Independent venues gear up for year of niche events

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Venue Updata - Image: Unsplash. Venue Updata - Image: Unsplash.

As independent venues and hotels emerge from this transformational period, there is a sense that the major challenges have been overcome and a more steady landscape lies ahead.

Here are seven key trends set to define the independent venues and hotels sector in 2022 and beyond.

Demand for reconnection and experience-led events

Louise Hassett, head of venue sales at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre predicts a dominant trend in 2022 will be the demand for reconnection, with a strong focus on experience and engagement. She said: “We have seen the demand for face-to-face engagement across the industry grow and we don’t predict this will slow down. More than ever before there will be a “need to develop innovative experiences to strengthen brand engagement with audiences, focusing on a 360-degree approach to the entire event experience. Planners are now looking for more non-traditional venues that enable brands to go above and beyond with their event experience.”

A rise in niche events

Hassett also foresees a boom in niche events. She added: “Events tackling very specific niche topics and actions such as social, economic, environmental, and economic issues, rather than those with a broader outlook, are taking over the current event landscape.”

Smaller events and short lead times

Last-minute event bookings are likely to linger on into early 2022, and events will be more regional and national, than international. Stephanie Macfarlane, senior corporate agency and sales manager at ACC Liverpool said: “Travel restrictions mean that delegate attendance has decreased and will continue to do so until international travel returns to some sort of normality. However, we are seeing a return of confidence in the conference market so we remain hopeful for the future.”

Smaller meetings will decline as hybrid and virtual continues

“Despite the industry making a huge revival in 2021, we believe hybrid formats and virtual elements to events will still hold relevance into 2022,” said Lucy Adamson, senior meetings and events manager, Chelsea Football Club.

This may impact the number of smaller meetings, warned Hayley Smith, head of sales at Silverstone Circuits. “Smaller meetings may decline as virtual meetings provide a great solution where delegates don’t have to travel and can get as much out of a virtual meeting in half the time of a face-to-face one.”

Hybrid working will boost meetings

Virtual meetings may replace smaller meetings, but this could be counteracted by a trend identified by Caleb Parker, founder of Bold, a NewFlex company. He said: “As companies reduce their office footprints, give their teams workplace choice and often work remotely, we expect an increase in demand for regular in-person meetings. This will drive revenue from small meeting room bookings.”

Greater expectations, especially on sustainability 

Leanne Bladen - Eastside Rooms.

The pandemic has increased client expectations when booking a venue. “Rather than just facilities, location and price, clients are looking beyond this to make sure venues align to their core values such as covid-security, environmentally-friendly and sustainable,” Victoria Webb, sales manager of Millennium Point said.

Leanne Bladen, sales and marketing director, Eastside Rooms added: “It's probably too simplistic to say that sustainability and hybrid will be the main talking points, certainly for the first half of the year but most probably throughout.

“We're trying to imagine what the future of the industry could look like. We see huge synergies around hybrid events, reliance on face to face, the love of experience, the games and all things sustainable. It fits in with technological innovations, AI learning and global connectivity.

Clitheroe agrees and believes sustainability and CSR will remain at the forefront for many organisations. He said: “Authenticity of story, sustainability, mindful tourism and carbon footprint will drive client decisions when picking hotels and venues going forward.”

Employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing will be a major priority, too.“Hybrid working has made it so much more important for managers to regularly check in on their team’s wellbeing and keep them connected to a business. Employee wellbeing will also be so critical in team retention particularly in the events sector where we’ve already seen a migration of people out of the sector. Giving our team a work/life balance, good benefits and good training and development opportunities will be crucial to keeping a happy and productive workforce,” said Smith.

Research and interviews were conducted by beam, formerly known as HBAA. 

Holly Patrick
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Holly Patrick
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A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.

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