With over 1 million confirmed cases worldwide, the Covid-19 outbreak has taken the world by storm. Declared as a global pandemic by the WHO, the Covid-19 outbreak has over a third of the world’s population on lockdown. The infectious nature of this virus has resulted in various travel and socialising restrictions; this has not been easy for the events industry to handle as it relies heavily on people being able to get together. In the UK for instance, there is currently a three-week ban, which could be extended, on pubs, bars, theatres, nightclubs, museums, outdoor parks, gyms, and the list goes on. Gatherings of more than two people are banned and fines and policing have been put in place to enforce this new temporary way of life. Similar measures are being enforced on a global scale and these restrictions are having a massive impact on the events industry. While most events have been cancelled or postponed, many are also attempting to shift activities online, showing the creative approach the events industry is taking during this challenging time.
The current situation presents particular challenges and negative consequences for local economies as they are often dependent on these yearly events. Cannes is in a particularly tough spot as it has already had a series of major events postponed or cancelled. Cannes Lions Festival which is focused on advertising, MIPTV which is the international television market and TV festival Cannaseries as well as Mipim which is an international real estate market event have all been cancelled. The Mayor of Cannes has called on the French government for help for what he calls “a social and economic disaster”. Similarly, the local economic impact of SXSW on the city of Austin is of 359 million dollars - it is the single most profitable event for the city’s hospitality industry. The event’s cancellation is a huge blow to the local economy.
Cancellations of events also impact thousands of workers. SXSW has had to lay off one-third of their full-time staff because of the festival cancellation and that does not include the freelance staff required to make the event run, or the hundreds of musicians, artists or start-ups meant to perform or present at the event. Many of them had already booked travel and invested countless hours of work into the project. Glastonbury Festival takes months to build, a job usually assigned to freelance contractors. In Glastonbury’s case, this is at least four months of work lost this year. These cancellations, therefore, have a huge impact on the local economies as well as everyone involved in making them happen.
Shift to Online
One key development caused by all these cancellations is that there has been a massive shift towards virtual events. Many major gaming companies have announced that they will present their upcoming games through live streams and online events instead of doing at E3 - the world’s largest video games expo now cancelled. Microsoft tweeted that they will host a digital event through their Xbox console and French game maker Ubisoft has announced a video stream to present new games. With regards to music events - Ultra Music Festival in Miami has decided to host a “virtual festival” where DJs that were meant to perform will be doing virtual sets instead via live streams. Major conferences are also making the move to online like Google’s Cloud Next conference, a yearly conference centred around Google’s cloud technology. Adobe Summit, Adobe’s yearly conference focusing on digital experiences and Cisco annual partner and customer conference to name a few. We are fortunate to have the technological capabilities to host these events online.
As we have seen the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the events industry is mass cancellations and a shift towards virtual spaces. This creative approach to circumvent the challenges presented by the current crisis has generated an incredible amount of positivity for online audiences as it allows them to access even more information and entertainment from the comfort of their homes. However, it is not always possible to translate an event into the online world. Symphony orchestras will never sound the same on a live stream, and the same goes for the energy in a packed out stadium during a football match. While the speed at which the events industry has been able to adapt to this new norm is very impressive it is undeniable the events industry has been badly hit and it will be a while until it is completely safe for mass gatherings to occur on a regular basis.