Matej Avanzo

As everything is settling back into its pre-coronavirus tracks, the meetings industry is still waiting for the situation to normalize itself. Lifted regulations will not bring back business like nothing has happened, yet everyone is supposed to survive by their own means. We wanted to hear how meeting planners are coping with the situation, what COVID-19 means for their businesses and how they see the future of events.

MATEJ AVANZO, CEO at Sportanzo

Q: How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?

A sports enthusiast, basketball lover, full of creative ideas, crazy about travel, discovering new destinations.»Out of the box« is not above standard, it is a way of life.

Q: What is your love story with the world of events?

I’ve been organizing events ever since I was little, starting with an All-Star basketball game in elementary school. Then it deepened and widened, from events at the basketball Association of Slovenia, EuroBasket 2013, numerous events in Arena Stožice, and open events all the way to last year’s World Basketball Championship in China.

Q: How has the coronavirus epidemic affected your business and survival?

Shockingly. Literally overnight, we were left without four-fifths of our operations focused on five different niches. While we somehow patched up the marketing part and kept it with “striking” and pro bono campaigns, we were left hung out to dry in event planning, top sports organization in Slovenia, broadcasting our “fan zones” props from SportFun, organizing basketball tours in China and also stopped the development of our new team building platform.

Q: How long can you endure the quarantine as a company and as an individual?

As a company, we barely, but just survived. We terminated our office renting contract, reduced the number of employees after two banks refused to give us a loan, and kept operating costs to a minimum. I myself have some savings, a part of which I have now invested in keeping the company afloat. The key to making it work for us, though, is that we all, from co-owners to co-workers, really stepped together. We have returned to constantly investing in relationships, honesty, and honest intent. But in reality, with a second wave, which must not happen, we can probably all just close our businesses and hope for a miracle.

Q: How satisfied are you with the country’s measures so far? What could be improved upon?

The self-employed and certain industries were well taken care of. Certain measures, such as deferring taxes and waiting at home were also good decisions. But our company, for example, ran into a wall when taking out a loan. Despite never having owned anyone anything and always settling all the obligations to the state, partners and employees. The key, however, is that for us, the end of the epidemic will not miraculously improve our situation, it will take us a long time to recover. The “pandemic echo” will sound at least until next spring, as events will not go back to normal soon. We are adapting, digitalizing, looking for solutions, ideas, new approaches, but still, let’s be realistic – currently, the world is divided into two industries. One could be called “need to have” and the other, where all our activities fall in is “nice to have”. The government should consider grants for companies or some basic income. At least for a certain period, for companies who cannot – even if we wish to – restructure immediately.

THE VIRUS HAS CHANGED THE WORLD AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO CHANGE SPORTS IN THE LONG RUN

Q: How will the virus change the essence of organizing events – socializing?

Within countries, the situation is likely to become more normal. But not yet as it used to be. With international events, however, it is utopian to expect that things will normalize themselves before the spring or summer 2021. And there is no professional sport without the mixing of representatives of different countries, continents, races, cultures, views, – and henceforth – different approaches and stages of development of the COVID-19 epidemic. In short, the virus has changed the world and it will continue to change sports in the long run. How exactly, only time will tell, but the development will probably go in the direction of fewer viewers, more video content, even more online »live« content, including e-sports, especially in disciplines where this is possible.

Q: When do you think we will be able to move with full steam ahead?

As I said before, in Slovenia or locally probably in the spring of 2021. But our country has fallen asleep when it comes to sports due to the country’s approach and insufficient investment that despite the successes we are becoming exotic in more and more sports due to financial deficiency. Thus, we cannot survive on our own, without foreign individuals and cooperation at the international level, which means that we will only be able to go full steam ahead in the sports environment when the vaccine is found and globally implemented.

We cannot survive on our own, without foreign individuals and cooperation at the international level. We will only be able to go full steam ahead in the sports environment when the vaccine is found and globally implemented.

Q: What comes after the pandemic?

There is always a rainbow after the rain. Even after the pandemic. Or at least the moon.