10 September 2021
A new research report published today by the pro-cities advocacy group Cities Restart called ‘The Importance of International Conferences and Business Events to Restarting City Economies’, has revealed that spending on international conferences and business events for the UK is estimated to have been worth £19.4bn in 2019, but following the interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, by 2026 is forecast to be worth £27.6bn, a 43% increase. Although at the low point of the lockdown period spending on business events plummeted by around 80% of 2019 levels due to the pandemic.
The economic impact analysis commissioned by Cities Restart and carried out by Tourism Economics, has further found that inbound international delegates to international conferences and business events are significantly more lucrative than domestic delegates. The research found that in 2019 the average international delegate was worth £864, whereas the value of an average domestic delegate was £154. But by 2026 this is forecast to grow to £1,078 for an international delegate and £180 for a domestic delegate. Meaning by then, international delegates will be worth six times their domestic counterparts.
However, the research has also highlighted that the business events industry, which has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, faces a number of immediate challenges, with the sector not forecast to rebound to 2019 levels until 2023. Suggesting a slower and more protracted recovery than what many have predicted for the wider economy.
In particular, London’s business events sector, which accounts for 40% of all spending on international conferences and business events across the UK, faces a potentially more challenging future. In part because of its greater dependence on lucrative inbound international delegates. With the research suggesting that in a worst-case scenario spending on business events in the Capital may not return to 2019 levels until 2028 at the earliest. On the upside, if the worst-case scenario is avoided, by 2026 spending on business events in London alone, is forecast to be worth £10bn.
Business leaders are now calling on the Government to introduce additional support measures, particularly those aimed at boosting confidence and attracting delegates back to business events.
Jeremy Rees, Chief Executive of ExCeL London and Cities Restart Advisory Board Member said: “This research further highlights the crucial role business events play in driving positive economic impact in our major cities. Events are a huge catalyst for trade, driving billions of pounds worth of import and export activity, supporting thousands of jobs. They are also a key driver of the visitor economy, helping sectors including public transport, hospitality, accommodation and aviation to thrive. We need to ensure that this vital sector gets the support it needs, including measures to open-up international travel. This will enable the UK to retain a globally competitive, world class sector, that will drive our economy for years to come.”
Kate Nicholls OBE, Chief Executive of UK Hospitality said: “International conferences and business events support an interconnected economic eco-system. People attending these events also spend money on hotels, in restaurants, pubs and bars. The fact is the hospitality sector will not fully get back on its feet, until the business events sector is properly restarted. It is therefore imperative that the Government goes further in restarting and boosting the virtuous economic circle that business events help to drive. First and foremost, the Government must reassure the public and businesses that it is safe to attend events once more, confidence is key.”
Michael Hirst OBE, Chair of the Events Industry Board said: “Business events have a unique role to play is show-casing ‘Global Britain’ to the rest of the world in the post-Brexit economic era, as well as fulfilling the Government’s Tourism Recovery Plan ambition to make the UK the world’s meeting place. This ambition will be realised by a reinvigorated Industry, working together with enhanced support from Government and its agencies, attracting major international conferences to be held here in the UK.”
Jon Davies, Managing Director of Levy UK + Ireland said: “The global hospitality industry has been one of the most heavily impacted sectors during the coronavirus crisis: every catering business, large or small, has had a difficult time. Conferences and events are a mainstay of the business world, and fully restarting the business events sector will enable organisations to bring their operations to life once more. With catering forming an integral part of these events, it is vital not only that the industry receives the support it needs to restart, but restarting with the values we held close before the pandemic. Putting fairness, sustainability and equity at the heart of operations will ensure the industry will thrive for years to come.”
Gavin Hayes, Director – Aviation and Travel of Cities Restart said: “The message from our research is clear, if we are to effectively enable the rapid economic recovery of our cities post-Covid, then we must ensure we have a thriving business sector once more and capitalise on the economic opportunities they provide. With inbound international delegates set to be worth around six times domestic delegates in the not-so-distant future, we must do far more to attract these international visitors to attend UK-based business events. This must immediately include further steps to relax international travel restrictions safely.”