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March 8, 2009

Survey reveals severe challenges facing UK events industry

From falling bookings and enquiries to negative public perceptions are some of the findings from recent research carried out among members of events industry association Eventia.

The survey provides a fascinating glimpse into the impacts of the global economic downturn on business events and conferences, but also suggests that, while there are clearly many challenges facing the sector, all is not doom and gloom.

The report is based on responses from 65 Eventia members, a third of whom are major event management agencies. Key findings include:
– 21% of members report confirmed business for 2009 is up compared with a year ago, but 79% say that it is down
– 28% state that new business enquiries are higher than a year ago, but 72% report that they are lower
– A shortening of lead times and reduction in event budgets
– Increasing influence of procurement departments
– Recognition that face-to-face meetings and events still have the highest return of all marketing tools
– No pronounced swing towards greater use of technology for virtual meetings and events.

Among issues and opportunities highlighted by respondents are the following:
– Public perception is now playing a key role, with some event cancellations due more to how the event would be perceived, rather than to financial difficulties on the part of the client
– Clients are scrutinising carefully the financial stability of agencies to ensure they will be around to deliver their events
– More creativity and added value are being demanded, often on a lower budget
– Late confirmations, slow payments from clients, tighter contractual arrangements
– Favourable dollar and euro exchange rates are providing opportunities to win new business for UK destinations, venues and suppliers
– Direct flights are increasingly important when staging pan-European events.
Commenting on the findings, Eventia chief executive Izania Downie said: “It is vital that, as the voice for the events industry, we keep a regular finger on the pulse of our industry. Our members know what is happening at the sharp end and Eventia fulfils a crucial role in reflecting and representing the needs and ambitions of our members. Research of this kind is essential to enable us to update our members on the latest trends and developments, and also to share these with the industry at large.”

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