The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed in his recent budget that the UK is gradually emerging from the recession, forecasting a 2.7% increase in growth for 2014. Although still a long way from full economic recovery, this positive indication is as much an encouragement for the London events market as it is for UK business as a whole.

As more and more cash flow frees up, companies are once again looking at their budgets and to meetings and events as good marketing and networking tools for their businesses.

As economic pace has started to gather momentum, so too it seems has a renewed willingness to invest more money in events through enhancements and add-ons, offering delegates a more rounded experience than ‘the basic package’, which became a trend through the lowest points of the recession, as companies looked to make savings.

This begs the question: Has there been an increase on event spend as the UK emerges from the recession?

We asked some of The Westminster Collection’s member venues for their views, focusing on activity in January – March 2014 compared with the same period last year. We also asked where they think event organisers are directing the extra spend:

Robin Parker, general manager at Church House Conference Centre, feels that there has been an upturn in spend on events:

“We can report a 20% increase in catering spend compared with the same period last year. Although the spend in the public sector remains flat, reflecting a large number of budget freezes across government departments, the private sector is definitely spending more on adding value to their events through post-event receptions or by upgrading their lunch from basic sandwiches to a hot fork buffet.”

Guy Booth, venue manager at etc. venues Victoria, agreed, highlighting the benefits of adding a networking reception to meetings and conferences:

“We can confirm an upturn in added-value events at etc. venues Victoria in comparison to this time last year. As the recession lifts, more and more organisers are increasing their average spend to add a networking reception to finish their event. It is a clear sign that companies are appreciating the important business development opportunities that these extra touches offer whilst adding a fuller experience for delegates. Two out of three of all large meetings and conferences at etc. venues Victoria now incorporate a reception at the end of the day, encouraging relaxation in the courtyard garden.”

Tom Walsh, director of sales MICE at St Ermin’s Hotel, was more cautious in his response but felt that organisers were more receptive to upscaling their events:

“We are finding that budgets for events have become less restrictive than in years gone by. Certainly blank cheques are not being issued but neither an increase in F&B spend, nor package enhancements are being shunned as we had previously seen.”

Has your venue seen an increase or decrease in spend on events in the first quarter of 2014? If you have a view on this issue we would love to hear from you. If so, please email your response to [email protected].