• UK Price per Head for meetings and events is up 14.7 per cent, above the current inflation.
  • January and February were slower months, with Q1 ‘saved’ by a strong March.
  • Lead times set to remain short.
  • Meetings and event business broadly in line with 2019.
  • Delegate sizes have dropped, but there are more meetings and events.

The meetings and events industry in the United Kingdom has experienced a rise in the Price per Head by 14.7 per cent in Q1 of 2023, marginally exceeding inflation, according to the Event Economy Tracker by The Business of Events. This increase indicates that despite the challenges posed by the pan­demic, the in­dus­try has been able to main­tain its value pro­po­sition for attendees.

However, the data by Venue Per­for­mance shows Q1 of 2023 was slow, with January and February wit­nes­sing a slowdown in business. The quarter was ‘saved’ by March, which, anec­do­tal­ly, saw a boost due to a com­bi­na­tion of end-of-year budgets and greater opti­mism in the eco­no­my after it narrowly avoided recession.

Looking ahead to Q2 of 2023, it is fore­cast to be a tricky period for the in­dus­try. The impact of Easter and three Bank Holidays in May is expected to affect the number of bookings for events. This high­lights the continued un­cer­tain­ty in the industry and the need for event planners to remain flex­i­ble and adap­tive to changes in the market.

Meetings are more preva­lent than con­fer­ences in the in­dus­try, with meetings ge­ne­ral­ly con­sider­ed one-day events where the group engages with them­selves. In con­trast, a con­fer­ence is defined as an event with staging and speakers ad­dress­ing an audience. This suggests that atten­dees are more com­fort­able with smaller, more inti­mate events rather than larger-scale conferences. Data shows that dele­gation sizes have reduced and now sit at 74 people on average.

Despite the challenges faced by the in­dus­try, it is now sitting at levels similar to 2019, which is a drop from the un­sus­tain­ab­le spike seen in 2022, itself attributed to pent-up demand in the wake of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

It is impor­tant to note that Q4 2019 was un­usu­al­ly high before the pan­demic, which some­what skews the annual figures. This indi­cates that the in­dus­try is still recover­ing from the impact of the pan­demic.

Short lead times remain a trend in the in­dus­try. In Q1 2023, the average lead time was 64 days, slight­ly higher than in Q1 2022, where the average lead time was 54 days. However, Q4 2022 saw a higher average lead time of 87 days, although Christmas parties and other season­al events will some­what skew this figure. This high­lights the importance of event planners adapting to short lead times and being flexible in their planning.

Martin Fullard, Director, News & Content, The Business of Events, said: “The data revealed by Venue Perfor­mance for Q1 indicates that there broadly remains a strong appetite for confer­ences and meetings in the United Kingdom and that we see 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.”

Peter Heath, Managing Director, Venue Perfor­mance: “We’re seeing the beginning of a return to normal cycles and a rhythm that the sector has been lacking. For long periods the industry has been lurching from famine to feast, so a return to normal is not only expected but probably welcomed.”

Download a free copy of the Q1 Event Economy Tracker.