The Future of the Event Industry: 2021 Outlook

The Future of the Event Industry: 2021 Outlook

The Future of the Event Industry: 2021 Outlook

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What This UK Study Foreshadows for the Future of Events: It’s Not Good

By Victoria Copans

The UK-based Meetings Industry Association recently released new research about how long the events industry can go on the way things are — and it doesn't look good. Here's our take.

 

The Meetings Industry Association (mia), which is based in the UK, released a new report last week with the bold claim that "business meetings and events organisations will only be viable for another 7.5 months."

The industry has been estimating recovery timelines since the beginning of the pandemic, and they have consistently been pushed back as the pandemic rages on. However, the overall outlook for 2021 has generally been positive due in large part to the introduction of the vaccines.

By contrast, mia's report indicates a dire outlook for the industry — and there's no doubt that the past year has been the most challenging that eventprofs have ever faced — but it may not paint the full picture.

 

mia's Methodology and Findings

The mia report was based on a survey of 248 member organizations, which is a relatively small sample size. It's also important to note that respondents were all within the UK, so they are not representative of the global industry.

In addition, the sample was made up of venues, hotels, and suppliers, which have been hit particularly hard, as they don't have the option to pivot to virtual like event planners do. Still, these organizations within the broader, extended network of partners are indispensable to the success of live events. Their survival will ultimately determine how much and how quickly events bounce back.

One of the report's key findings was that, given the current state of affairs, 78 percent of organizations estimate that their business will not be viable within 12 months, while 48 percent feel that they have only 6 months left.

In addition, 71 percent of respondents indicated that it would take over 12 months to turn a profit again, even if business meetings and events were permitted at 50 percent capacity starting in April.

 

What's Next for the Industry?

While these statistics are certainly alarming, they assume that restrictions, bookings, and government assistance will remain at their current levels for the next 6-12 months, which is unlikely — although no one can say for sure.

Interestingly, UFI's most recent Global Exhibition Barometer, which included responses from 64 countries, reported that "10 percent of companies state they will have to close down if there is no business for the next 6 months," which is a much lower percentage than that reported by mia (but again, the mia data was based exclusively on the UK market).

According to both reports, many event organizations have taken advantage of public financial support, but it hasn't always been enough. Lack of government support has been a major problem for eventprofs throughout the pandemic, in part because the industry is so diverse and largely unregulated.

For eventprofs who are still struggling, the UK is offering one more grant for the period from February to April as part of its Self Employment Income Support Scheme, and more help may be on the way to support businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic in the US.

Although venues cannot simply move their business online, many are investing in virtual and hybrid infrastructure in order to remain relevant and useful. In addition, it continues to be important for eventprofs to diversify their skill sets in order to adapt to whatever the next few months have in store.

 

IN CONCLUSION

The events industry has been gutted by the pandemic, and some of the damage may be irreversible. That said, while mia's findings for the UK are disconcerting, much of the industry is hopeful for 2021.

The current situation varies widely by region, and global recovery will largely depend on vaccine rollouts and government action to allow for a safe return to p

about the author

Victoria Copans
Victoria Copans is a Vermont-based writer, editor, and translator who's been planning events since grade school. She worked at an events agency before transitioning to writing about the industry.
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