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April 16, 2008

Trevor Foley: The events train is leaving

The latest survey results from both the International Passenger Survey (IPS) and the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) make great reading for the events sector.

The IPS carried out by the Office for National Statistics shows a 56% rise in total spend by overseas business visitors whose purpose was to "attend an event", in the five years to 2006. By comparison, visitors’ spend when attending for "other business" activities rose by 28% – only half the rate of the event attendees. In real terms, overseas business visitors drawn to the UK by the events sector now add £1 billion to UK plc.

During the same period, the number of these high-spending visitors to events rose by 49% to 1.4 million, while the volume of visitors attending "other business" activities grew by 30%.

The power of B2B event tourists
So, in short, the increase in the number of business people coming to the UK for the purpose of attending an event is greater than the growth in visitors for any other business reason. Furthermore, while they are here, these 'B2B event tourists’ spend substantially more than other business visitors!

B2B events are a staple of our sector and too often are lost behind higher profile consumer shows, but these government figures put real numbers and value to the contribution of what people used to call the trade fair industry. Marketers’ increasing use of live event marketing, where brand experiences and direct engagement with clients is a reality, has led to a renaissance in the B2B events sector in recent years, with industry events unrecognisable today from just 10 years ago.

Big increase in corporate events
The MIA report – UK Conference Market Survey 2007 – reveals a very positive picture of the UK conference market over the last 12 months to October, with a huge 27% increase in the volume of corporate events. This is the most significant increase in the number of corporate events since 1999 and confirms the sector’s recovery following the 9/11.

The dramatic rise in the number of corporate events in just 12 months adds grist to the mill in our efforts to raise the profile of this powerful marketing medium. Big brands such as O2 – with its Wireless Festivals and integral involvement with the innovative new London venue The O2 – and Hovis’ Freewheel London Biking Day out showcase what can be achieved from live event marketing. These are just two examples; many other corporates have tapped into the unique five sensory experience that live event marketing always delivers.

As marketers strive to build meaningful relationships with their audiences, live event marketing is increasingly their media of choice. Don’t miss the train.

Trevor Foley is the group chief executive of the Events Industry Alliance

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