2019 data from the research conducted by the Graduate School of Economics and International Relations of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore– ASERI was presented in a debate during which industry stakeholders talked about the future scenarios that will see the meeting industry confronted with radical change at global level, imposing new ways of organising and managing events and conferences.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken an industry that has recorded steady, positive growth over the last five years, with an average increase in the number of events of 4.1% a year. 2019 continued this trend, with all the main indicators of the Italian Survey of Conferences and Events coming out positive: last year, Italy hosted 431,127 events (+2.3% compared with 2018), with a total of 29,101,815 participants (+2.5%), and an overall attendance figure of 43,398,947 (+2.6%) over 613,842 days (+2.8%). Events lasting more than one day accounted for 28.7% of the total, with 11,994,000 participants (+2.9% compared with 2018) and an attendance figure of approximately 29,020,000 (+1.3%). This last figure represents 10.3% of attendance recorded by ISTAT at all hotel facilities in 2019.
Who stages events: associations increase their share
Companies, associations and institutions are the main promoters of events: together, they account for 94.6% of the total. One interesting point to note is that in 2019, the proportion of events promoted by associations (mainly conferences) reached 25.3% of the total, thereby ending the downtrend seen in the last few years (22.8% in 2018, 25.5% in 2017, 31.6% in 2016 and 34.8% in 2015). Consequently, the proportion of events promoted by companies (conventions, meetings, product launches) fell to 62.4% of the total (65.5% in 2018, 64.6% in 2017, 56.5% in 2016 and 55.4% in 2015).
The number of events promoted by the government, political, union and social organisations and institutions has fluctuated more over the years: in 2019, they continued to grow, accounting for 12.3% of the total (11.7% in 2018, 9.9% in 2017, 11.9% in 2016 and 9.8% in 2015).
Regarding participants’ geographical provenance, as in previous years, most events (57.9%) were local in dimension, i.e. with participants (excluding speakers) mainly coming from the same region as the host venue.32.3% of events were national in scope –i.e. with participants mainly from outside the region –and 9.8% international, an increase of 1.7% on 2018.
Where events are held
Of the 431,127 events surveyed in Italy, more than half, 57.6%, were held in the North, 24.9% in central regions, and 17.5% in the South and the Islands. In terms of venues, hotels were the most popular, hosting the majority of events (80.9%), with a marked prevalence for company events, and accounting for 58.6% of attendance. 2.9% of events took place in conference centres, which, however, hosted the highest average number of events per venue (139.2) and accounted for 13.2% of overall attendance.
Events hosted in trade fair conference venues have remained broadly unchanged since 2016 (0.4% of the total), while historic residences (abbeys, castles, old innsand manor houses, historic buildings, villas) hosted 2.4% of events.
The Covid-19 emergency has changed investment priorities
While before the Covid-19 emergency, over half of events venues (55.7%) had planned to make at least one investment in 2020, the cancellation of most events expected in most cases has forced them to forgo their planned investments. The investments most subject to cancellation (66.6% of the venues that had planned them) were those in human resources. Investments considered to be more strategic have however been maintained, i.e. those in technology (wholly or partially confirmed by 70.4% of venues) and in infrastructure/services (69.2%).
“Our analysis of venues’ responses concerning the priorities for business recovery and future consolidation”, said Professor Roberto Nelli, lecturer in events communication at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuoreand Scientific Head of the Italian Survey of Conferences and Events, “shows a large portion of events and conference venues have already adopted a proactive strategic approach, in the knowledge that, on the one hand, they need to react in the short term as best and as quickly as they can to the changes imposed by the situation, and that, on the other, they still need to seize the opportunity to anticipate future challenges, implementing the further transformations necessary in the medium to long term, before they are imposed by the market”.