The world is facing an economic meltdown due to the lockdown. As a prevention measure, people are advised to maintain ‘social distance’ and avoid contact with others. While social distancing is preventing the spread of Coronavirus to an extent, it is also having a huge economic impact. Many sectors are facing a dent in their business operations, one of them being the Event Industry.
For an industry that thrives on ‘socialising’, the pandemic is set to hit hard – not just during current times but for the foreseeable future. Governments, corporates, sports leagues, movie productions, entertainment shows and even social functions are being cancelled by the day world over. Not only is this costing money to the event agencies but also economies at large.
Australian Government has stated that it is expected to lose over $23 billion due to cancellation of events. Postponing the Tokyo Olympics 2020 could potentially cost around $6 billion to the Japanese economy in revenue. Cancellation of entertainment shows like live concerts, festivals and award functions is a potential loss of millions of dollars to the world economy. With no respite or hopes of large gatherings being permitted in the near future, what does year 2020 hold for the events industry ?
The events industry globally is worth approximately $1,300 billion. It was expected to grow by 10.3% CAGR to reach about $2,300 billion by 2026. The industry also employees millions of people, a lot of whom are daily wage earners and skilled employees. With zero revenue in sight, event agencies have been forced to resort to pay cuts and even layoffs.
While some are hopeful of things getting back to normal from early 2021 with relaxed social distancing norms by countries, there are some who do not foresee any tangible change or respite for the industry. Such doubt stems from a fundamental change in consumer behaviour which is the scare to enter large public gatherings due to the pandemic. Owing to this, many business leaders in the industry are gearing up for next to no business in the coming year. Not many will be able to sustain such a long dry spell and some might even be forced to shut shop.
However, it is not all bad. There are a few breathers in opportunities and strengths available by virtue of the nature of this business.
In this time, technology is proving to be a vital tool with digital viewership rising by more than 20% since March 2020. Virtual events are seen to be a potential trend for the coming years and are already picking up at a fast pace. Virtual events were already going to be a trend this year but nobody thought of it being the only option, and consequently the most lucrative one.
As event managers have adapted technology into their on-ground events, virtual events will also become more and more immersive given the fast technological advancements. With more and more companies and governments doing video calls, people are beginning to get used to virtual interaction and this lockdown serves a way for people to get comfortable in such environments. We have already seen virtual exhibitions, concerts, conferences, webinars happening at multiple levels catering to a variety of audience. With event industry innovating and developing newer technologies, virtual events will only get bigger.
But will virtual events become the norm ? Definitely not. Nothing can or will take away the power of analogue and human touch. So use this opportunity to develop a strong digital property which can then be used as a powerful addition to create a hybrid, physical-virtual event. Hybrid events will lower carbon footprint, adhere to social distancing norms, lower event production costs, and can cater to a large number of audience at once.
However, lower costs also mean that many will be ready to jump on the bus. The key lies with whoever gets there first and does it right.
Despite challenging status quo, we need to remember the crucial role of the Events Industry in the economy. It offers ancillary support to a lot of other sectors, and hence, will recover eventually.
An event provides employment to daily wage workers such as labourers, technicians, artisans. They employ skilled workers from other sectors like media, infrastructure, power, construction, entertainment, technicians, to name a few. Additionally, each event indirectly contributes to allied services in and around the venue like Food & Beverage, Hospitality, Transport. Hence, the actual contribution of one event goes way beyond its venue boundaries and extends to the town or city or even the country, in case of national events.
For now, events are being cancelled or postponed for year 2021. Current situation is uncertain but the future is even more hazy. Assuming things come back to normal and we are able to resume business, will people be willing to attend or be associated with it ?
For an industry with such strong economic footprint, we need to adapt to this current scenario and prepare for a future in line with the changes. As every event comes with contingency plans preparing for every disaster, it is time to prepare for a plan for the industry as a whole.
COME OUT STRONGER
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. While it is true that times are difficult, let us not forget that if we do this and do it right, we will come out stronger and a cut above.
While government support of any kind will be of crucial importance, we need to find the core of our business that makes this industry so admired – the power to withhold extreme circumstances and keep going. It is inevitable that times are changing and we must adapt to this newer age. Instead of fighting against the water, it is rather wise to make ourselves adept to the changing tides and swim with it. Obviously, health and safety will become a higher priority than ever before, but the event industry will bounce back – with modifications.
Because in the end, the show must go on.