Supply chain issues, staff shortages and rising operational
costs are ‘heavily impacting’ the UK’s business meetings and events sector,
according to research by the Meetings Industry Association (MIA).
In its latest survey of 157 UK venues, the MIA said 87 per
cent currently have job vacancies, with more than three-quarters seeking
waiting staff and nearly half trying to recruit receptionists, housekeeping and
On average, venues said they have lost around a third of
non-UK workers since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the MIA said has
been led by challenges presented by Brexit and the closing of applications to
the EU Settlement Scheme at the end of June this year.
On a positive note, organisations in the latest survey
reported a 17.5 per cent decrease in the total number of employees compared to
pre-pandemic levels – down from the 53 per cent reduction recorded in July.
However, respondents said filling vacancies is proving difficult and costly,
with 63 per cent increasing hourly rates and annual salaries in a bid to
attract and retain talent. More than half (59 per cent) are doing so for all
roles at an average rise of 11 per cent. Seventy-six per cent are now providing
flexible working and 58 per cent are offering wellbeing initiatives as an
additional or alternative means of non-financial incentive.
Furthermore, 85 per cent of respondents reported increased
operational costs, with more than half citing “substantial increases”. This
includes rises averaging as high as 10 per cent in food and beverage (F&B),
energy, salary and recruitment costs, with the majority of venues (87 per cent)
predicting further increases over the next quarter.
To compensate for their rising costs, almost half of venues
have increased their F&B rates, while a third have increased their room
Adding to venues’ stress levels are supply chain issues,
with 77 per cent reporting problems with F&B and caterers. Seventy per cent
of respondents said such issues are impacting their service levels, with 69 per
cent reducing their banquet offering, 52 per cent limiting the number of
bedrooms offered and 41 per cent decreasing the amount of meeting spaces
The MIA presented its findings to tourism minister Nigel
Huddleston at the association’s Ignite conference, with chair Steve Jones
saying: “While it is encouraging to see employment levels return in the
direction of more recognisable levels, we cannot ignore the pressing challenges
that many venues are experiencing as the sector gets back on its feet.
“We are still only at the start of our road to recovery, and
in a circular sector such as ours it is critical that we continue to liaise
with government to protect all businesses within it. It is evident that venues
are doing all they can to support with staff shortages as demand levels begin
to incrementally increase, and we continue to communicate and address
challenges such as these in any way we can.”
The MIA's findings come as a survey of corporate meeting and event planners by American Express Meetings & Events reveals two-thirds of those polled expect in-person meeting levels to return to pre-pandemic numbers by 2023.