Positive trends in booking enquiries and long-term investment strategies demonstrate more confidence in the sector, according to the Meetings Industry Association (mia).
The trade body’s latest quarterly mia Insights report reveals that between May and October 2023 organisations have seen conversion rates rise to 42% (up from 34.5% in May) while lead times have now risen from an average of 10.5 weeks to 15.2 weeks.
Simultaneously, compared to 12 months ago, the average value of an event enquiry has increased for almost half (49%) to £30,927.
Meanwhile, 76% of organisations are currently investing in their development, with almost half (44%) expecting their level to rise over the next 12 months. Three-quarters (75%) of those are investing in technology, followed by marketing (55%) and renovation (54%).
However, increased costs are still impacting the sector. Since the government’s Energy Relief Bill Scheme came to an end in the Spring, almost half (48%) have increased their prices – with almost two-thirds revealing that this has caused clients to seek cheaper alternatives.
Providing a corporate buyer perspective, PwC’s Head of hotels and venues, Samantha Van Leeuwen, said: “Last year there was a very high demand for meetings and events and rates hit a high because of it, but also corporates were very aware of the economic factors facing the UK so more accepting of the rate increases. This year has softened slightly with inflation forecast to fall, resulting in less appetite to pay the higher rates but also with uncertainty?around the government, a potential?general election and investment in the UK reducing, corporates are becoming more?cautious around spend.”??
She advised that flexibility and agility are now key to winning business alongside the need to have open conversations with clients about costs to help achieve?both parties’ objectives.?
Elsewhere, there has been positive movement in recruitment and staffing. Today 60% of organisations currently have vacancies which is down from 76% in May 2023 while those reporting a skills shortage has reduced from 47% to 40%.
Sustainability also continues to remain firmly on the agenda, as it is no longer recognised as a need for organisations, but a social requirement, with 9 in 10 (88%) seeing an increase in demand for more sustainable practices.
“The latest mia Insights provide a more optimistic outlook for the sector as it makes further steps towards recovery,” said the mia’s chief executive, Kerrin MacPhie.
“Longer lead times, higher value enquiries, greater conversion rates and the growing confidence to invest are all positive signs for business meetings and events. Similarly, it’s encouraging to see a much-welcomed trend is emerging with staffing issues, as today’s organisations report less staff shortages, skills shortages and a subsequent reduction in vacancies.
“However, there is still work to be done to further move the dial and address the challenges still being faced in recruitment while mitigating the impact of rising costs. We will continue to support the sector to ensure it is equipped to further adapt and thrive long-term.”
A full copy of the latest mia Insights report can be downloaded here: mia Insight Surveys.