UK: Budgets cut, procurement use up and Ts & Cs key



Research. With 60% of UK corporate and 54% of association buyers citing reduced budgets as their key concern for the next 12 months, it is no surprise that venue and supplier cancellation policies and terms and conditions are a high priority, reveals the new British Meetings and Events Industry Survey (BMEIS) to be announced at Event UK tomorrow. The survey, carried out by specialist conference venue development consultancy The Right Solution on behalf of a group of industry sponsors, will be unveiled Tuesday 22nd September by The Right Solution MD Sally Greenhill at a seminar during the NEC exhibition.

One surprising result of the survey was a slight increase in overall budget for the association sector, up by 0.5% in the last twelve months. This contrasts with a 1.9% reduction in event budgets in the corporate sector. In an attempt to combat reduced budgets, the survey showed that procurement departments are increasingly involved in the buying process for conferences and events, with the association sector showing an increase from to 19% and  30% for corporates.  In terms of the volume of events organised, a third of corporate buyers and 16% of associations saw a reduction in the number of events organised, while nearly 20% of both sectors anticipated an increase in the number of events organised over the next 12 months.

The survey also revealed a reduction in the average budgeted daily and 24-hour delegate rates, and delegate numbers overall are down, with the average number of delegates at an association’s main annual conference just 289, compared with 357 in 2007 and regular corporate events seeing an average of 117 delegates, down from 180 in 2007. Not surprisingly, spending their budget wisely is a top priority, which means that  ‘added value items’ are the preferred incentives for each sector, closely followed by discounts on multiple bookings. 

The use of third party agents appears to be on the increase, with 21% of associations and 28% of corporate events being organised by third parties.  Location, price and access remain the most important factors influencing venue selection while ‘relevant content’ and ‘inspiring presentations’ are considered to be the prime factors contributing to successful events.  Event ROI was cited by only 10% of associations and 22% of corporates as important in measuring event success.

In terms of location, the major cities and city centre hotels remain the destinations and venues of choice.  London tops the list for both associations and corporates, with Birmingham and Manchester vying for second and third places  Buyers in both sectors continue to use overseas destinations, with the Republic of Ireland, Germany and France the most popular destinations.

Sally Greenhill said: “This first ever BMEIS has confirmed some of the industry’s fears over reductions in budgets, but it has also shown that there is optimism in some quarters, with a slight increase in association budgets and 20% of buyers anticipating an overall increase in the number of events organised next year.  For venues, destinations and suppliers, the research provides invaluable insight into what buyers are looking for in these difficult economic conditions.”

The research was commissioned and published by CAT Publications and supported by the following industry sponsors: Confex Group (CMP), Jersey Conference Bureau, The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Visit Britain and Visit London.