There is still a great deal of concern about the UK Special Events Industry and justifiably so. We have an ample supply of venues, caterers and special event personnel but the demand is weakening. From what I am reading and hearing about our industry, things are not looking particularly good. A recovery that many thought would occur by now simply has not materialized.
According to industry sources, RSVP did not do well at all this year. Visitor numbers fell by 26% with attendance around 3,700 as compared to slightly over 5,000 in 2009. In addition, Event magazine recently reported that over 300 event and exhibition companies have lost more than a third of their value in the last year. And it is not just the organizing companies that are seeing a decline in business. Venues are also beginning to feel the ‘pinch’. Public Sector spending cuts are starting to take their toll with cancellations already taking place.
So what is the feeling of those in special events? David Jamilly of Theme Traders probably says it best.
“The events industry as we knew it is officially ‘extinct’ as the Cameron era of austerity is about to descend on the UK. Twenty years ago, there was a huge shortage of experienced practitioners in an infant industry. Now event managers are two a penny (so to speak) and knowledge is no longer at a premium as all is available on the web.
“The recession has so far resulted in pricing pressure resulting in overpromising to clients and in some cases undersupplying. Whichever of these has taken place, the pricing structure will never return to the levels that ensure top service, creativity and professionalism. Clients expectations and the pricing level will be, for many years, the cheap deal competitive level of today’s marketplace.”
On a slightly more optimistic note, Claire Derrick of cldevents had this to say. “I think that the industry is making slow and tentative recovery. However, moving forward I think that events will take on a very different guise to recent years. They will be used more than ever as serious marketing tools and must have very stringent measurements for success. In other words, they must earn their keep. I think this will be a wakeup call for our industry and will make us all ‘pull our socks up!’.”
And finally, I spoke with Francis Gimblett from Taste of the Vine whose motivational events are mainly in the corporate arena. “We have seen a lessening of internal motivational events, possible because companies feel staff is motivated by the fact that they have a job. Companies are still using our services to facilitate communication between clients and contacts, or other events with a networking purpose, i.e. where there is a tangible benefit, but to a level we experienced before 2000 and the boom.
“I feel the downturn in the economy is definitely a correction. Things have changed however there are plenty of opportunities … just different ones.”
The industry is definitely changing and adjustments are ahead!