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The 2004 UK Conference Market Survey; 
Among Items Revealed: 
Most Popular Venue: City Centre Hotels, 
Major Factor Causing Dissatisfaction at Venues: Food


United Kingdom 21st  June 2004 - The volume of events held has shown very little change this year with the number of corporate meetings increasing by just 1% since last year and the association sector reducing the number of their events by 2%. Over 80% of each sector expect to organise a similar number of events this year.

However despite a reduction in the number of events for associations, there has been a 38% increase in the average number of delegates attending their regular events from 232 to 320. This is now more on a par with the number attending their annual meeting which at 396 is very similar to last year (390). More education events have been held alongside regular member communication and technical information updates. This is a very different picture to corporate events for which the average size has remained exactly the same at 131. The majority of corporate meetings remain small in size and are most often management meetings, staff conferences and training events.

46% of associations organised an exhibition with their conference in 2003, compared to 30% last year. These vary enormously in size from just 6 stands to a total requirement of 4,000 square metres.

The duration of meetings is now very similar for both sectors with an average of 1.6 days for associations and 1.4 days for corporates. 31% of the association sector's events are residential and 42% of corporate events.

Wednesday, Thursday and Tuesday are the most popular days with each sector and Autumn and Spring months remain most popular. Venues and suppliers keen to attract business for the other days of the week and other months of the year will need to be increasingly creative with special rates and added value. 

Average lead time for associations is 13.5 months compared to 4.6 months for the corporate sector, both of which are very similar to last year. 

Average daily delegate rates being paid are now very similar for both sectors with a 9% increase from £45.10 to £49.30 for associations, and a 15% increase from £42.80 to £49.10 for the corporate sector. 24 hour delegate rates also increased from £146.10 to £147.10 for associations and from £145.40 to £160.80 for the corporate sector. This is to probably to be expected as 84% of corporate events were held in city centre hotels and 52% of association events, although a further 31% of association events were held in academic venues. Purpose built conference centres were slightly more popular with both sectors while out of town hotels were less popular.

Associations had a slightly lower overall annual budget for events than last year, as it reduced from £108,900 to £103,200. The corporate sector on the other hand increased their annual budget by 31% from £81,800 to £107,600. It is interesting to note that 40% of this (£42,700) was spent on audio-visual and production while for associations this figure was 30% of the overall budget (£30,800).

The top three cities for each sector remain London, Birmingham and Manchester with London the clear leader as choice of destination. This is unlikely to change as organisers stated that they would be organising a very similar number of events in these cities during 2004. However association organisers had held events in a total of 94 destinations during 2003 and mentioned 104 destinations as those in which they would hold events during 2004. Corporate organisers had held events in 61 destinations in 2003 and a total of 41 destinations were already to be used during 2004. The percentage of events taking place outside the UK has increased slightly from 6% to 8% over the last two years for the corporate sector and to 6% from 4.6% last year for associations. 

Influences on destination selection were most often location, access and transport issues for each sector. The top factor influencing venue selection for each sector also remains location. However as the number of delegates attending regular association events has increased so too has the capacity of conference facilities as a priority. Corporate organisers rank previous experience of a venue highly, while access, availability and price are important for both sectors.

Own knowledge and word of mouth remain most important in helping with venue selection, although the Internet and venue finding agencies are also significant, with CD ROM software and directories continuing to play an important part.

60% of associations rated the most recently used destination as very good yet their satisfaction levels with venues reduced this year, with food quality, a/v and technical support, standard of bedrooms, photocopying/business services and value for money all issues that caused contention. Factors mentioned spontaneously as areas that venues need to improve were food, staff knowledge and understanding and value for money. Corporate organisers' ratings are slightly higher than last year, although food, parking and service were the areas mentioned as those in need of improvement. Only half of association organisers and 39% of corporate organisers are regularly asked for feedback so venues do not seem particularly interested in ensuring they are meeting client needs.

Meetings and Incentive Travel remains the most popular trade publication with each sector. The percentage of corporate organisers who received it during 2003 increased from 25% to 29%, while the percentage of association organisers reduced from 57% to 39%.

The percentage of association organisers who attended trade shows during 2003 reduced from 48% to 39% while the corporate sector increased from 21% to 22%.

100% of corporate organisers are now using PC/data projection as their top a/v item, with 67% of associations also using a sound system and 71% of corporates using a video and monitor. It is interesting that 53% of association organisers used a technician during their events in 2003 while only 30% of corporates did so.

Teleconferencing and video conferencing are now established as the forms of communication used in addition to meetings, as are email and web sites. It is interesting to see that associations' use of the Internet to market events has reduced slightly from last year yet is has increased with the corporate sector. Similar results are shown for taking registrations and issuing joining instructions via web sites.

57% of corporate organisers said that business results were improved significantly or slightly by conferences or live events although it is questionable whether they really know as 92% said they do not measure return on investment from events.

This year's survey shows that the volume of events for either sector has not reduced significantly and face to face meetings would appear to remain popular as a form of communication. However organisers in both sectors are not as confident that the volume of face to face meetings held will be affected by other forms of communication. 85% of association organisers said they thought it would not reduce this year compared to 93% last year and 38% of corporate organisers, compared to 46% last year. If organisers were to measure return on investment from meetings and events more in future, they may feel more confident of their value in comparison with other forms of communication.

The tables that follow outline key trends from this year's results for each sector.

Comparison of 2004 and 2003 key results for each sector

Please note the figures in single brackets denote 2003 survey results and those in double brackets the 2002 survey results.
Association Sector
Corporate Sector
Average number of events organised
13.1 (13.4)
9.4 (9.3)
Total number of events organised by sample 
3,930 (4,020)
2,820 (2,790)
% increase on last year
Percentage expecting to organise more events during 2004
Average no. of delegates Regular 320 (232) ((186)) 

Annual 396 (390) ((397)) 

131 (131) ((111))
5 most popular types of event Annual meeting
Regular member communication
Technical information updates
Fund raising
Management meeting
Staff conference
Sales conference
Duration, in days
1.6 (1.8) ((1.8)) 
1.4 (1.4) ((1.3)) 
Percentage residential
31% (33%) ((34%)) 
42% (37%) ((40%)) 
Most popular days of week
  1. Wednesday
  2. Thursday
  3. Tuesday 
  1. Wednesday
  2. Thursday
  3. Tuesday
Most popular months*
  1. April
  2. October
  3. November
  4. September
  5. May
  1. October
  2. April/May 
  3. March
  4. February
  5. September
Average lead times (months)
13.5 (13.8) 
4.6 (4.5)
Average budgeted day delegate rates inc. VAT
£49.30 (£45.10)
£49.10 (£42.80)
Average budgeted 24-hour delegate rates inc. VAT
£147.10 (£146.10)
£160.80 (£145.40)
*Associations annual meeting

Association Sector
Corporate Sector
Average annual spend per organisation on events
£103,200 (£108,900) 
£107,600 (£81,800)
Top 3 cities used in 2003
  1. London 55%
  2. Birmingham 25%
  3. Manchester 20%
  1. London 48%
  2. Birmingham 33%
  3. Manchester 22%
Percentage of conferences held outside UK in 2003
6% (5%) ((6%))
8% (7%) ((6%))
Most popular venue types
  1. City centre hotel 52%
  2. University/academic venue 31%
  3. Purpose built convention centre 23%
  4. Out of town hotel 13%
  1. City centre hotel 84%
  2. Residential conference centre 24%
  3. Out of town hotel 21%
  4. Purpose built convention centre 20%
Top factors influencing 
venue selection
  1. Location 69%
  2. Price/value for money68%
  3. Access 64%
  4. Capacity of conference facilities 25%
  5. Availability 23%
  1. Location 59%
  2. Previous experience of venue 55%
  3. Price/value for money 42%
  4. Availability 22%
  5. Access 17%
Top five sources of help with venue selection
  1. Own knowledge 63%
  2. Word of mouth 36%
  3. Internet 29%
  4. Venue finding agencies 19%
  5. Computer software/CD ROM 13% 
  1. Own knowledge 86%
  2. Word of mouth 44%
  3. Venue finding agency 36%
  4. Internet 35%
  5. Directories/guides 18%
Top three trade publications received regularly
  1. Meetings & Incentive Travel 
  2. Conference & Incentive Travel
  3. Conference & Exhibition Factfinder
  1. Meetings & Incentive Travel
  2. Conference & Incentive Travel
  3. Incentive Travel & Corporate Meetings
Percentage who attend trade shows
39% (48%) 
22% (18%)
Factors causing dissatisfaction at venues
  1. Food
  2. Staff knowledge / understanding
  3. Cost/Value for money 
  1. Food
  2. Parking
  3. Service

Association Sector
Corporate Sector
Percentage always or nearly always asked for feedback from venues
51% (54%)
39% (51%)
Top 3 audio visual items used
  1. PC/data projection 75%
  2. Sound system 67%
  3. Flipchart 57%
  1. PC/data projection 100%
  2. Flip chart 91%
  3. Video & Monitor 71%
Forms of communication most used in addition to face to face meetings
  1. Email 71% 
  2. Web site 59% Teleconferencing 43%
  1. Teleconferencing 76%
  2. Email/Intranet 65% 
  3. Videoconferencing 59%
Regular use of the Internet to market their events
58% (68%)
14% (8%)
Communicate with attendees via email
64% (73%)
96% (93%)
Booking venues via Internet
14% (14%)
4% (2%)
Take registrations via web-site
43% (45%)
11% (4%)
Joining instructions via web site
48% (47%)
15% (8%)

Commenting on the publication of the report, MIA Executive Director Ruth Dawson said; “The significance of the 2004 UKCMS is not only its contents, but also its consistency.  The contents reveal once again current market trends, and having this kind of consistent information, year on year for the past eleven years, is considered a very powerful tool by business planners and decision makers throughout the industry.” 

About the UK Conference Market Survey

The UK Conference Market Survey 2004 is the eleventh successive survey of the UK conference market and is produced by The Right Solution on behalf of the Meetings Industry Association (MIA). Trends in the corporate sector have been monitored since 1991 and in the association sector since 1998.

For those involved with conferences, meetings and events, whether it be developing, operating or marketing conference venues, destinations or related services the information provided in the report is invaluable for strategic decisions, operational policy or general interest. 

About the Meetings Industry Association

The Meetings Industry Association is the recognised professional trade body for the UK Meetings Industry and is committed to raising and maintaining professional standards. It has a membership of over 700 meetings venues and service suppliers within the United Kingdom.

Full copies of the Annual MIA UK Conference Market Survey can be purchased by contacting the MIA directly on 01386 858572 or by visiting


The Meetings Industry Association 
01386 858572

Also See: Significant Growth Forecast for North American Conference Center Industry; PKF Consulting's Conference Center Trends Report Sees Turnaround / May 2004
Benchmark's Top Ten Meeting Industry Trends for 2004 / January 2004
Dolce International Rides Trend of Increased Group Business Leads From Internet Channels; Global Leader in Conference Destinations Shares Leads via Network Technology, Web Connectivity; Group Leads Increase 10%, Definite Bookings Up 5% Over Last Year / May 2004

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