Corona pandemic boosts trend towards smaller, regional events


actori impulse

In April, many branches in Germany will “take off” again - a good example of this is the event industry. After many months of the Corona pandemic, during which the gathering of people was severely restricted, there is finally hope of return to normality for this industry. The managing director of a major ticketing provider, for example, is pleased to report that since the Corona measures were lifted, more events are being registered with them every day.

Looking back, the years before the first lockdown already showed market growth along with increasing competition: while event numbers were declining in the years before the Corona pandemic, both the number of participants from 393 million to 423 million and the turnover of the total market rose continuously from 70 billion euros to 86 billion euros. The largest segment was congresses and conferences, which accounted for around two thirds of all events. Here, a significant growth in turnover of +16% was shown between 2014 and 2019. In the live entertainment segment, the trend towards high-quality events and the increase in ticket prices as well as the higher willingness of participants to invest led to a strong increase in total turnover of around 35% despite a decline in the number of visitors.

An outlook

The Corona pandemic has far-reaching consequences for the event industry and will continue to shape it in the future. It can be assumed that the Corona period promoted both a qualitative structural change as well as the major trends towards individualisation, sustainability or digitalisation. For example, even before the pandemic, the proportion of hybrid or entirely virtual conferences was rising steadily. This trend will continue in the coming years, which may also be accompanied by a declining willingness to pay for conventional face-to-face events.

It can be assumed that due to these trends, the average size of events will shift in the future. In addition, organisers expect a lower volume of travel due to the adjustment of travel policies in companies. This results in a general trend towards smaller, regional events. Even before the Corona pandemic in the years between 2014 and 2019, large events (>2,000 people) in the congresses and conferences segment recorded a sharp decline of almost 16%, while smaller events in the segment (<250 people) accounted for almost two-thirds of the events. International guests are expected to attend events mainly digitally in the future.

At the same time, the structural change in the event market triggered by the Corona pandemic, creates room for new innovative concepts. This includes for example the distribution of a large event over several, spatially separated venues. Here, face-to-face formats and hybrid formats can be combined so that spatially separated participants still have the opportunity to interact with each other, for example, via video conference. In addition to the technical infrastructure, the individual tailoring of the event to the specific needs of the participants will therefore become even more important in the future.

In the long run it can be assumed that the market situation will stabilise. The European Institute for the Meetings Industry (EITW) is carefully optimistic about the near future. It drew up two future scenarios in 2021, one assuming that the ban on events will be lifted soon and a second assuming reduced restrictions. Both scenarios assume a recovery of the market, although this recovery is only gradual and delayed in the second scenario. A gradual recovery is also assumed in the report of the Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaux of Europe, which forecasts a spending level of 33% below the pre-pandemic level in 2019 for the year after the lifting of the Corona restrictions. The background to the gradual recovery is, on the one hand, the length of time until organisers can operate at full capacity again; on the other hand, the fact that larger events can be offered again more slowly than smaller ones. According to the German Convention Bureau, market turnover will therefore only rise to or above the pre-pandemic level about four years after the lifting of the Corona restrictions.

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Sources: Meeting- & Eventbarometer 2015-2020/21. Statista Dossier Tagungs- und Kongressmarkt Deutschland. EITW, Auswirkungen des Corona-Virus auf den deutschen Veranstaltungsmarkt.