Coronavirus: leisure, tourism & events

Along with the rest of the UK (and many populations around the world) we’ve spent many weeks now at home under lockdown. However, with the weather warming up, people are turning their minds towards those Summer plans that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and looking ahead to how they might spend their leisure time once the lockdown is lifted. We thought it was a great topic for our research panel. 

The lockdown measures have meant that we haven’t been able to see our friends and family, and despite the Zoom boom, we all know that screen time with loved ones is nowhere near the same as seeing them in person. So, it’s no surprise that spending physical time with family and friends is top of the agenda for people – 83% are looking forward to this once the lockdown restrictions are fully lifted.

Travel is also top of our minds – especially as May turns to June and what would have been the Summer holidays is just a matter of a few short weeks away. Three-quarters of our sample said they were looking forward to going on holidays and short breaks as well as having the freedom to go out without thinking about it.

But what impact has the lockdown had on those Summer plans? Well, it’s quite significant but unsurprising – 83% have had a holiday or short break either cancelled or postponed this year because of COVID-19.

Asked about their pre- and post-lockdown travel plans, fewer people intend to travel to destinations in Europe and beyond than planned earlier in the year. Before lockdown half of our respondents intended to travel to Europe in 2020. Now, that’s down to quarter. International travel is down from a quarter before lockdown to less than a fifth.

On the other hand, domestic travel in the near future is likely to experience increased demand. Before the lockdown 55% of our panel had a holiday or short break booked in the UK, now 69% plan to travel in the UK once lockdown restrictions are eased. Whilst this of course doesn’t account for an inevitable loss of international tourism into the UK, it’s positive to see that people are still keen to travel once the easing of lockdown allows.

So, what else are people missing? Three-quarters are looking forward to eating out, nearly 60% are looking forward to visiting places of interest or going shopping and half are looking forward to going to outdoor events or the pub.

Events is a big part of the work we do here at Zing and it’s an industry that has taken a significant blow from the coronavirus crisis. In addition to those looking forward to outside events, a further 42% of our panel are keen to attend indoor events in exhibition centres too.

At present, it’s unclear when events will be allowed to resume in the UK. Many events have been cancelled or postponed to later this year or future years. But, with many exhibitions and events still due to take place in the second half of 2020, should the guidelines allow it, what might these look like?

We asked our panel how comfortable they would feel attending an indoor event as early as October 2020, assuming guidelines were in place to allow this to happen and measures were taken to make these as safe as possible. Interestingly, 41% of our sample said they would feel very or quite comfortable compared to 29% who wouldn’t with the rest very much unsure.

Clearly, there are still concerns about the virus and how safe events will actually be to attend and the enforcement of social distancing measures within an event environment does worry people. Given that many shows (especially consumer events) are not deemed essential, it may be the case that visitors simply won’t take the risk. In this case, where consumers (B2B and B2C) are weighing up the risks and benefits of attending, they need to be confident that the benefit is worth the risk.

In this eventuality we might see many organisers look at how to transform their events into virtual experiences. The famous Hay-on-Wye literary festival made headlines at the start of May as it made the decision to move online and is now being celebrated as a success, with fans logging in from all over the world to engage with the content. Especially for those events that are content driven, we could expect more organisers to innovate and take their events digital and or hybridise to reduce or eliminate the infection risk to visitors.

So, what about those who would be prepared to attend a physical show this year? We wanted to find out what personal measures people would expect to take when visiting an event. Over half said they would bring their own hand sanitiser and face coverings. 40% would avoid using public transport and just a fifth would reduce their visiting time.

From organisers, visitors expect a fairly comprehensive programme of protective measures too. These include:

  • Regular hand sanitiser stations (79%)
  • Wider aides (74%)
  • Floor markings (66%)
  • Additional deep cleaning (65%)
  • One-way system in and out of the exhibitions centre (65%)
  • Staff/visitor management to ensure visitors adhere to guidance (64%)
  • One-way system through individual halls (63%)
  • Additional toilet facilities (59%)
  • Extended opening hours (57%)
  • Fewer visitors attending (56%)
  • Temperature checks on entry (51%)

The near future for large scale events in the UK is still unclear but it’s more than likely that when they are allowed to return, significant measures will need to be implemented and adhered to. Just as the retail industry is facing its own challenges, event organisers will certainly face a number of hurdles to ensure their visitors, exhibitors and staff are kept safe without mitigating the benefits of face-to-face.

The devastating coronavirus pandemic has already changed the way many of us live our daily lives and it’s reasonable to expect this to continue, even once the risk of infection has been reduced and lockdown measures have been eased further. The impact on leisure, tourism and events is only one part of how life has been affected but they’re what the majority of us are most looking forward to getting back to once some kind of normality returns. Whilst it will be no easy task for businesses in these sectors to quickly bounce back to pre-COVID ways of operating, it should be reassuring that people are still keen to travel and engage in events, as long as we’re all mindful of doing this in a safe and measured way.

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