State of the Industry

Each year C&IT (Conference and Incentive Travel) compile a detailed report summarising the challenges and concerns facing the event industry over the last year, and to gather opinion on the future. The findings make an interesting read for anyone involved in this exciting yet challenging industry.

On 8th June 2017 the country went to the polls and the result of a hung parliament coupled with last year’s vote to exit the European Union, meant that political uncertainty was cited as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry towards the end of last year. The main concern appeared to be the amount of unanswered questions with no one really knowing what Brexit meant for Great Britain. Questions continue to be asked as to what this will be mean for event budgets with fluctuating currencies and the effect of conversion rates, not to mention future visa issues for people travelling to other European countries. It seems to be the lack of clarity which is creating worry amongst agencies and corporate planners alike.

Maintaining year on year growth continues to be a challenge for agencies. The agency landscape is currently so incredibly competitive, and with the rise of freelance consultants, start-ups and small agencies appearing – they are all competing for too little business. Liquidations (AddingValue and Bluehat UK, to name two) are testament to these troubled times, and recent mergers and acquisitions demonstrate the need for strategic cost efficiencies also.

Budget constraints continue to challenge the industry with clients squeezing budgets year on year, yet increasingly expecting ‘more for less’, both in scale of the event and with the pressure to find the newest and most exciting venue to deliver a ‘wow’ factor, whilst keeping attendees to a manageable number to avoid falling back on more predictable purpose-built conference venues. Along with this is the challenge of convincing clients to take a risk on event venue and location to avoid the same event year on year.

And of course with budget constraints, there is a greater requirement than ever before to demonstrate the impact of the event and the value that it will bring to an organisation. With the lack of a recognised industry standard method to demonstrate the value of an event, how to measure the return on investment of an event will undoubtedly remain a challenge in the years to come.

In 2017, short lead-times remained a concern for agencies with the increasing pressure to be able to develop outstanding creative campaigns in an unreasonably short time frame. The current uncertain political climate has been blamed on this, with people being cautious about committing to event spend. Whether this is short-lived or a long term concern, remains to be seen.

Agencies have also spoken of the challenge of recruiting talent, with competition for the best talent remaining fierce. Finding talent takes time and is a luxury the industry just don’t have! Senior candidates also appear to prefer freelance contracts as opposed to full time positions, and the challenge of retaining junior talent when they generally have a higher expectation for promotion and salary increase, is tough.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom! Being resilient in these uncertain times is a continuing drive. Despite the ongoing worldwide terror attacks, people haven’t been deterred from travelling or from hosting large scale events. Location-wise, London remains the favourite and Manchester is second for UK destinations, whilst New York, Miami and Las Vegas still prove popular across the pond. Popularity in Incentive Travel continues to rise also, with Experiences as a reward in sales – a trip to an exotic destination is deemed much more effective than a cash incentive which will be lost in day to day costs and never spoken about round the office once it has hit the bank account! In addition, many agencies have seen a rise in roadshows and conferences. With the current political climate, companies have needed to communicate with their staff more than ever, and the frequency of conferences tend to be higher; with the scale of the conference much smaller.

The overall opinion of the year ahead seems to be realistic optimism, with most agency Managing Directors forecasting challenging but exciting times ahead. What 2018 will actually bring to the Events industry, remains to be seen.

Reference: State of the Industry Report 2017

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