COVID-19. A word that instils anxiety in our minds. And rightly so, as this pandemic has disrupted entire businesses and livelihoods, and brought about the loss of countless lives. The entire spectrum of M.I.C.E (meetings-incentives-convention-exhibition), as they call it, is a $1,000 Bn market, which has been impacted by COVID-19 in ways unimaginable. The ambit of job losses and process disruption extends to entertainment-based events such as live concerts, sports meets, religious events, and award ceremonies. In this piece, let us try and understand the impact that Covid-19 has had on such a large industry.
The First Tremors in the Event Arena
The first big shock came in February, when one of the most anticipated global events, the World Cup, announced its cancellation. Thousands of events, belonging to 22 different categories, were cancelled in early February, as the virus began to spread worldwide. By mid-March, it was taking its toll on the industry and we had more than 1000 cancellations in the event sector. Even the best event apps were struggling to stay relevant.
Indeed, some events planned for the end of the year have already been postponed to 2021, and complete recovery is not expected until at least the end of August. In India, a survey of more than 1,000 event experts conducted jointly by GoI and Ernst & Young suggests that the Indian event and exhibition sector is likely to experience an INR 1 trillion hit, with more than half of all events in the country’s top 10 event categories postponed or cancelled due to the outbreak.
MNs and many event experts have personally witnessed the job losses, but the impact of cancellations on businesses and events has been significant.
How Divergent Sub-Sectors Were Impacted
Exhibitions and fairs alone account for more than 40% of the total annual income of India. When it comes to events, there is a huge conglomerate of buyers and sellers, which brings strong business to venues and convention centres. A large part of the suppliers “revenue comes from sponsorship and exhibitor participation, and the MICE sector will be hardest hit by the coronavirus ban.
In the Sports sector, some leagues have cancelled their events, such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the National Football League. Events supporting tourism and the regional economy have also been cancelled, with this year’s most recent example being Dubai Expo 2020, originally scheduled for October 2020.
These cancellations have resulted in a huge loss for the sector, given the investment involved, the huge returns associated with these events and the annual revenue generated by the IPL.
Navigating the Way Forward
The organisation of in-person events is unlikely to start before June or July, and even then there will be mandatory multiple authorisations, which may involve a lot of paperwork and therefore, lead to limited versions of the events originally planned. State standards will now govern the use of video conferencing equipment for internal and public meetings. To try to carry out these operations effectively, companies need to deploy them effectively and promptly.
We have already seen MNCs like Facebook and IBM work on live virtual conferences, and now companies are digitizing physical events and launching fast. At present, the need to maintain these activities, especially in the corporate segment, plays a key role in their business model. The event industry in India, with its large number of events, is experiencing an unprecedented increase in demand.
In order to make the best out of the current scenario, free event registration apps are going virtual. With the aid of state-of-the-art technological adages, event organizers are able to host conferences, seminars, classes, and so on, while creating virtual rooms for individuals hailing from different parts of the world. While these efforts are being eked out to keep operations running, perceptive virtual event platforms are already designing virtual event features that will be able to cater to the intricacies of events in a post-COVID world.
In the future, there may be a hybrid approach that balances offline and online events, but it will not be until two or three months from now, that we will have a better understanding of the entire scenario. While we understand that the show must go on, let us keep the safety and security of people in mind, and make the best out of virtual events in the meanwhile. Till then, stay safe!