Events industry to take a hybrid turn as Covid-19 increases uncertainty

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Events Source: Google Images

Hybrid events have been touted as the future of the eventing industry as a rise in Covid-19 cases increases instability on next year’s event’s calendar.

While 2020 was a hard year for the festival/conferences industry, organisers have had to come up with innovative ways to keep the industry afloat.

From festivals to sports and business conventions, events contribute a significant amount to the province’s economy and organisers are putting plans in place to better prepare for the coming year.ww

Chief director for Sports and Recreation in the province Dr Lyndon Bouah said: “Sports in the Western Cape contribute in excess of R8.8 billion to the (provincial) economy and represents close to 2% of the provincial GDP and there is in excess of 60 000 jobs that is related to the sports and recreational sector across the province.”

“Covid-19 has really affected us and the impact has been huge and these figures as we will record them in a year’s time will probably be much lower.

“Within sports and recreation in the province, we are closely linked to the hospitality sector, if one thinks about the cycle tour, you think about hotels and guests and restaurants.

The jazz festival that takes place, the Oudtshoorn Sports Festival, the Knysna Oyster Festival, any of these ones we know that we have knock-on effects on all the economies that we have within the towns and cities of Western Cape.”

The province’s ability to host big events in the coming years will go a long way in contributing towards a recovery for the sector.

Bouah said: “We have been awarded the Netball World Cup 2023 and as well as the Rugby 7s for 2022 – many of these events are part of the provincial events strategy and each one have an important economic spin-off for the province as well,” he said.

“From the sports sector, we support close to 150 events across the Western Cape in any normal financial year and this year has been different as we probably will only have about close to 40 events up until the end of March.”

Wesgro’s Convention Bureau has also recently announced that since the beginning of the financial year they have been able to secure 17 future bookings for business events scheduled to take place in 2022-2024, with an estimated value of around R510 million.

Shai Evian, chief excutive of virtual event platform Howler, said the event industry should expect tough times in the coming year with a bigger focus on hybrid events.

“The sad reality is for the quarter of next year we won’t see any big events in South Africa and we are really starting to see the hybrid model where you can have a smaller event with around 250 people and how can you bring that online to a larger audience especially for the conferencing and expo space – we will see a big explosion come early next year,” he said.

“What we are also seeing is questions around how do you bring those online experiences into people’s homes, creating an interactive event. We are going to see people get a lot more innovative because we are in for a good six to 12 months of tough times for our industry so we need to keep innovating so hybrid is definitely where it is going to be next year.”

Organizer for the Knysna Oyster Festival Andrew Finn, whose event was held virtually earlier this year, said the idea is to entice visitors to their destination for future dates.

“If you look at destinations we are primarily trying to get people to visit the Garden Route space and you might think if you are going to go virtual they might not come but I don’t believe that is the case,” he said.

“We’ve got to sell it in that if you can’t come this year you can always come next year and that was the core belief behind what we did this year because we are still selling the product for the coming year.

“Virtual is absolutely imperative going forward and we have all learnt this year that is not that difficult to do.

General manager for the Cape Town Marathon said their ability to host a virtual marathon in October highlighted the need to incorporate hybrid events while maintaining their core mandate to bring participants to destinations.

“Our primary focus will always be the actual events as our responsibility is to bring people to the City of Cape Town to spend money in hotels and restaurants but we saw the success of the hybrid events in Potchefstroom and Pretoria and what we are planning with the idea is to include hybrid events for shorter distances events to accommodate those who can’t always make it,” he explained.