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Italy reels as 70 per cent of events cancelled over Covid-19

The pandemic has had a heavy impact on the meetings industry in Italy, which has come to a virtual standstill after five years of steady growth, according to new research.

Conference and events venues in Italy have seen most of those events already rescheduled or cancelled: 69.7 per cent of conferences and events have been cancelled, 16.9 per cent deferred until 2021 and only 13.4 per cent postponed to a date later this year. The survey was conducted as part of the Italian Survey of Conferences and Events and spoke to medium-sized to large events venues on the market (hotels, conference centres and trade fair-convention centres) to understand the scale of the consequences caused by the spread of the virus.

The lockdown has to date led to the cancellation of 69.7 per cent of events at the venues that took part in the survey. At national level, this translates into an estimated loss of approximately 215,000 events.

Specifically, some differences emerged depending on the type of venue: in conference hotels, on average 71.2 per cent of events were definitively cancelled, 11.2 per cent postponed and 17.6 per cent deferred to 2021; in conference centres, 63.4 per cent of events were cancelled, 22.9 per cent postponed and the remaining 13.7 per cent deferred to next year; in trade fair-convention venues, 43.5 per cent of events were deferred until 2021, 38.8 per cent completely cancelled and 17.7 per cent postponed until a date later in 2020.

“This situation has led to an expected fall in revenues for conferences and events for 2020 of on average 76 per cent compared with those of 2019”, said Roberto Nelli, OICE scientific head and professor of communication and events marketing at Cattolica.

In particular, the research highlights that 21.3 per cent of conference hotels estimate that their revenues have fallen between 51 per cent and 75 per cent, and 68.5 per cent put the drop at over 75 per cent; 28.6 per cent of trade fair-convention venues value the reduction at between 51 per cent and 75 per cent, while 57.1 per cent consider it above 75 per cent; 42.1 per cent of conference centres calculate the fall at between 51 per cent and 75 per cent of revenues, while only 36.8 per cent believe it may be over 75 per cent.

“The results of the survey throw into sharp relief what is perhaps the greatest crisis our sector has ever faced at global level”, said Alessandra Albarelli, president of Federcongressi&eventi. “A state of emergency that highlights the extent to which the sector, although still undervalued by institutions, has in its DNA the capacity to always find solutions that not only enable it to overcome obstacles but to emerge stronger.

“The meetings industry is not giving up, but urgently needs the government to enable the relaunch of Continuing Medical Education in person, and all regions, notwithstanding the latest Prime Ministerial Decree, to allow the resumption of conferences and events. Our companies are asking for institutions’ support, but above all, are asking to be able to return to work immediately”.

Further details on the research in Italy will be presented on 16 September during Federcongressi&eventi’s online event. Following the presentation of 2019 OICE data, there will be an international comparison on scenarios for the sector.

The research was conducted by Università Cattolica’s Graduate School of Economics and International Relations in cooperation with Federcongressi&eventi.