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April 16, 2008

VENUE WATCH UK: The shift away from residential conferences

Twenty-four hour conference delegate rates at venues in the UK provinces are down for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2007 compared with 2006, according to Conference Care’s Conference Benchmark survey. The report puts the fall down to corporates tightening their belts and replacing residential conferences with day-long events.

Subsequently, day delegate rates (DDR) are holding up well, with most cities seeing growth compared to 2006. In fact, the average UK DDR was £50.66 in 2007 compared with £45.84 in 2006, an increase of more than 10%. Unsurprisingly, London still commands a premium DDR of more than £65, with accommodation rates also remaining strong.

Lead times from enquiry about booking a venue for an event to confirming the booking have dropped generally from 2005, which Benchmark puts down to improved diary management by venues. London reflects this general trend, and this is particularly marked for events catering for more than 100 people, which has seen a significant drop in booking to confirmation time. Benchmark puts this down to demand meaning hoteliers are not holding space for long and placing pressure on planners to confirm their bookings.

However, the exceptions to this rule are Birmingham and Glasgow, as they generally attract larger events, which take more time to plan.

Comparing the peak days in the week for holding event for Q4 2007 to the same period in 2006 and 2005, a trend can be seen for companies moving away from Fridays. Benchmark put this down to fears that delegates need to leave early to travel home for the weekend.

Wednesdays have also steadily fallen in popularity over the last three years due to hotels not allowing one-day residential conferences midweek for fear of blocking out a multi-day event.

Although Thursday remains the most popular day to hold events, Monday and Tuesdays are growing in popularity as hotels offer favourable rates at this time of the week.

Looking at key business sectors, Benchmark reveals a consistent drop in both 24-hour rates and DDRs for both retail and financial. The Pharmaceutical sector, however, shows the reverse trend with both rates increasing steadily from 2005 to 2007.

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