This article was originally written for, and published by, Prestige Events Magazine in September 2022.
How record travel chaos is affecting the events industry
There’s no doubt that the pandemic accelerated the growth of virtual events.
When faced with no alternative, many more people began investing in them, whether as hosts, guests or suppliers.
We couldn’t travel. We couldn’t even meet up indoors. So businesses turned to digital for everything from team meetings to large-scale industry events. Then, eighteen months after the pandemic began, in-person events started to return last autumn and we’re now all happy to no longer be a nation of Zoom-bies.
Or are we? Because the truth is more than half of event goers haven’t managed to attend in-person events as planned this year, according to research by software provider EventsX. The cancellation of thousands of flights a day, plus 30-hour-long queues at Dover and Calais and the largest instance of industrial action by railway workers in decades isn’t just impacting holiday makers. It’s also creating new challenges for event organisers and business travellers.
And that’s left me asking a couple of really pertinent questions. Have event organisers been too quick to overlook the huge benefits of digital, in favour of returning to in-person, given the unpredictable impact of these continued disruptions on our industry? And why do many still assume in-person should be the default over virtual or hybrid events anyway?
While I completely agree that in-person events offer a slew of benefits over digital, let’s not forget the benefits virtual and hybrid also extoll; starting with flexibility that is immune to travel disruption as anyone can tune in from anywhere. They also incur a significantly lower environmental impact by cutting down the transportation of staff, guests and equipment. And they’ve encouraged us to really rethink how inclusive in-person events actually are for anyone with additional accessibility needs.
The events industry has certainly transformed over the 40 years that Live Group has been in business. And while we are genuinely happy to see face-to-face meetings and events back with a bang, we’re also encouraging our clients and the industry at large to remember the many benefits that technology now brings when it comes to creating more flexible, sustainable and inclusive experiences.
Author: Becky Balchin, Head of Project Operations at Live Group