Campus WU

Will we ever see mega events again?

01/03/2021

Answer by Thomas Reutterer, head of the Institute for Service Marketing and Tourism

Chiara K.: How will the crisis affect the events industry? Is there any chance we’ll be seeing mega events with a live audience again in the near future?

The answer to the question depends on two factors: First, it depends on how we define “near future,” and second, it also depends on how this currently highly volatile situation will continue to develop. Here is an attempt at a short answer: It’s unlikely that we’ll see any mega events this year. With a bit of luck and innovative ideas, however, some smaller-scale events may be held under controlled conditions. We did see events of this kind last summer. With suitable hygiene concepts, distancing rules, entrance testing, proof of vaccination or antibodies – that is, the usual measures we’ve now become accustomed to – I think that it will be possible to hold such events again this summer.

Livestreams and home-delivery models

But in 2021, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any events on the scale of, say, the Frequency Festival, as we know it. In part, this is also due to the fact that by now, there wouldn’t even be enough time left to complete the necessary planning steps and preparations. We mustn’t forget that all the events planned for last summer were already fully planned when the pandemic hit. In some cases, it was therefore possible to adapt the plans and downsize the events on short notice in spring. Today, the situation is different. Many event organizers have put their planning for 2021 on hold altogether. If anything, they are only planning events that will be streamed online and small-scale events. Many organizers have taken the cue from restaurants and are now offering arts and cultural events on the basis of home-delivery models.

Relaunch of the event scene

I do believe, however, that we are inherently social creatures and that we will see mega events with large crowds again when we enter some kind of new normality. I expect to see a relaunch of the event scene. The question is, of course, whether the same organizers will manage to remain in the market and which organizers will be able to survive the economic shock at all. Generally speaking, such existential crises also open up opportunities for innovation and the development of new, (more) sustainable concepts, rather than returning to business as usual. This applies to the events industry and many other sectors as well.

Risk of a surge in bankruptcies

The widespread use of vouchers instead of refunds was probably the main factor that helped many event organizers survive the year 2020. This was extremely important for helping the businesses maintain their liquidity. In the near future, much will depend on how the situation develops. Will the validity periods of the vouchers be extended? Will they be covered by some sort of government guarantees? Vouchers are similar to debts owed. If many of them are called in at once, there is the risk of a surge in bankruptcies. This means that if you would like to see mega events held by the same organizers again in the near future, I’d recommend you refrain from redeeming any event vouchers you may have been issued. In this way, you can provide indirect support to the arts and culture industry.

Major live events again in 2022

If we have a bit of luck with the further development of the pandemic and large parts of the population are immunized, we will hopefully be able to enjoy large-scale live events again in 2022.

Thomas Reutterer, head of the Institute for Service Marketing und Tourism

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