Television cameras at the current crop of UK Political Party Conventions show thousands of politicians, delegates, exhibitors, lobbyists and media cramming into a variety of Conference Centres. With a reported 12,000 delegates at the Conservative Conference, 11,000 at Labour and 4000 at the Lib Dems you might imagine that these events are typical of events held at these conference centres. But there are in fact some surprising underlying trends in the size and number of meetings which do not conform to accepted wisdom.
Since the mid 1960s the number of international meetings has grown exponentially and today there are almost 100 times as many events as there were in those early beginnings. At the same time the average numbers of attending delegates has declined by around 2/3 from a high of over 1200 participant to just over 400 today.
So while it is no surprise that destinations around the world have developed infrastructure and venues to meet these needs and deliver massive economic benefit to their local area, what is surprising is that development appears to be about creating ever larger venues to compete for the very few large events.
Looking at purpose built centres we find that those which have been developed in the last 15 years in the UK have been ever larger and planned or current developments tend to be about growing the existing facilities.
Which begs the question whether there will be a market for these venues? What is clear is that the events industry has underlying strengths which suggest the number of events will continue to grow although this growth rate is faster in Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Americas.
What is also clear is that venue designers are getting smarter and creating more flexibility. So while new venues can accommodate very large events they also have much more potential to host simultaneous events meaning they can maximise their overall occupancy and yield.
But are developers of new conference centres taking too much account of what their competitors are doing and not enough of what the market data tells us? Perhaps.
In a recent project the biggest concern was about getting the right size of venue and rooms and the implication from many was that ‘bigger is better’. But the truth is smaller can be beautiful, creating a space in the marketplace which has fewer competitors.
If you are thinking about your current venue offer or are considering developing a new conference venue why not get in touch to see if we can help you think through your options including refurbishment, support feasibility studies or business planning. We have first-hand experience running, refurbishing and developing conference centres and we work hard to understand what makes each and every project unique.