The conference industry, like all industries in a global downturn, has some tough issues to face. If the recent results of the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD) is indeed a crucial barometer for what is true of the industry all over the world, the conference sector will have to change gears or re-invent itself.
The BCAD’s 2008 British Conference Venues Survey reveals vital insights into the current state of the industry from a supply-side perspective. The survey based on data supplied by a record number of 446 venues across the UK, shows that the UK conference market experienced a revenue downturn in the period from 2005 to 2007 and registered an estimated value of £8billion compared to £9.8billion in the three-year period before.
- There was significant reduction in the average number of conferences per venue
- A slight shift away from residential conferences in favor of the one day conferencing or what we call as non-overnight conferences. This has critical economic impact as residential conferences account for almost two-thirds of overall venue income.
- 30 per cent of venues noted a shortening of lead times in recent years, with many venues commenting that this was now becoming the norm. Eleven per cent reported greater pressure on client budgets
- The survey also revealed an increased level of interest and awareness of CSR and environmental issues, a higher demand for Fairtrade and organic catering, and an increasing demand to meet special dietary requirements.
- The 2008 report confirms a trend noted in the 2007 survey, which highlighted the importance of public sector and association conferences. These now account for 52 per cent of all meetings and conferences, compared to 48 per cent for the corporate sector.
- The dominance of city venues continues. The huge investment in infrastructure and facilities enjoyed by most city destinations over the past couple of decades is reaping benefits in the business events market.
We believe that face-to-face meetings at traditional conferences as we know it here to stay but must necessarily evolve with the times. There are insights from this survey that gives the industry players an informed view of how to best manage change, and indeed, even capitalize on current trends.