Will COVID passports accelerate the return of Events in 2021?

As the pandemic took over the world, the event industry was massively hit. Huge losses were incurred by organizations who had planned their big events months in advance. Many had to either move their event to an online medium or postpone it for the time being. In view of the events of last year, the one thing that the pandemic has made us all realize is that nothing is certain. 

Almost overnight, the concept of virtual events came into the spotlight across the world. Tools and software like Nunify have been ubiquitously used since the initial months of the lockdown, for various types of virtual events, training sessions, trade expos, and webinars. The good news after the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic is that vaccines are now available in most parts of the world. So, what does that mean for the event industry? Let’s find out!

Getting vaccinated against Coronavirus has become a mandatory requirement to participate in public events. More commonly called ‘COVID Vaccine Passports’, this is the documentational proof of your history with the virus, if any, and the proof of your COVID vaccination. The European Union is considering the implementation of such a pass that may be digital or paper copy. Following the suit, many governments of other nations, such as Japan, have also shown an inclination towards introducing vaccine passports to allow movement of its citizens across national borders. In fact, Israel already has a “Green Pass” system in place that shows information of the citizens who developed immunity against the virus either by recent COVID recovery or by duly getting vaccinated twice. 

All of this indicates that in the coming times, there is a possibility of the scenario where nations may ask for your COVID passport if you want to travel internationally. This will ensure safety of the local residents as well as act as a checkpoint to curb any untoward health crisis arising due to the free movement of citizens across the borders. 

As the COVID restrictions are slowly being lifted and most countries are now allowing small-to-mid scale public events, public gatherings in parks & event spaces with COVID safety measures being implemented, and international travel, a ray of hope and optimism has started beaming brightly once again. 

In the United States of America, 43% of the citizens feel that it is safer to travel internationally when surveyed in March 2021, as opposed to the 29% of respondents when the same survey was conducted in January 2021. Needless to say, a lot of that optimism arises from the fact that there is an aggressive vaccination drive happening across the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Could this mean that there is a scope of bringing back in-person events? Short answer: Yes!

That’s a good reason to be happy. Experts predict that the live event industry might not roar back to life and be at the same level of revenue and event volume as it was in pre-COVID times. While we may not have in-person events running like in the pre-COVID time, we do have a substitute to ensure not all is forgotten about them! However, that still doesn’t take away the fact that people will get to enjoy the experience of attending a physical event through hybrid events.

There are numerous benefits of hybrid events, over in-person events, such as:

  1. Increased reach due to physical audience + virtual audience
  2. Safer event in a post-COVID scenario
  3. Deep insights & data monitoring capabilities
  4. It is an all-inclusive event format

Hybrid events are an ideal event format as they facilitate a small-scale in-person attendance and marry it with the benefits of reaching a global, virtual audience, to provide a seamless educational or entertainment experience for all the attendees. A quality production of a hybrid event ensures that both sets of attendees are equally engaged and interactive throughout the event.

Recently, in Barcelona, a 5000-strong crowd attended a concert in the city, which was a trial event as part of a research project. All attendees needed to furnish a COVID-negative report prior to the event, and were also tested at the venue. Attendees wore masks, but did not have to maintain social distancing at the event. Now, researchers confirm that they have found no sign of higher levels of infection since the concert. Such events are being trialled across the world, and COVID passports may become the norm for one to attend such an event in the near future.

Several trials are being held in the UK to test how large successful mass gatherings can be facilitated without running the risk of spreading COVID infection. From limited capacity seating in football stadiums to limited attendance at Wimbledon, events are coming to life with crowds that are being monitored and studied closely, to test the efficacy of such events. With the regulation of these COVID vaccine passports and enhanced testing, event organizers may get an opportunity to operate venues in full capacity in the future.

The US government has made no announcement on introducing a COVID passport but many event organizers are already in talks with app developers to set their own rules for event attendance that would determine who can or cannot enter the event. If such a thing becomes the norm, then COVID passports might become a prerequisite for attending various public events in the USA as well. 

In Conclusion

As the entire world slowly recuperates from the aftermath of a global health crisis, we must not take the present situation for granted. Health experts and scientists recommend that COVID-safety norms such as 25-30% venue capacity, use of masks, and 2-meter social distancing be followed at all times. Despite the ramping up of vaccinations, presence of mutant strains of Coronavirus pose immense health risks.

As far as the events are concerned, there seems to be a silver lining in the form of live in-person events making a comeback. It would be premature to comment on the exact nature of the events to take place in the coming months. The most optimal event format being considered by event organizers and marketers is the hybrid event format, which has a physical, in-person event component coupled with a virtual event component.

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