How COVID-19 Has Affected the Events Industry in Kenya

Right now, almost everyone is uncertain about the future. Particularly, how to navigate this pandemic before a vaccine is found. Some countries like Ghana are open again for business but Kenya is still a little bit precautious.

Since early March when COVID-19 was pronounced, a lot has changed. Economically, things aren’t looking so good. Some sectors have been adversely affected such as –the multi-billion global events industry. Soon as it was established that close contact was the fastest mode of transmission, ALL events were canceled or postponed. Notable ones being the Olympics which has been pushed to 2021 and the English Premier League, postponed indefinitely.

To see all the canceled events globally, go here.

Locally, The Magical Kenya Open Golf Tournament was canceled just days to the start. Karen Hospital’s Heart Run, The Safaricom Lewa Marathon, and a whole lot of M.I.C.E., corporate events, weddings, and private parties got postponed indefinitely.

These cancelations have come to bear massively on incomes and thousands of jobs. To understand the actual IMPACT, let’s get started.

1. Running on Empty

Revenues are not trickling in, yet, bills must be paid.

Some companies chose to furlough employees, renegotiate terms with creditors or sought to tap into reserves to wind them over the crisis. Others face a shaky future from a lack of (adequate) reserves. Whilst there are those grappling with canceled contracts or, are renegotiating terms (or refunds) for deposits paid. Few events are insured against disruptive risks.

The government instituted measures to cushion SMEs but STILL, this is not sufficient to overcome recurring expenses like rent and utilities. Going forward, the industry will need to seriously factor in, risk planning and disaster management.

2. Adaptation

After the cancelations or postponements, some events went virtual.

You’ve seen a couple of meetings, conferences, and training take place online via conferencing applications like ZOOM, WIRE, YouTube, and GoToMeeting. Interestingly, popular artiste Nyashinski, launched his latest solo album ‘Lucky You’ at a wildly successful virtual concert. He and a live band performed to an audience of 16,000 people via – Instagram LiveYouTube Liveand Facebook.

Weddings and funerals have been limited to a maximum of 20 people and are required to end within 24 hours or by the curfew deadline of 7 pm. To reach a wider audience, most people are live streaming on Facebook Live or YouTube Live.

Side note: The government declared a nationwide curfew from 7 pm to 5 pm every day and travel restrictions on select counties considered to be hotspots. Protective face masks are now a legal requirement.

If all these become the new normal, events will have changed forever – not only with the face masks, protective gear, and sanitizing! BUT, intricacies like background checks, contact tracings, space sizes, entrances, exits, emergency services, and insurance.

It’ll be interesting to see how corporate brand experiences, weddings, music concerts, and sports events are conducted and how the industry adjusts to these new norms.

3. Innovation

The industry is rapidly opening up to the inherent possibilities that technology affords and how it can aid innovation for relevance during and after the crisis.

Event planners are using this period to catch up with clients through webinars and email marketing; marketers, promoters, DJs, and entertainers are collaborating on virtual or multimedia projects; photographers are sprucing up their digital image banks to actively reach out to other sectors.

Sizeable events budgets go into venues, technical equipment, security, and/or catering. This crisis is shifting mindsets on how to leverage the digital space for heightened experiences, practically and at minimal costs. For instance, instead of actual catering, consider issuing redeemable online vouchers to a select fairly priced eatery.

While it’s impossible to completely do away with in-person events –close connections and networks are best built this way –the industry must get ready for a new way of doing things. The best being to re-define interactions and meetings virtually, without watering down the experiences and engagements.

The events sector is a valuable contributor to the economy, not just in taxes but as a huge employer of the youth population. Whatever the outcome, the sector’s survival is dependent on how effectively it adapts and innovates.

Njeri Murage is an events planner with Lucidity Africa; an events company based in Nairobi. She also enjoys creative writing, dogs grooming, and hiking.

Guest Writer

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