Conference events industry works harder to draw demand

Fierce competition throughout the conference industry means that venues, event planners and businesses are working harder to improve their offerings to customers, according to new research.

A survey conducted in association with PwC, Conference Centres of Excellence and the Hotel Booking Agency Association (HBAA) found that over-supply from the wide range of available venues and event packages has led to a constant battle to keep prices close to those of rivals.

One respondent to the study, which was presented at the HBAA Annual Forum, said that multi-purpose venues such as castles and even farms do not rely on events as their only source of revenue. As a result, they can offer highly competitive prices that venues specifically used for events can struggle to match.

With constant pressure to keep prices down, rising costs are squeezing profit margins tighter. But only a small eight per cent of venues said they were passing all of these overhead costs onto their customers - and by extension, delegates. Instead, more than four out of ten said they were only passing on some of the extra costs and close to half said that they were even completely absorbing them. As a result, delegates and event bookers are paying the same or slightly more for a product with a higher cost.

But venues also say they are dealing with smaller events involving much shorter lead times. They believe this is part of a broader trend within the events industry, too, which 69 per cent expect to outlast the economic turmoil of recent years. For event planners who are organising more events on shorter notice, there may well be a need to invest in event booking software and other automated services to improve efficiency and achieve more with fewer resources.

“Our venues have been listening to the changing needs of clients and adapting accordingly, to ensure a professional and competitive service with exceptional quality standards and value for money,” said Anthony Lishman, executive director at Conference Centres of Excellence.

Still, businesses are expecting to survive the storm with the help of improved products and services.

“While it’s still early days in any economic recovery, we are cautiously optimistic about prospects,” says Liz Hall, head of hospitality and leisure research at PwC.

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