UK has a rapidly growing hospitality industry that integrates a wide range hospitality sectors that include conference and banqueting, events and travel service, gambling, holiday parks and bar and restaurant sectors. A huge number of tourists flock into the country on an annual basis to enjoy a range of services that are available within this industry’s broad scope. Conference and banqueting sector is one of the major sectors making up the hospitality industry in UK. Conference and banqueting is hospitality –related concept that is mainly concerned with creating an event that can take any of diverse forms that include partying, official gatherings, ceremonial gatherings, seminars or family functions (British Tourism Authority 2005, 23). This event industry is increasingly becoming a global concept as important events are being held on a day-to-day basis in different global exhibition centers that target both the local and foreign delegates (Ian 2011, 39). This paper aims to analyze the nature of the conferencing and banqueting sector in the UK and the various factors that influence its rapid development. It will specifically focus on the size and scope of this sector as well as the various political, social, economic, technological, environmental, and legal factors that have influenced its development.
1.1 The size and scope of conference and banqueting sector in the UK
The conference and banqueting sector is one of the major sectors in UK’s hospitality industry. This sector has experience enormous expansion within the last few decades, which has enabled it to make significant contribution to the country’s revenue. According to BACD 2005, 23), business people from around the world travel to the UK on a day-to-day basis to attend conference and banqueting events like trade fairs, business meetings, conferences and seminars. The sector attracts over 6.5 million delegates from around the world, who are hosted in more than 46,000 hotels and guesthouses in the country and spend over 3501 million dollars on annual basis (Karen 2009, 129). This expenditure attributes to 2.5 billion dollars that this sector generates on yearly basis. This mainly includes those delegates that target to be hosted in the best conference and banqueting facilities that compete in the highest category of best facilities in the world. Other facilities are available in major cities and towns and they host an array of business visitors depending on the degree of flexibility, comfort, and category of service sought. The UK conference and banqueting sector ranks third after United States and France, which are amongst the ten leading conference and banqueting destinations in the globe. It hosts about 5.8% of all the conference and banqueting events taking place all over the world (BACD 2005, 27). These statistics can be summarized in a table as follows:
Figure 1: Top ten global countries hosting conference meetings of about 300 people (% of global total), 2000 and 2002
|Country||Percentage as at 2000||Percentage as at 2002|
Although clients obtaining services from this sector include those attending trade fairs, family gatherings and ceremonial functions, most events taking place within the sector are corporate in nature. Such corporate events take place in approximately 512 conference venues that are distributed across the country. Statistical evidence from the UK market Trend Survey shows that about 70% of business events taking place in all the meeting venues in the country come from the region of business location, 27% come from other parts of the country while only 3% come from overseas. This can be demonstrated in the diagram below.
Figure 2: origin of event business
2.0 Environmental factors that have influenced development of the sector
2.1 Political environment
Political factors have played an important role in influencing the way business activities within the conference and banqueting sector in UK are carried out, which has in return attributed to the sector’s rapid expansion. According to British Tourism Authority (2005, 30), the political environment in the UK has significantly transformed with devolution of government taking a significant toll in various parts of the country. This has given regional government authorities greater power in regulating business activities intended to enhance the local economy. As a result, power devolution has seen most investors easily obtaining licenses to operate in different parts of the country (Grant, M 2009, 78). UK is also experiencing a drastically changing aspect of security and stewarding. This is because the Security Industry Association has now assumed the role of licensing individuals taking certain roles within the sector, which includes managing the conference and banqueting facilities. This has enhanced confidence among the local and international visitors attending corporate and informal events as they are assured of safety while conducting a significant range of events.
2.2 Legal environment
The UK has employed favorable laws and regulations as well as positive deliberations at all levels of government authority that positively influence the way businesses with the conference and banqueting sector operate. UK’s laws governing hiring practices, workers’ health and safety as well as business licensing are particularly noticeable within the conference and banqueting sector. The Disability Discrimination Act is for example a lading topic in most business seminars within sector while the minimum wage Act is at the bottom line (Ian 2011, 45).
2.3 Economic environment
The favorable economic climate prevailing in the UK has positively been influencing the way organizations within the conference and banqueting sector do business, which has in return attributed to quality performance and subsequent drastic expansion. The value of different events taking place within the sector has attributed to generation of sufficient revenue that has increasingly been reinvested to enhance industry expansion (Allen 2005, 12). Conferences, trade fairs, and exhibitions have particularly helped to generate a huge amount of revenue, which investors have continually reinvested hence the rapid expansion of this sector. The capacity by businesses within the industry to give high wages and salaries as well as equip employees with high quality skills has ensured that high quality services that attract a huge number of clients are dispensed (Grant 2009, 81).
2.4 Social-cultural environment
UK’s social and cultural environment has continually provided a favorable environment conference and banqueting sector’s continued development. Various social institutions that include churches, sporting clubs, social groups, business institutions, and occupational groups in the UK have continually provided unique facilitation of conference as well as banqueting events, which has in return enhanced rapid expansion of this sector (Luke 2012, 24). Sporting activities like the 2012 London Olympics have seen most young people volunteering in sporting activities, which in return help to create mega-sporting events that attract a huge number people from around the world. Similarly, business organizations are increasingly constructing attractive occupational facilities life hotels, guesthouses and exhibition centers that play an important role in attracting wealthy delegates from around the world to come and conduct conference and banqueting activities in this country (Bowdin, G 2014, 90).
2.5 Technological environment
Technological advancement in UK has increasingly improved the way business activities are carried out, which has in return attributed to rapid expansion of conference and banqueting sector. As explained by Allen (2005, 29), drastic transformation in equipments and machinery in this country has increasingly revolutionized the way business organizations within the sector function. Technology has for example enhanced rapid use of the internet in advertising festivals, trading exhibitions and other sporting events taking place in different places within the country. This ability to use an array of search engine has enabled most business organizations to link their clients to a multitude of events taking place in the country. Technology has also allowed businesses to create web-based sites to support events being carried out by international delegates. Such sites for example provide the delegates with important information and resources needed. This has helped to improve customer satisfaction, which in return has contributed to rapid development of this sector (BACD 2005, 45).
2.6 Environmental factors
The ability of business organizations in UK to adopt sustainable event management practices has helped to reduce environmental degradation, which in return has helped to perpetuate rapid expansion in conference and banqueting sector. Tried-and-tested methodology is usually applied on all products used in the events industry. This helps to prevent any business organization within the sector from using event-organizing products that might have negative environmental impacts. The UK government has also provided businesses investing in this sector with a Resource Management Plan tool (Luke 2012, 27). This tool helps businesses at every stage of event organizing to discover where their opportunities in waste reduction exists as well as how they can effectively manage waste before, during and after an event. This provision has ensured that environmental degradation through improper waste management is reduced, which has in return contributed to rapid expansion in conference and banqueting sector (Karen 2009, 150).
UK’s conferencing and banqueting sector ranks among the rapidly growing sectors in the world. This has attributed to its significant contribution to the wider national economy. Most events attributing to drastic success in this sector include trade fairs, business meetings, exhibitions, family gatherings, and sporting events. Political, social, economical, legal, environmental, and technological factors have particularly played an important role in enhancing rapid expansion of this sector. This is because these factors have helped to create a favorable environment where conference and banqueting events can be carried out successfully and conveniently.
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