, 63% anticipating that it will be up on 2006.
2) The research suggests a downturn in business in the north of England, while activity levels in south and central England have remained comparable to the previous year. The average number of conferences per venue in the north of England fell from 512 in 2005 to 384 in 2006.
3) While the rates achieved by venues in northern England were similar to the year before, the lower volume of conferences impacted their position relative to the rest of the country. In part these changes can be explained by differences in the venues actually reporting this year. The Celtic nations showed some modest growth in the number of conferences held per venue.
4) The report reveals a decline in the number of corporate meetings and conferences which formed 48% of all events held. This compares with a figure of 62% in 2005 and 66% in 2004. Government and public sector conferences accounted for 37% of all events in 2006, with associations and other not-for-profit bodies representing 15%.
5) The report underlines the importance of the local and regional conference market to venues, the first time that detailed statistical evidence has been compiled from a national perspective. Venues reported that up to 69% of conference business came from the region in which the venue itself is situated.
6) The estimated value of the conference market (in terms of direct revenue to venues) in 2006 was £7.6 billion, compared with £10.3 billion in 2005. Other delegate and organiser expenditure (e.g. speaker fees, transport costs, restaurant meals, visits to local attractions) is additional to this total.
7) Reasons for the fall in the estimated value of the market include the lower volume of conferences in certain parts of the country, a slight downturn in the ratio of residential conferences, a slightly shorter length of stay for non-residential conferences, and lower achieved rates.
8) Another key reason may well be a change in the reporting base. For example, in 2006 27% of reporting venues were from London and SE England, but only 17% in 2007; 14% of venues were from the Midlands in 2006, but only 8% this year; last year 5% of venues were from Scotland, this year that had increased to 16%.
9) About a third of conferences (29%) were booked by a professional conference organiser or venue finding agency.
10) The average conference size was 53 delegates – this was slightly higher than in 2005 (49 delegates) and on a par with 2004 (the average was 54).