Mixed Performance, Record Investment – UKCAMS 2024

The latest research into the UK’s conference and meetings sector suggests that the industry’s post-Covid recovery did not gather momentum in 2023 but rather witnessed a somewhat mixed performance. While there were undoubtedly some venues that were doing really well, others were finding the market more challenging and not experiencing a continuous upward trajectory in business. Rail strikes, a challenging UK economic climate, and continuing post-Covid changes were among a number of factors impacting overall market performance.

The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2024’ (UKCAMS), now in its 31st consecutive year, has quantified the scale of the post-Covid recovery and documented other key characteristics and market trends. It shows that, in 2023, there were an estimated 964,000 conferences and meetings in the UK, representing a substantial recovery from 2020 and 2021 (0.2 million and 0.44 million events respectively), but slightly below the 2022 figure of 1.02 million.

Such events generated an estimated £14.4 billion of direct expenditure in venues and the wider destination, compared with an estimated £16.3 billion in 2022.
Capital investment by conference venues in their facilities increased to record levels: approximately three-quarters of venues invested in their facilities in 2023, spending an average of £244,000 each, and a fifth of venues invested over £500,000, higher than both 2022 and 2019 levels. Venue managers are demonstrating a genuine optimism and positivity in the sector as they look towards the future.

Other key findings from the 2024 UKCAMS research include:

  • The average daily delegate rate achieved by venues for conferences and meetings in 2023 was £46 (inc. VAT). The average 24 hour / residential rate was £158.
    The corporate sector accounted for over half of events (55% compared to 46% in 2019). The next most significant group was government and the public sector (27%). Associations accounted for 17% of the market.
  • Just under a third (29%) of events in 2023 were organised by a professional conference organiser (PCO) or event management agency.
  • The key international market (in terms of enquiries) was the USA. Germany, France, and China were also important.
  • Half (51%) of venues were not developing anything to meet trends in AI. Areas that venues were developing included using AI to respond to client enquiries (18%) and offering live availability of event space and instant booking on their website and through third parties (16%).

Findings of the UKCAMS research are widely used to:

  • Demonstrate the volume of the UK conference and meetings sector and its value to individual venues and to the national economy
  • Highlight key trends from a venue or supply-side perspective
  • Ensure continuing support and investment for the industry at national, regional and local levels.

The 2024 UKCAMS research was sponsored by VisitBritain and carried out by Richard Smith of RJS Associates and by Tony Rogers.

Tony Rogers, on behalf of the UKCAMS research team, commented: “The UKCAMS research has consistently demonstrated the scale and importance of the conference and meetings industry to the national economy. The 2024 UKCAMS research programme confirms that the industry still faces certain challenges post-Covid but is also confident in its ability to invest and to deliver business, research and educational benefits for its participants, both now and in the future.”

The full UKCAMS 2024 report can be purchased here

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