Conferences and meetings worth £4.9bn in 2021

July 26, 2022 by Catriona Anderson

More than 440,000 conferences and meetings worth £4.9bn took place across the UK in 2021, compared with just 195,000 in 2020, new research has revealed.

However, according to the 29th annual UK Conference and Meeting Survey (UKCAMS), this only represents 31% of 2019’s conference and meetings activity.

The UK entered lockdown on 23 March 2020 in curb the spread of Covid-19, but small business events for up to 30 were permitted to run between late July and October of that year, before the second wave took hold. This prompted the Government to apply its ‘Step’ system in January 2021, which enabled restricted capacity events to run from May before a full unlocking took place in July. This was cut short at the end of November as the ‘Omicron’ variant spread, writing off December for many organisers and venues.

The 440,000 events which took place from May 2021 to the end of the year generated an estimated £4.9bn of direct expenditure in venues and destinations, compared to £1.7bin in 2020 and £17.6bn in 2019.

2023 recovery?

According to the UKCAMS report, 45% of venues indicated that they expect their conference and meetings business to recover to 2019 levels by 2023, with more than a third reporting they are less optimistic and anticipating that a full recovery will take longer.

In 2021 there was an average of 124 conferences and meetings held in primary conference venues, compared with 56 in 2020 and 405 in 2019. The average duration of events was 1.5 days, similar to previous years, although 69% of conferences and meetings lasted a day or less. Some 19% of business was residential at the event venue with an estimated further 12% staying in the wider destination.

The levels of product investment by venues remained below pre-Covid levels, with 35% not investing anything in 2021, a result of cash flow pressures and trading uncertainties.

Tony Rogers, who conducted the research, noted recovery was underway. He said: “The 2022 UKCAMS research programme provides some grounds for optimism that the sector may have begun the process of recovery from the ravages of Covid-19. Future UKCAMS research will monitor the progress the sector is making towards a full recovery.”

The 2022 UKCAMS research was sponsored by VisitBritain with support from
The research was carried out by Tony Rogers and by Richard Smith of RJS Associates.

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