UK event sizes shrink but revenue per delegate increases

UK event

The UK event landscape has changed this year with delegate sizes shrinking but revenue per delegate increasing.

The second quarter of 2023 saw a 22% increase in the revenue per delegate for conferences and meetings, reaching £137.85 from the previous quarter’s £112.95, according to The Business of Events Event Economy Tracker Q2 2023.

This surge has propelled the average revenue per delegate to £125.40 in the first half of the year, surpassing the prior annual averages of £108.96 in 2021 and £104.78 in 2022.

While forward bookings remained relatively stable, showing a minor decline in June, the quarter as a whole exhibited strength.

The positive trend in in-person events has maintained its upward momentum post pandemic despite inflation impacting various sectors. However, the industry grapples with ongoing challenges in maintaining quality service due to high event volumes.

While inflation slightly eased to 7.9% in June, it has not translated to reduced event costs. Energy price hikes have particularly affected the sector, amplifying cost pressures for commercial venues that lacked the same level of government support as individuals.

Amidst this backdrop, the average lead time for conferences and meetings in Q2 2023 increased to 80 days from Q1’s 64 days. Though only a fractional rise from Q2 2022’s 77 days, this underlines the departure from the pre-pandemic trend observed in 2019 and short lead times remain.

Furthermore, the average number of delegates per event has continued to slide and sat at 65 in Q2 2023, down from Q1’s 74. The year’s average to date is notably lower compared to 2022’s average of 93 delegates per event, reflecting a 25% drop.

This underlines the shift towards smaller events despite their increased frequency, which will also contribute to higher prices as venues compensate for smaller events.

Martin Fullard, news & content director at The Business of Events, said the latest snapshot paints a mixed picture.

“It has demonstrated a strong appetite for in-person events remains, and despite the Easter Break and an additional Bank Holiday in May, forward bookings and actual events taking place remained strong,” he said.

“However, there remain challenges that cannot be ignored. Inflation in June sat at 7.9% and as a result we’ve seen a notable increase in Revenue Per Delegate, some 22%. This has been impacted further by the fact that there has been a clear reduction in the number of delegates at events, by some 25% on 2022’s average. This means venues may not be earning as much from their spaces. While more events are taking place this is an increased pressure on resource.”

Peter Heath, managing director at Venue Performance, said the latest results provides yet more evidence that the sector is strong.

“There is most definitely a positive desire for businesses to meet in person,” he said. “The revenue per delegate is increasing and that is a clear indication that costs, raised by  inflation, are now being passed on by the venues to the organisers. While it is positive that this doesn’t seem to be a barrier for now, there remains a question over how long that will last.

“Lead times are one of the key areas that most operators would like to see return to 2019 levels, but at the moment it’s simply not happening. A new way of forecasting, budgeting, measuring, and operating is needed. Simply wishing for things to return is not realistic in the short-to-medium term.”