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July 5, 2019

New research into the UK’s conference and meetings sector, entitled the ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2019’ (UKCAMS), reveals a robust and buoyant industry. There was an estimated £20 billion of direct expenditure generated by conference and meeting delegates in venues and in wider destination spend in 2018, up from £18.1 billion in 2017. At the same time, the overall number of conferences and meetings held in 2018 was the highest in recent years – an average of 428 conferences and meetings per venue compared with 373 in 2017 and 419 in 2016.

These positive UKCAMS 2019 results show the industry flourishing. The research findings also reveal that the overall number of conferences and meetings in 2018 was an estimated 1.48 million compared with the 2017 figure of 1.29 million (and 1.45 million in 2016). While most events (66 per cent) comprised 50 delegates or fewer, with just 6 per cent of events having more than 200 delegates, the average event size was 72 delegates, the same as for 2017.

Levels of capital investment by venues remained strong with 73 per cent of venues reporting that they had invested in their property in 2018, with 17 per cent investing over £500,000.

The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey’, now in its 26th consecutive year, has a specific focus on the value and volume of the market and the performance of meeting venues. It also highlights key market trends identified by venues. The results provide a definitive insight into the conference and meetings sector and are widely used to inform investment, advocacy and marketing activities.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • In 2018, there were an estimated 95.3 million delegates accounting for approximately 152.8 million delegate days.
  • The average duration of conferences and meetings was 1.6 days (unchanged from previous years), although almost two-thirds of events lasted only one day or less
  • Conference and training centres (640 events) and hotels (453 events) hosted higher than average numbers of events
  • Just over a third (35 per cent) of conferences and meetings in 2018 were organised by a professional conference organiser (PCO) or event management agency
  • While the majority of UK venues are focused on the domestic meetings market, some 10 per cent of venues are proactive in seeking to attract international conferences, which account for 11 per cent or more of their business. Venues tended to target international conferences through trade shows and familiarisation visits.

The research was carried out by Tony Rogers of Tony Rogers Conference & Event Services and Richard Smith of RJS Associates.

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