Are virtual events the next big thing?

During COVID19 a remarkable shift has been seen from “traditional” towards “virtual” Event Experiences. But, does this mean Virtual Events are the future?

Find the answer in this facts-packed publication, based on the most comprehensive analysis of the Events industry to date. It takes you through the development in a variety of different Experience-types – and provides a glimpse into the future and what to expect.

2020 started off with an 18% lower demand across the board during January and February. At the end of february, the usual increase in demand towards march was replaced by a continuous decrease in demand – although the significant effects of COVID19 were not seen until April – where demand for “traditional” event experiences dropped with 58% compared to same period in 2019. During the same period, the demand for “virtual” event experiences increased by 241%.

Where are customers looking now and in the future? Which Experiences see the biggest decline in demand? – and where are the winners?

Traditional Event Experiences

Our predictions indicate a slight rebounce during the remainder of 2020. However, we do not expect demand to reach the levels of 2019 within this calendar year. In fact, end of year we expect the drop in demand to have rebounded only 12 percentage points compared to April – leading to a total decrease in demand in 2020 of a staggering 46%.

We have noticed some slight geographical differences between United States and United Kingdom, with the highest decrease found in United Kingdom (48%). Overall, the two countries show similar patterns, and we expect both to rebounce to 54% of 2019 demand at the end of year.

Where the overall trend shows little difference geographically, bigger differences are seen when it comes to the developments within the different types of experiences. Unsurprisingly, the biggest decrease is found within the Group Indoor experiences (49%) – experiences with the highest density of participants in a confined space – while the smallest decrease is found in the Individual Outdoor experiences (42%) – those with the best opportunity to ensure social distancing and.

The impact of COVID19 in these developments are further emphasized by the biggest decrease being in Indoor experienves, and the smallest in outdoor experiences. The combination of ”group” and ”indoor” thus returned the highest impact – while combination of ”individual” and ”outdoor” returned the lowest.

Demand for Virtual Experiences

As the COVID19 restrictions have been introduced around the world, the demand for traditional event experiences has seen a significant decrease. While this decrease is a general decrease – and not a shift in consumer focus as such – some parts of the demand has shifted towards virtual experiences.

Overall, the virtual experiences has seen an increase of 241% in 2020 compared to 2019. The increase has been bigger in United Kingdom (261%) than in United States (239%). However, the starting point has also been different. Already before COVID19 restrictions were introduced, consumers in United States had adapted the virtual experiences to a larger extend than United Kingdom. Out of the total demand per capita for virtual experiences, some 62% originates from United States.

Although there are similar increases, measured in percentage and compared to 2019, across most of the virtuel experiences, some of these see a significantly bigger general demand than others. This translates into significant differences in ”volume of potential business” across the various experiences. The general preferences appear to match the preferences for ”traditional event experiences”, with the virtual counterparts to ”Group Indoor” experiences topping the list.

The virtual counterparts for traditional outdoor activities have not seen same increase in demand. As described in the ”traditional experiences” section of this document, the outdoor activities leave better room for social distancing – and thus for compliance with COVID19 restrictions. As such restrictions further start to lift in certain countries, there might be a general expectation that outdoor activities are likely to be executable during the summer months – and thus a certain reluctance to replace these with virtual versions.

Apart from Virtual Museum Tours, demand for Escape Rooms have seen the biggest shift towards virtualization. This corresponds with the similar decrease in demand for the physical/traditional version.

Despite this, the demand for Virtual Escape Rooms is still but a fraction of the demand for traditional.