70% of conferences in Italy cancelled due to Covid-19, research reveals

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70% of conferences in Italy cancelled due to Covid-19, research reveals

Research by the Graduate School of Economics and International Relations of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (ASERI) has revealed the extent to which the Italian conference and meetings industry has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conference and events venues have seen 69.7% of conferences and events cancelled, while 16.9% have been postponed until 2021, and 13.4% to a date later in 2020.

These figures are taken from the research study ‘The impact of Covid-19 on the Italian meetings industry: the outlook for conference and events venues’ conducted by ASERI alongside the Italian meetings industry association Federcongressi&eventi. The survey was conducted as part of the Italian Survey of Conferences and Events (Osservatorio Italiano dei Congressi e degli Eventi – OICE), which monitors annual trends within the industry.

The survey involved a sample of the main medium-sized to large events venues (hotels, conference centres and convention centres) in order to understand the scale of the consequences caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cancelled events

The sudden and prolonged lockdown has led to the cancellation of 69.7% of events. At national level, this translates into an estimated loss of 215,000 events.

Some differences emerged depending on the type of venue (figure 1): in conference hotels, on average 71.2% of events were definitively cancelled, 11.2% postponed and 17.6% deferred to 2021; in conference centres, 63.4% of events were cancelled, 22.9% postponed and the remaining 13.7% deferred to next year; in trade fair-convention venues, 43.5% of events were deferred until 2021, 38.8% completely cancelled and 17.7% postponed until a date later in 2020.

Figure 1–Events cancelled, postponed or deferred to 2021

Trade fair-convention venues Conference centres Conference hotels Cancelled events    Postponed events   Events deferred to 2021

Impact on revenues

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

The research highlights that 21.3% of conference hotels estimate that their revenues have fallen between 51% and 75%,and 68.5% believe their revenue has fallen by 75% or more; 28.6% of trade fair-convention venues value the reduction at between 51% and 75%, while 57.1% consider it above 75%; 42.1% of conference centres calculate the loss between 51% and 75% of revenues, while 36.8% believe it may be over 75% (figure 2).

Figure 2 –Forecasts regarding the drop in revenues for conference and events activities

Conference centres Trade fair-convention venues Conference hotels Percentage reduction in revenues forecast in 2020 From 26% to 50% From 51% to 75% More than 75%

Venues’ response: invest to boost safety and competitiveness

Compared with an average of approximately 60% of venues that were forced to forgo investments planned for 2020, many venues have not only confirmed at least partially the investments planned, but have also made unplanned investments, particularly in infrastructure/services (34.8% of venues that had not planned investments) and technology (17.9%).

Figure 3 –Investments for 2020

Venues that had planned investments

Planned and cancelled
Planned and fully confirmed
Planned and partially confirmed

Venues that hadn’t planned investments

Investments not planned and not made
Not planned, but made following the Covid-19 emergency


Measures to support the sector

To deal with the Covid-19 emergency, 90.4% of venues made use of social support mechanisms (figure 4); among the resources made available by the government, 45.8% of venues made use of the measures introduced by the Liquidity Decree (access to favourable credit terms, guarantee funds, etc.) and 36.1% requested direct compensation for the loss of revenue.

Regarding social support mechanisms, 43.1% of venues considered the measures to be very or extremely effective, while 20.8% did not give a positive judgement, stating they were not very (18.0%) or not at all (2.8%) effective.

Regarding the Liquidity Decree, 14.3% said it was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ effective, while 42.9% said they were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ satisfied.

With regard to direct compensation for loss of revenue, 53.6% of venues said they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ satisfied, while 32.1% said they were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ satisfied.

Figure 4 –The effectiveness of support measures for the sector
(assessment by the venues that used them)

Access to favourable credit terms, guarantee funds, etc.
Social support mechanisms
Direct compensation for loss of revenue
Not at all Not very Fairly Very Extremely

Alessandra Albarelli, president of Federcongressi&eventi, said: “The results of the survey throw into sharp relief what is perhaps the greatest crisis our sector has ever faced at global level.

“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, not withstanding 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 will be presented on 16 September during Federcongressi&eventi’s online event.

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