The UK’s business events industry is forecast to grow 43% by 2026 to be worth £27.6bn, according to new analysis by Tourism Economics.
However, research also predicts business events sector unlikely to rebound to 2019 levels until 2023 at the earliest, indicating a slower comeback than for the rest of the economy and highlighting the critical need for measures to support rapid recovery for the industry.
At the low point of the lockdown period, spending on business events plummeted by around 80% of 2019 levels due to Covid.
The report shows that attracting more international inbound delegates is key to turbo-charging sectoral recovery, with international delegates estimated to be worth six times more than domestic delegates by 2026 (£1078 for inbound delegates versus £180 for domestic delegates).
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.
Jeremy Rees, chief executive of ExCeL London and cities restart advisory board member said: “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 a comprehensive insurance scheme and measures to open-up international travel. This will enable the UK to retain a globally competitive, world class sector, which 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.”