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April 4, 2008
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VENUE WATCH: New research on booking trends




The launch edition of Conference Care UK Conference Benchmark statistics have been released showing some interesting trends in hotel, academic, training and unique venue bookings between 2006 and 2007.

As companies fight for maximum engagement of ad-weary customers, while also striving to bridge the yawning skills gap by looking for effective ways to attract and retain staff, it’s no surprise or secret that events are growing in popularity. To maximise face-to-face impact, companies are searching out more interesting and engaging places to hold their events, resulting in bookings increasing in hotels and more unusual venues. Academic institutions across the country have been capitalising on this trend, improving their conference facilities and promoting them more strongly, seeing an increase in events business as a result.

London’s Barbican is a case in point. Essentially a theatre and arts space – albeit an incredibly well equipped one – the Barbican would not have been the first choice venue for a company holding a commercial event a few years ago. However, times change, as the venue’s Anthony Hyde reveals. “Corporate events at the Barbican increased by 12% between 2005 and 2006, and we’re set for a further 10% rise in 2007,” he says.

Although statistics exist with respect to hotel bookings, there is little information available relating this to events, while figures on meetings and conference activity in unusual venues are equally as scarce.

“While hospitality consultants afford information on average room rate, occupancy and room yield, information available on conferences and events has been limited,” says Andrew Deakin, co-director of conference care, one of the UK’s leading hotel booking agencies. The company’s monthly statistics aim to change all that. Each month, EVENTS:review will report on the study’s key findings…

National trends
The picture here is one of static accommodation rates but increasing costs per delegate. Overall, 24-hour rates remain the same between September 2006 and 2007, which the report claims reflects “the impact of procurement becoming more involved in the purchasing of meetings, conferences and events". “New guidelines by Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply will have further effect as corporations seek to consolidate expenditure in the meetings and events sector,” says the report.

While some of the provinces are struggling, and employing aggressive pricing strategies, key cities are seeing an increase in demand from the business and leisure market, hence meetings and events rates are being yielded up.

UK average 24-hour rates are £154 against £155 in 2006. Accommodation rates however, have increased by 11.15% to £119.36 in 2007. Meanwhile, the average UK day delegate rate has increased by 4.29%.

Regional trends
In London, availability is always a problem, but a number of refurbishments and new builds have affected rates as competition to win new business increases. Meanwhile, there’s a trend in pharmaceutical organisations refraining from using five-start hotels in order to adhere to ABPI legislation.

Moving to the Midlands, “many hotels in Birmingham have put an emphasis on meeting and event business, opening their inventories to large groups, unlike in London where transient accommodation remains king,” reports the UK Conference Benchmark. Accommodation and delegate rates reflect the overall UK picture.

Major new hotels have been popping up across Manchester in recent years, mainly from big international chains. “More availability of conference and event space means supply is outstripping demand,” says the study, “which is reflected in the 24-hour rates, which are down compared with 2006.”

According to the survey, relocation to Bristol by many of the UK’s head offices, including AXA and BUPA, has led to a significant increase in the local hotel market. Companies looking to cut their events costs would do well to search out Bristol, which has one of the lowest average 24-hour rates of any major city in the UK (£140), 12.5% cheaper than Birmingham, and 13.59% less than Manchester.

Glasgow continues to prove a draw for conferences and events not just from the UK but also overseas as it is recognised by meetings planners across the globe and is already hosting the renewable energy event and the Scottish Executive Public Procurement Conference 2007. “Events of such scale have contributed towards the demand for bedroom stock and meeting space in the city,” says Benchmark, with 24-hour rates up year on year.

Enquiry to confirmation times
The length of time from when a booker makes an enquiry to book a venue for an event to when the booking is confirmed grows from small to larger events due to the financial commitment involved. However, in London over the last three years this has also increased for larger events year on year. Benchmark puts this down to bookers being far more aware of cancellation charges, therefore being reluctant to confirm until they are certain the event will go ahead, as well as general reluctance to make firm commitments in the wake of the recent credit crunch. Despite this, London has one of the lowest average enquiry to execution times in the UK, mainly due to the huge demand for its venues.

Days in demand
Traditionally, the most popular days of the week on which to hold events were Wednesdays and Thursdays. This remains the case, but Benchmark reveals that over the last three years Mondays and Fridays have increased in popularity. The report puts this down to the growing influence of procurement, which has driven organisers to choose ‘fringe’ days where cheaper rates apply. Of course, if this trend continues there’s every chance that rates on these days will creep up.








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