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July 24, 2008

BACD research highlights industry’s £2bn downturn

The recently released British Association of Conference Destinations 2008 British Conference Venues Survey (BCVS) has shown that the UK conference market experienced a downturn in the period 2005-7 (in terms of direct revenue to venues) with an estimated value of £8 billion, compared with £9.8 billion in the three-year period 2004-6.

The report shows that the downturn is due mainly to a reduction in the average number of conferences per venue, down from 422 in 2004-6 to 396 in 2005-7 (a drop of around 6%). Critically there was also a shift away from residential conferences to non-overnight conferences, with a significant economic impact, since residential conferences account for almost two-thirds of overall venue income.

Other key findings include:

– 30% of venues noting a shortening of lead times in recent years, with many commenting that this was now becoming the norm

– 11% of venues reporting greater pressure on client budgets, although achieved day and residential rates were similar to the previous three-year period

– There is a greater interest in, and awareness of, green issues and a demand for Fairtrade/organic catering, accompanied by an increasing demand to meet special dietary requirements

The report confirms a trend noted in the 2007 survey, which highlighted the importance of public sector and association conferences, now accounting for 52% of all meetings and conferences. By contrast, the number of corporate meetings and conferences formed just 48% of all events held.

The huge investments in infrastructure and facilities enjoyed by most city destinations over the past couple of decades are reaping rewards in the business events market – city venues hosted, on average, 423 conferences a year, well above the overall figure. By comparison, venues located in rural areas staged an average 244 conferences in 2007.

Tony Rogers, BACD chief executive, said: "BCVS is a crucial barometer of what's happening in the conference sector and should be required reading for anyone who needs an informed view of the trends and changes in our sector. We are delighted with the support we have received from venues and destinations in compiling the data – it really is a team effort and is a tangible demonstration of the industry working together for the benefit of all."

The 2008 survey is based on data supplied by a record number of 446 reporting venues from across the UK (compared with 314 in 2007). They represent almost 13% of the UK's conference venue universe.

This year the report included several new features. For example, a revised methodology to provide more consistent and robust reporting. This entails use of a three-year average for the survey findings, namely comparing results for the period 2005-7 with 2004-6. This is now a fairly standard approach to time series data, designed to address any inconsistencies in the sampling. This year's survey also includes location comparisons based on city, town, rural and seaside locations, as well as narrative comments from venues on trends noted in the market.

Copies of the British Conference Venues Survey 2008, priced at £140, may be ordered from BACD at www.bacd.biz

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