Are we seeing the demise of the occasion trade?
As we know, the events industry is suffering from Covid-19. Let’s not go into that any further.
The #WeMakeEvents campaign has demonstrated the strengths of the industry. The events workforce is very confident that the events industry will flourish again over time. Until then, they can only wait and hope that the government will recognize their worth.
But what about the companies that can’t wait?
An industry survey conducted by Feast found that 61 percent of companies in the events industry have six months left to survive. Most of these companies haven’t issued an invoice since March.
This could be why they are throwing everything they have on a passing trend. Virtual events have dominated the lives of many event planners this year. And now companies are adapting their product offerings to this niche.
As ExCel London, the UK’s most popular event venue, we are to announce the opening of its virtual event studio, and assume that this will mark the end of the events industry?
The events industry was the first to shut down. In March, when Boris Johnson announced a ban on mass gatherings, planners and organizers began canceling or postponing a number of live events.
By September, the entire 2020 calendar had been wiped out by event providers like Quadrant2Design. Quadrant2Design designs and builds customer-specific modular exhibition stands. If there were no exhibitions, they had no business. And that’s a recurring theme across the event industry.
People wanted to attend events. And the organizers didn’t want to wait. It didn’t take long for some of the biggest live events to move into a digital environment.
Virtual events are not a new concept. Companies like Event Industry News have tried them as a sustainable and inexpensive way to reach large groups of people.
“The virtual event industry cuts most of the supply chain.”
In some cases they work fine. A virtual event brings people together in an online environment. Visitors can interact via live chats, watch video streams, socialize and share new experiences.
So what’s the problem?
Event industry versus virtual events
Virtual events were a great alternative. They opened up opportunities that had never existed in the events industry. The organizers were very busy getting their event online. And people were excited about the idea of participating in the “new normal”.
The problem is that the virtual events industry cuts most of the supply chain. Venues were not required. Neither were caterers. Entertainment, interior design, furniture rental, stage builders, sound and lighting engineers, cleaning staff and stand builders. All of these roles disappeared when the second virtual events took over.
The NEC is the UK’s largest venue at 182,000 square feet and has also wiped its 2020 calendar. Organizers do not need space for a virtual event. So what should these companies do?
Scrape off the barrel
The events industry was given a restart date on October 1st when people could return to the venues. Unfortunately, the number of coronavirus cases in the UK started to rise.
As the UK prepared for a second wave, Boris Johnson decided to suspend the reboot of the events industry.
That is understandable. Public safety must come first. But as you can imagine, this was a major blow to the thousands of companies in the event industry supply chain.
Companies in the events industry supply chain have no choice but to find additional revenue streams with no restart date, no access to additional support, and no money coming in.
Those who were previously unable to generate revenue from the virtual events market are finding new ways to capitalize on that potential income.
Virtual event studio
On October 15th, 207 days after the event industry closed, ExCel London opened a virtual studio for businesses that can host online events. The virtual event studio is equipped for the transmission of videos in a central, independent area.
This seems like the only option for companies involved in the events industry supply chain. However, by supporting the virtual transition, ExCel London is helping the event industry to decline.
Instead of standing empty with no income, ExCel decided to find a way to move forward. Although the virtual event studio leaves more than 90 percent of the venue empty, it can make money from it.
It’s not fair to choose ExCel. Organizers made the digital switch throughout the year. It is unclear whether they are aiming to bring you the events you love or are desperately trying to hold onto some of their annual sales. Unfortunately, they have given the government the evidence to believe our industry can go online. Thousands of companies can’t, but the government has all the necessary evidence to exclude them from further assistance.
Is this the only direction for the events industry? And if so, where are the suppliers?
Death from personal events
I’ve stayed positive for a year. The events industry was promised a restart that never came. Now some of our venues are preparing for the NHS Nightingales remobilization and we are told that these restrictions could apply for an additional six months.
What hope do companies that can’t move online have when virtual events are the way forward? And if the biggest players in our industry support the transition to a purely digital market, what hope do SMEs have of survival?
Of course I would like to tell you that this is a temporary phase. I would like to say that when it’s all over, everything will go back to normal. Unfortunately I can’t see that as the days progress.
Events will be back. But the industry will never recover. Companies operating in this sector need to learn to reposition themselves. It seems that a digital transition is our only hope of survival.
Natalka Antoniuk is a content writer for Quadrant2Design
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