The halfway point

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of The Meetings Industry Association (mia), reviews the year so far and looks at what lies in store for the hotel meetings industry over the next six months.

We have reached 2019’s half-way point, which makes it the perfect time to both reflect on the last six months and plan ahead for the next half of the year.

Political uncertainty hasn’t made trade easy for anyone, which may go some way to explaining why the average number of meetings held between January and March of this year fell compared to those in the same periods in 2018 and 2017.

The approach to the initial Brexit deadline of 29 March was an unsettled time for everyone, so it’s understandable that those responsible for planning meetings held off until we had more of an idea of what life outside the EU would be like.

Nevertheless, while it is disappointing that there was a drop in the number of meetings held at hotels and conference venues across the UK in the first three months of the year, taking a further look at figures gathered within the latest miaTouchstone report – the mia’s benchmarking tool – this was one negative among many positives.

Hotels with meetings spaces should take great comfort in the fact that 24-hour residential rates rose by a very healthy nine per cent to an average of £150 between January and March. Delegate day rates (DDR) also rose by four per cent to an average of £44, continuing a four-year trend during which time DDR has risen 30 per cent overall.

To have raised prices at a time when other industries have struggled to survive and have seen prices stagnate should be regarded a major achievement for the UK’s hospitality, meetings and events industry and it should feel proud of this fact.

Another positive to celebrate is an increase in enquiry levels. Compared to the same period last year, enquiry levels among the mia members participating in our survey were up five per cent. Enquiry levels rose by over 10 per cent in 2018 which indicates some pretty good prospects for the hotel meetings and events sector over the next six months, and beyond.
Also, while the average number of meetings is down for the first quarter of this year, the fact that both DDR and 24-hour residential rates have risen suggest the sector is operating efficiently and robustly, bolstering this positive outlook.

We at the mia will continue to monitor figures from our members at hotels and event venues throughout the UK through miaTouchstone, so they can benchmark their activity against their peers and so that we can co-ordinate our support accordingly.

Brexit negotiations are ongoing, but as miaTouchstone’s latest figures suggest, our industry refuses to let political uncertainty get in the way of its current and future success and we at the mia look forward to supporting it through the next six months of 2019.

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