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2021 data review

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Peter Heath, Managing Director, Venue Performance, looks over what 2021 offered the sector and discusses the indicators of what this year might hold

And it was all going so well. Compared to 2020 if not 2019. Looking at (Fig 1.), you can see an October wobble, but the general trend was up.


It was all going so well, that is, right up until Boris Johnson made his Plan B speech on 8th December. That announcement killed confidence, and event planners saw their customers run again for the hills, with event confirmations dropping back down to August levels.

Hopes had been strong for a more robust Christmas party season, but Christmas never got off the ground, with conferences following suit.

Caution is still very much the watchword going into the new year and bookings haven't gathered pace much beyond spring and very early summer. There is positive intent, however, which is bringing hope to the sector.

Enquiries (Fig 5.) did not take a backward step during 2021 and December was another month of growing enquiry numbers, which was hugely encouraging to see. Customers are desperate to get back to face-to-face events, as shown by the 25% increase in enquiries per venue. And that was on top of a 30% increase in November from October. To put that into the broader picture, that shows a rise of 380% from August.






Anecdotally, that pattern seems to have continued into January, which we hope to confirm when we report back next month.

Looking more deeply into everyone’s hopes and dreams for next year, let’s explore the popular event types. In (Fig 6) we can see that meetings lead the way, with an average of 26 per venue already booked for 2022, not too bad when you consider that in 2021 venues had an average of 53 for the year in total. So, 2022 has already reached 50% of what was achieved in 2021.




If we apply the same comparison to Conferences in 2022, we can see an average of 15 conferences already booked per venue compared to an average of 18 delivered all last year, so already the market is at 83% of the previous year's numbers, which is greatly encouraging by any measure.

The final event type we're looking at this month (we cover 12 event types in total) is banqueting. In 2021 the average number of banqueting focused events per venue was 15, and in 2022 that stands at nine. That's 60% of 2021's number, but for the budget setters amongst you, it shows a very positive outlook for the confidence of 2022.

We’re still a long way off 2019, but that was a very different world and in the coming months I will be discussing other ways of measuring performance that are more useful than looking backwards.

One trend which has popped up since 2019 is hybrid meetings. These are harder for us to measure because venues often don't reveal facts about their hybrid offering; especially if they don't have one. So instead we ask venues if the event they are reporting on (enquiry or confirmed) has a hybrid element - Yes or No?

This means that our data is more of an indicator than an absolute, but the result is clear: hybrid events won't be as popular next year as they have been, by a long way. Now I know that stands to reason, we're organising events, not virtual events, but the data does lend itself to the conclusion that people want to return to face to face and are less focussed on virtual......at this stage. Who knows how many of those events will include virtual at the point of being delivered, but at the point of recording, the market got to an average of just over two events per month, being virtual to less than 1 in 2022. (fig 8).




Now, before we get too carried away by these early signs, let's also look at rate: For this exercise, I'm going to give you the comparisons:

Price Per Head (PPH) - includes Hire + F&B

Meetings

2021 = £108

2022 = £162

Conferences

2021 = £100

2022 = £86

Banqueting

2021 = £110

2022 = £106

The PPH for all events of all types and sizes:

2021 = £110

2022 = £121

In 2021, rate or price for was largely irrelevant. Not that venues didn’t care, but rate was the least of their concerns, it was a time when cash was king and it was important just to have it coming through the door.

So, to conclude. What happened in 2021?

Lead times became shorter, catering budgets were reduced significantly, and confidence was fragile, which meant the industry suffered from stop-start trading with little momentum able to build. Where they could, venues took whatever money they could to protect the future of their staff and their businesses.

There's nothing like not appreciating what you had until it has been taken away from you. And businesses, people and institutions know the power of events. So, I sense that 2022 will be a strong year, but if history has told us one thing, it's that keeping an eye on the competition and the broader market will be more critical in 2022 than ever.

The winds of business (and events) can change quickly, and if you're not watching, you might be caught napping.

It was a challenging year but, being a resilient bunch - you've hung in there, and 2022 looks considerably better than 2021 already. So, if we can get some momentum, events will come back even stronger.


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