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A view from UK: Per delegate revenue up for venues but event sizes smaller

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A view from UK: Per delegate revenue up for venues but event sizes smaller
The latest quarterly economy tracker from The Business of Events shows lead times have increased slightly but are still shorter than 2019.

The research, based on data from 400 venues across the UK, shows that revenue per delegate increased 22 per cent between quarter one and quarter two this year, suggesting that venues are passing on price rises. The cost of food was a major contributor to this increased revenue per head.

“The Revenue Per Delegate is increasing and that is a clear indication that costs, raised by inflation, are now being passed on by the venues to the organisers,” said Peter Heath, managing director of Venue Performance, which supplied the data underpinning the research.

“While it is positive that this doesn’t seem to be a barrier for now, there remains a question over how long that will last.”

Revenue per delegate stood at an average of £137.85 (AU$272.83) in Q2.

Despite cost pressures not easing, the number of events taking place is still high, with April, May and June all performing strongly – with the final month the strongest – while forward bookings made during these months continued at elevated levels.

However, the number of delegates per event is sliding considerably, with the 2023 average so far tracking 25 per cent lower than the year-long average for 2022. In Q2 the average number of delegates fell to 65 from 74 in Q1 and significantly lower than the 2022 average of 93 attendees per event.

Event lead times were up noticeably between Q1 and Q2 2023 – 80 days in the second quarter compared to 64 in the third, but are only slightly up on the 77 day lead time in Q2 2022.

“Lead times are one of the key areas that most operators would like to see return to 2019 levels, but at the moment it’s simply not happening,” said Heath.

“A new way of forecasting, budgeting, measuring, and operating is needed. Simply wishing for things to return is not realistic in the short-to-medium term.”

The Business of Events director of news and content said Q2 painted a mixed picture.

“It has demonstrated a strong appetite for in-person events remains, and despite the Easter Break and an additional Bank Holiday in May, forward bookings and actual events taking place remained strong.

“However, there remain challenges that cannot be ignored. Inflation in June sat at 7.9 per cent and as a result we’ve seen a notable increase in Revenue Per Delegate, some 22 per cent. This has been impacted further by the fact that there has been a clear reduction in the number of delegates at events. This means venues may not be earning as much from their spaces. While more events are taking place, this is an increased pressure on resource.”

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