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Conference industry now worth £20bn, says UKCAMS

New research into the UK’s conference and meetings sector, the ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2019’ (UKCAMS), reveals a robust and buoyant industry. There was an estimated £20bn of direct expenditure generated by conference and meeting delegates in venues and in wider destination spend in 2018, up from £18.1bn in 2017. At the same time, the overall number of conferences and meetings held in 2018 was the highest in recent years – an average of 428 conferences and meetings per venue compared with 373 in 2017 and 419 in 2016.

These positive UKCAMS 2019 results show the industry flourishing. The research findings also reveal that the overall number of conferences and meetings in 2018 was an estimated 1.48m compared with the 2017 figure of 1.29m (and 1.45m in 2016). While most events (66%) comprised 50 delegates or fewer, with just 6% of events having more than 200 delegates, the average event size was 72 delegates, the same as for 2017.

Levels of capital investment by venues remained strong with 73% of venues reporting that they had invested in their property in 2018, with 17% investing over £500,000.

The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey’, now in its 26th consecutive year, has a specific focus on the value and volume of the market and the performance of meeting venues. It also highlights key market trends identified by venues. The results provide a definitive insight into the conference and meetings sector and are widely used to inform investment, advocacy and marketing activities.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • In 2018, there were an estimated 95.3m delegates accounting for approximately 152.8m delegate days.
  • The average duration of conferences and meetings was 1.6 days (unchanged from previous years), although almost two-thirds of events lasted only one day or less
  • Conference and training centres (640 events) and hotels (453 events) hosted higher than average numbers of events
  • Just over a third (35%) of conferences and meetings in 2018 were organised by a professional conference organiser (PCO) or event management agency

While the majority of UK venues are focused on the domestic meetings market, some 10% of venues are proactive in seeking to attract international conferences, which account for 11% or more of their business. Venues tended to target international conferences through trade shows and familiarisation visits.

Kerrin MacPhie, VisitBritain’s head of business events, commented: “The ‘UK Conference and Meeting Survey 2019’ provides UK destinations and venues with valuable insights into the sector’s scale and latest trends, helping to inform their business planning and marketing activity.

“The UK is home to many world-renowned venues that consistently host leading international events. Their success not only needs to be recorded but also celebrated. VisitBritain recognises the importance of the ICCA ranking as a key tool in achieving this. The UKCAMS research results show us that more can be done by UK venues to record ICCA activity and we strongly encourage them to consistently log their international ICCA events. Doing so recognises and celebrates their world-class credentials, reinforcing the UK’s position as a leading business events destination.”

Copies of the full UKCAMS 2019 report are available priced £180 + VAT. Click here to download the form.

The 2019 UKCAMS research was sponsored by: VisitBritain, The Meetings Show,, Visit Guildford for Business, and Hiscox Event Insurance.