Recession 'could boost UK events industry'

The UK events industry could see a boom this year as cash-strapped businesses bring their conferences back to home soil, according to research and expert opinion.

A recent poll by Event Magazine found 64 per cent of organisations expect to reduce the number of conventions they hold overseas, instead hosting their meetings in Britain.

Jeremy King, editor of the publication, says his team decided to conduct the research to see how the credit crunch has affected businesses and described the results as "very interesting".

He adds that it is to be expected that companies will use British hotels and conference centres as it is cheaper than flying people abroad.

"You'll see that overseas incentives are being cut. More people are doing UK-based incentives," he continues.

"That's the kind of mood and the way the events industry is at this moment in time - the fact that they're not looking to spend big, they're more interested in doing stuff in the UK," Mr King states.

Also responding to the research, Joss Croft, head of business visits and events at VisitBritain, confirms that the return of conferences to local venues is a growing trend that the tourist office expects to continue in 2009.

"There hasn't been a better time to buy British for 20 years and this year's National Meetings Week will underline the value proposition of UK meetings," he claims.

Mr Croft refers to the annual awareness campaign, organised by VisitBritain, which takes place in September and aims to raise the profile of the UK events industry.

He says the enterprise is "determined to keep organisers on these shores during a tough time for the industry".

"In Britain we have the product and facilities for any event, as well as creative businesses in abundance, to add that magic ingredient," Mr Croft asserts.

As well as local firms holding their events here, there could be a rise in the number of overseas enterprises looking to Britain for their conference needs, as the latest Worldwide Cost of Living survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit reveals that London is now cheaper than New York for the first time since 2002.

The capital is now ranked joint 27th, compared to the Big Apple's 23rd placing.

Sally Chatterjee, interim chief executive of VisitLondon, says the weakness of the pound against the euro and the increasing strength of the dollar make the British city an attractive prospect for visitors.

Venues and hotels are building on this by offering competitive prices to add to the benefits presented by the exchange rate, she adds.

Additionally, the[cd] country's profile as a major events host is likely to be raised further next month when the G20 summit comes to London's ExCel on April 2nd.

On announcement that the exhibition centre will play host to the global conference, David Pegler, managing director of ExCel London, said the decision reflects the venue's international standing as a premier meeting and events destination.

Among the delegates attending the convention are US president Barack Obama, German prime minister Angela Merkel and France's leader Nicholas Sarkozy.

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