With the latest inflation figures in the UK sitting at 8.9 per cent, the cost per head for meetings and events rose by 14.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2023.
The quarter was also an uncertain bag for all business events stakeholders, with event bookings and deliveries down in January and February – thought to be on the back of fears the UK would enter a recession – but recovering in March as recession was avoided.
However forward bookings data suggests the second quarter could also be up and down, in part due to three public holidays which limit the days available for holding events.
Delegate numbers are also down, at an average of 74 attendees per gathering, event sizes are smaller in 2023 than during any quarter of 2022.
Lead times are also still short, with an average of 64 days in Q1 2023, which is shorter than the previous three quarters.
However, event business has generally stabilised in 2023, after 2022 was marked by unsustainable pent-up demand for face-to-face gatherings in the UK.
“We’re clearly seeing the beginning of a return to normal cycles and a rhythm that the sector has been lacking,” said Peter Heath, managing director of Venue Performance, which supplied the data for The Business of Events latest report.
“For long periods the industry has been lurching from famine to feast, so a return to normal is not only expected but probably welcomed.”
However, Martin Fullard, director of news and content for The Business of Events noted that financial conditions may make things difficult for the industry in the months ahead.
“The data revealed by Venue Performance for Q1 indicates that there broadly remains a strong appetite for conferences and meetings in the UK, and that we are seeing the market return to more sustainable levels after the heights seen in 2022.
“However, price per head has increased, exceeding inflation, as the cost of living continues to bite, forcing the supply chain to pass costs on to event planners. The upcoming months will prove another big test for the industry’s resilience,” said Fullard.
The Business of Events is an independent think tank for the business events industry, started by communications agency Davies Tanner in 2018, focussed on advocacy and reputation for the sector. The latest data comes from their Events Economy Tracker for the first quarter of 2023, published this month.