COVID-19 Brings Down Event Industry in Italy

29th Mar, 2021
The Italian Congress and Events Observatory promoted by Federcongressi & Eventi and created by ASERI (Graduate School of Economics and International Relations of the Catholic University) highlights that the convention centres and event venues have suffered a drastic drop off in turnover, higher than that of catering services, air transportation and travel agencies.
The crisis caused by the COVID-19 emergency has plagued the industry of congresses and events in Italia. According to the findings of the Italian Congress and Events Observatory (OICE), in 2020, event venues suffered a 79% drop in revenue. The collected data positions the congress centres, exhibition venues, hotels, historic houses and other types of event venues as the most damaged companies among those in the tourism sector. According to the survey of the Italian Institute of Statistics, the reduction in turnover compared to 2019 settled at 37.2% for catering services, 54.9% for accommodation services, 60.5% for air transport and 76.3% for the activities of travel agencies and tour operators.
The congress and events market in Italy in 2020
The collapse in venue turnover is the most obvious consequence of the drastic reduction in activities that affected the entire meeting industry. The study on the sector promoted by Federcongressi & eventi, the national association representing the supply chain, and carried out by ASERI, highlights a series of indicators all linked by the downward direction. According to the research that has been monitoring the events and congresses held in Italy since 2014, 69,880 events were held in-person in 2020, with a dramatic 83.8% drop off compared to 2019. The number of attendees and activity days  were also marked in red.
In fact, attendance was 5,847,330 (a reduction of 86.5%) and the activity days were 95,020 (minus 84.5%), which corresponds to a 24.8 average number of duration per active venue. This crisis snowball has consistently involved all types of venues and all geographic areas of the country with a peak of 90.5% decrease in events hosted on the Italian islands.
Hybrid events: opportunities, but not solutions
To meet the set of restrictions on face-to-face events, venues promptly invested in technology to host hybrid events, that is, events that involve a small number of physical audience and a public connected remotely. A mandatory choice that, however, penalizes the rest of the actors in the meeting sector chain (hotels, catering, assemblers, transport, etc).
Based on a sample of respondents to the OICE survey, 42% of venues held one or more hybrid events: the venues that hosted the largest number of such events (67%) were congress centres and tradeshow venues. Comparing the collected data with previous years, it can be assumed that about 4,900 hybrid events occurred last year, equivalent to 6.6% of the total of 74,780 face-to-face and hybrid events. 
Perspectives: when will we return to full activity?
Expectations for a recovery period are already quite disappointing: several venues contacted between December 2020 and January 2021 expected 67% to be able to host conferences and events by the first half of 2021. 17.8% expect to reopen as early as the first quarter. Speaking about chances of returning to levels showed in the pre-Covid-19 period, the majority, 63.8%, estimated a time horizon of 1-2 years, and 26.8% of 3-4 years.
"The serious crisis in the sector attested by the OICE data will soon emerge also from the financial statements of all the companies involved in the congress and event chain, and not just the venues. After more than a year of shutdown and inadequate upturns, it is of the utmost urgency that the government define the criteria for future interventions, a dedicated fund for the sector in 2021, and an urgent recovery planning for a sector that generates key additions for all our territories ”, says Alessandra Albarelli, President of Federcongressi & eventi.
Professor Roberto Nelli, scientific director of OICE, also commented: “The crisis has strongly affected national venues, regardless of their type or geographical area. The average percentage of revenue decline related to congresses and events is almost 79% everywhere, with the only exception of our islands, where the crisis abruptly interrupted the virtuous growth path started in recent years, with a deecrease of 84%".

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