Event visitors returning, but COVID-19 concerns linger

Consumers are returning in good numbers to large-scale events since COVID-19 restrictions were eased, in another encouraging sign of recovery for the out-of-home sector—though some remain cautious about safety.
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CGA’s pre-pandemic research found that around a third of consumers in Britain typically visited concerts (37%), sporting events (35%) and festivals (29%). Now, the latest Consumer Pulse survey shows that more than two in five (43%) of these visitors attended at least one large-scale event in just ten days after ‘freedom day’ on 19 July. One in five (22%) went to a sporting event, while 16% and 14% have been to a festival and concert respectively.


These early returners appear to be happy with their experiences. Around four in five say they felt safe at sporting events (84%), festivals (83%) and concerts (79%). This follows efforts by event organisers to reassure hesitant visitors by extending some COVID-19 precautions beyond the requirement to do so.


However, the Consumer Pulse research reveals some lingering anxiety about big events. While more than half (57%) of typical festival goers feel very or quite confident about visiting, this decreases to 52% for sporting events and 49% for concerts and gigs, leaving a significant proportion of consumers who remain hesitant, or who plan to wait a while before going back.


This means there is still work to do to return the levels of attendance at big events back to pre-COVID-19 norms. A quarter of typical large-scale event visitors plan to visit sporting events (26%) and concerts (25%) in the next three months, and slightly fewer (19%) intend to go to festivals—though all three numbers are well up on actual visits in the ten days after ‘freedom day’.


Continuing COVID-19 measures could help encourage cautious consumers back to events faster, the research suggests. Well over a third of typical event visitors would like to see various precautions kept in place for at least six months, with regular surface cleaning (41%) and socially distanced standing or sitting areas (41%) the most popular, followed by mandatory face coverings (39%), reduced capacities (39%), extensive availability of hand sanitiser (37%) and one-way walking systems (35%).

There were fears that event visitors might be slow to return this summer, but this research shows pent-up demand is already being released,” says Rachel Weller, CGA’s director of consumer research and marketing. “It’s not surprising to see that confidence levels are higher for outdoor events like festivals and sporting events than for concerts or gigs indoor, where space is typically more limited and concerns about safety will be higher. For event operators, the big challenge now is to provide the communal atmosphere and memorable experiences that fans of big events like, without compromising safety precautions to reassure those who are still cautious.”

CGA continues to track consumers’ habits and preferences as the On Premise recovers from the effects of COVID-19. To learn more about how the research can support the recovery strategies of both operators and suppliers, email charlie.mitchell@cgastrategy.com.

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