Conference yields rise as business tops £4bn

The annual spend made by business tourism visitors to Britain has reached £4 billion for the first time ever. The figure is the key finding of the British Tourist Authority’s (BTA) International Passenger Survey 2000. The data, which was compiled from more than 250,000 point of entry questionnaires, confirms that the sector represents 29% in volume terms and 32% in spend terms of the UK’s total tourism market. The number of visits made to the UK last year for a conference was 851,000, which accounts for total room nights of 3.4 million. These figures are down on the last survey conducted in 1998, however the value of conference business has risen to £591 million, up by £10 million. Although the average length of stay remained unaltered at four days, spend per day and spend per visit both recorded increases to £177 and £694, respectively. "Yield growth is often seen as the greatest measure of success, so these are positive results that mean we are getting higher value events into the UK. However, there is a trend for declining volume, which is a cause for concern," said BTA head of business tourism Adam Bates. The BTA has also published its British Conference Market Trends Survey. The results show that a total of 1.3 million conferences or large meetings took place in 2000, with a combined value of £6.6 billion. The survey measures trends in venue booking and choice, as well as the size of conferences. The key finding is the higher use of intermediary companies, such as PCOs and venue-finding agencies, which booked 33% of all conferences – an increase of 11% on 1999. Other highlights include the increasing popularity of purpose-built centres and growth of large association conferences, which as a proportion of all conferences are up from 12% in 1999 to 20% last year.

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