Events industry is worth £18.8 billion

The conference and events industry is worth £18.8 billion to the UK’s economy, a new survey has found.

The UK Events Market Trends Survey (UKEMTS) is an annual survey, which measures the volume and value of the business events and conference market in the UK.

The results of the survey which was launched by Eventia in 1993, aim to provide an estimate of the market’s value in regards of revenue to event venues.

The survey, which was based on information returned by 403 venues, also found that on average, each venue held 379 events in 2009, although this is down slightly from 2008, when the average was 391 events per venue.

Research found that most venues are feeling optimistic about future business with 65 per cent planning on investing in their properties. Of this, nine per cent revealed they would be spending in excess of £1 million, according to the story in Events Magazine.

It was also estimates that 94 million people attended events during 2009 and there were an estimate 1.32 million events held. Each event had an average attendance of 71 people.

The new figures are good news for those that have venues for hire. Last years survey estimates the sector was worth £7.2 billion in comparison to £8 billion the year before.

Industry experts particularly welcome the news after another survey, recently carried out by the Unique Venues of London (UVL) and The Westminster Collection (TWC), found that more than half of all venues had seen a reduction in corporate bookings during 2009.

Cash free events to be launched

From next summer a number of events held in the UK could become cash free, according to The BBC.

The news service claims that payments at a number of venues such as The Porter Tun, King George III, Sugar Rooms, Queen Charlotte room, Smeaton Vaults and James Watt room could be made via a wristband that is also the event ticket, which will have to be pre-loaded with money.

The article reveals that trials have been taking place over the past two years. According to The Independent, major music festivals are planning to go cash free next year, but no event promoter would confirm to The BBC that next year’s events will be completely cash free.

According to Management Today, a festival in Norway was run completely cash free and was a success. “It was straightforward,” the organiser told The BBC. “There was no opposition at all.”

This technology could prove particularly useful to event organisers who will be able to track the behaviour of attendees and use the data to target marketing messages.

However, Management Today pointed out that it could be hard to persuade all retailers to go cash free at such events. Massive music festivals present a serious challenge if vendors need to operate computers to process payments. It would eliminate independent retailers who stroll around the site selling their own produce.

One festival fan told The BBC she would adopt the technology if it could be proved that it was secure. Another said she would worry her spending would get out of control, but agreed that it’s better than carrying cash.

If the technology takes off and proves to be a success, it could be rolled out to an event near you.

Event venues are optimistic about corporate bookings for 2011

A study has found that event venues are optimistic about bookings for corporate events in 2011, according to Event Magazine.

The research found that, despite 2009 being difficult, optimism has returned to the corporate events industry. Many of the 100 event venues questioned claim to be hopeful for next year’s figures.

“Whilst it is undeniable that the recent recession has seen some venues struggle in the marketplace, this survey does highlight the confidence in the corporate market moving forwards,” said Lisa Hatswell, chairman of a venue behind the research.

Rene Dee, chief executive of another venue who conducted the study, said: “This business survey represents my belief that, in producing more meaningful and up to date research for our particular sector, this will help us to guide us in future decision making about how London promotes itself in this vital area.”

The study found that 55% of venues recorded a drop in the number of corporate bookings last year. 79% of venues said that lead times have continued to remain short, however just over half of the venues said delegate numbers are remaining steady.

This is good news for the corporate events sector, especially after some commentators claimed that the emergency budget would negatively impact the industry.

According to Meetpie, the budget would lead to ‘belt tightening’ around corporate event spend. However, the article also pointed out that the reduction in corporation tax would free up cash for business owners. Juliet Price, head of marketing and business and intelligence at an event venue, said that spending cuts would lead to a bigger demand for online self booking tools to help businesses get the best rates for events.

Event industry should 'wake up' to video potential and popularity

The event industry needs to wake up to the potential of video, said Google UK industry head Andrew Barke.

According to Event Magazine, Barke was speaking at the Summer Eventia event. He said that video makes up one third of all internet traffic, and events need to focus on this more. He revealed that, for the words ‘event’ and ‘marketing’, there are “over 350,000 impressions” on YouTube every month.

This means that all venues for hire should consider equipping themselves with AV technology, so videos can be broadcast during events as well as created.

This is reaffirmed by Cisco’s predictions that video will represent 90% of web traffic by 2013.

Visitors commenting on the story agree that video should be a focus for the events industry. Tom Lambridge wrote: “Event videos are proven to engage visitors and give extra value to exhibitors. They extend event marketing reach into the social media space; in and beyond Facebook and YouTube.”

This message was supported by Kenny Holmes, creative director at a communications agency who said that live events and digital technology are fundamentally “great bed fellows”, according to Conference & Incentive Travel.

Speaking at the same event, Holmes said that the need for live events will continue, despite a boom in virtual communication.

“In a world where the virtual becomes more real, the live event becomes ever more vital,” he said. “I believe that digital can enhance live, which is why we embed it so much into experiences.”

He added: “There is always an ROI question and events are quite budget consumer. But digital technology is great at extending the experience before and after the event.”



Despite public sector squeeze, SME’s embrace events

The government is “overdoing” public sector cuts, claims business economist Dominic Swords.

According to Conference & Incentive Travel, Swords told delegates at the Summer Eventia event that a strong focus on private sector, profit-driven growth will resonate throughout the events industry.

The news came as part of his session which, according to Event Magazine, was titled ”Economic prospects and the recovery request – imperatives for the UK events and business tourism industries.”

Claiming that the squeeze on the public sector is bigger than that required to deal with the deficit, Swords said: “It will fundamentally shift growth drivers away from the public sector to the private sector. But SMEs are winners. Firms with flexible mindsets will realise where the growth is happening and be quick to move.”

“SMEs will really rule the roost over the next seven years,” he said.

The news comes after Conference & Incentive Travel reported that industry figures have warned the budget could signal austere times for conference venues. In fact, Motivcom group executive director Nigel Cooper said that the announced cuts in public spending could be worse than the recession for event spaces.

However, BI’s operations director Rachel Stevens told the magazine in a previously published article: “On the bright side, while event spending is still low compared to 2007 levels, our industry has worked very hard to prove the value of face-to-face communication and so consequently I don’t anticipate the brakes will be applied as hard as they were a couple of years ago.”

Associations representing event venues remain divided on proposed merger

The leaders of the associations which represent the event venues industry are divided despite ongoing calls for them to work together, reports Meet Pie online.

MeetPie is an online news website covering venues for hire and developments in the events management industry. It reports that earlier this year, Eventia board member Nigel Cooper suggested that associations representing function venues and events should merge together to form one ‘super’ association.

This topic came up once more at the recent Summer Eventia conference. The proposal met with a positive reaction from two of the events industry’s most prominent organisations, PCMA and Eventia.

“We should be working together,” said Deborah Sexton of the Professional Convention Management Association. “Talking about trends and issues and funding research as an industry. We’ve done a tremendously poor job of explaining what we do to the general public – at a grass roots level, associations need to educate the public about our industry.”

Mark Saxby, chairman of Eventia argued for even further collaboration. “We need to be collaborating with European associations so we have a stronger voice in the European Parliament,” said Saxby.

Nevertheless the proposal did have some detractors. Paul Tilstone, CEO of the Institute of Travel and Meetings, said that a merger would be a poor idea as each association has different interests. He says that his own organisation “represents buyers of business travel and events” specifically and that it “doesn’t lobby because we have members who are government employees.”

“As far as consolidation is concerned,” said Tilstone, “the market place will take care of it. I don’t think forced collaboration will take place. We have to think differently as an association and change our business model, which is what we’re doing at ITM.”


Young professionals expect sustainability in the events industry

It was agreed during the European Forum on Sustainability that more education on sustainability at events and conference centres is needed in the events industry.

As reported by Conference & Incentive Travel, during the event held in Bruges last week, experts argued that more education was needed to highlight the benefits of sustainability to the events and conference industry.

In a video interview published on C&IT, Fiona Felham from MPI said that the big issue surrounds a lack of awareness about what sustainability actually means. “Sustainability is about good business practice, it’s about return on investment, it’s about increasing your brand reputation and your client’s reputation,” she said.

She continued: “As well as there being lots of standards, lots of checklists, lots of ways that you should be behaving, it’s really important that people understand the business benefits of sustainability.”

It’s something the industry can’t afford to ignore anymore, said Rob Davidson from the University of Westminster. He explained that there’s a generation of young professionals who have grown up with sustainability as standard. Davidson believes that a growing number of young professionals “expect to see all those things in the meetings they attend”.

“There is a perception that more sustainable meetings are more expensive meetings,” said Guy Bigwood, MCI group. According to him, people believe sustainable events are complicated and don’t have the time to implement them. Bigwood added: “Those are our two biggest challenges we have at the moment.”

Felham believes this is a growing area of interest for the industry: “I think over the next two years we will see a big difference around the level of sustainability that’s shown in events, and it’s not just around green things, it’s also around return on investment and community involvement.”

Advice on how to maximise event budgets

Advice about maximising event budgets from several experts in the events industry has been published on Conference & Incentive Travel today.

Speaking at C&ITs Corporate Forum this morning, event manager Kate Conway gave some cost-saving tips.

Conway, who works for Tesco internal communications, suggested using the skills of local colleges or community groups to carry out quality work at a fraction of the cost. This could be anything from designing and theming event spaces to providing the entertainment during the night.

Keep your budget under wraps, advised Conway. She explained that this will ensure suppliers are providing the best rate they can, rather than working to a fixed budget.

One way to use signs is via plasma screens, said Conway. This is a sustainable practice that is also more impressive than standard posters.

By taking on an intern, you’re helping the student by teaching them about the industry whilst making use of an extra pair of hands that can prove very useful.

By partnering with an emerging supplier, you’re better posed to negotiate costs. Conway suggests this is because the new company is keen for exposure, which means that you could draw up a deal that would help raise their profile. This could include incorporating their branding into a goodie bag, for example.

Kursha Woodgate commented on the article, contributing her advice that embracing social networking helps to raise awareness of the event, engage participants and get feedback. “This can be a very cost-effective way of keeping the lid on event marketing budgets,” Woodgate wrote.

The event kicked off C&ITs Corporate Forum even in Ascot this week.

Virtual platforms help cut costs and engage delegates

Virtual platforms help cut the cost of events and engage delegates at internal events, and extend the reach of external events.

Speaking at C&IT’s Corporate Forum yesterday, James Bedford, project manager European marketing at Cisco, explained how the company had embraced virtuality in corporate venues to make massive savings.

“In late 2008 our world changed and we started to re-evaluate what we were spending our money on,” said Bedford. “We decided that all internal events would be virtual and all external would be hybrid.”

Bedford explained that offering free registration as a virtual guest encouraged people to attend a physical event.

He was originally worried that the move to virtual reality would cannibalise physical attendance, but in the past year 15,000 people signed up as a free guest delegate and 952 paid to be a premier registrant.

Cisco used video to capture data on delegates who visited the physical stands at exhibitions, which “was a good way of ensuring a focus at the right times”.

As well as saving money for the hosts, virtual events cut costs for delegates too who save on their transport costs. It’s also good PR for the event, as it can be marketed as environmentally friendly as fewer people will be contributing to pollution or traffic by attending the event. The trick is to pick corporate venues that offer cutting edge AV technology, and ones which have the capacity to be transformed into virtual events for delegates who can’t attend.

Working out how much to charge for virtual events can be an issue, explained Bedford. Cisco deduced that virtual delegates who registered for free could access the event as it happened, but premier registrants could pay $395 a year and have access to a library of content at any time. Those who physically attended events could access the library material for free, for a year.

“Don’t underestimate how much work goes into a virtual event,” warned Bedford, highlighting the importance of booking an innovative event venue to engage guests and those attending in a virtual manner.

London "most exciting city in Europe" says survey

Thanks to a wealth of activities and some of the world’s best party venues, London has been voted the “most exciting city in Europe” by a survey of 3,000 cross-continental travellers.

The survey conducted by TripAdvisor asked 2,963 people from across Europe, including 559 Britons, to rate cities throughout Europe based on their safety, how expensive they were, how easy it was to get around there, their cleanliness, their aesthetic appeal and how good their cuisine was.

London made big advances in terms of cleanliness; last year the capital was named ‘dirtiest city in Europe’, yet this year it didn’t even appear on the shortlist. It was also praised for its safety, coming in third after Geneva and Zurich as one of the least dangerous metropolises on the continent.

The UK’s biggest city also won favour among travellers for its robust transport. Thanks the network of tube stations, tram stops, bus routes and huge fleets of private taxi cabs, London was ranked as the easiest city to get around too.

The greatest accolade that the city gained though was as “most exciting city” – a title that won’t surprise anyone who’s familiar with the capital’s thriving nightlife, bustling streets and packed timetable of entertainment and corporate events. London certainly came off much better in the survey than other UK cities; Birmingham, for example, was rated as the “most boring” city in Europe and the second ugliest, beaten to the top spot by Poland’s Krakow.

Still, even Birmingham came off better than some European destinations. Although Rome was voted as Europe’s most attractive city, nearby Athens was ranked as the “dirtiest” whilst Istanbul was identified as the “most dangerous.”