Postponements, cancellations and refunds: what can we learn from the pandemic?

Postponements, cancellations and refunds: what can we learn from the pandemic?

Since the start of the pan­dem­ic, Weezevent has sup­port­ed organ­is­ers on over 45,000 events. At your side, we’ve been able to observe trends as they’ve emerged. We’ve gath­ered togeth­er the learn­ings in this arti­cle to guide you in your deci­sion-mak­ing in case your event is post­poned or cancelled.

Sum­ma­ry

  1. Look­ing back on two uncer­tain years
  2. Post­pone­ments vs cancellations
  3. Attendee refunds
  4. Dona­tion systems
  5. Con­clu­sion

1. Looking back on two uncertain years

Since Feb­ru­ary 2020 the events sec­tor has been affect­ed by numer­ous restric­tions and reg­u­la­tions, which have evolved reg­u­lar­ly and rapid­ly. The peri­ods of lock­down, lim­its on capac­i­ty and oth­er var­i­ous restric­tions have had a con­sid­er­able impact on the activ­i­ty of event organisers.

Dur­ing the first French lock­down in March 2020, Weezevent record­ed a dizzy­ing fall to 2% of the usu­al num­ber of tick­et sales. These sales, main­tained despite the ban on gath­er­ings, were main­ly for online events, which at the time offered the only way for organ­is­ers to main­tain the link with their audience.

The lift­ing of the first lock­down allowed for a recov­ery in activ­i­ty, with a notable improve­ment in tick­et sales (equiv­a­lent to 20% of the usu­al num­ber). How­ev­er, the severe restric­tions on capac­i­ty did not allow for a more sig­nif­i­cant recovery.

In autumn 2020, a sec­ond lock­down came into effect in France. The relat­ed restric­tions last­ed until June 2021, when events were allowed to resume, boost­ed in the sum­mer peri­od with the intro­duc­tion of the health pass and the eas­ing of rules. Since then, we have seen a com­plete recov­ery in terms of tick­et sales, although the num­ber of events remains low­er than in the years before the pandemic.

2. Postponements vs cancellations

The pan­dem­ic forced each organ­is­er to ask them­selves a cru­cial ques­tion about hold­ing their event: should I post­pone it or can­cel it?

The French gov­ern­ment, fol­low­ing the exam­ple of Por­tu­gal, imple­ment­ed a use­ful sys­tem for organ­is­ers: the option to post­pone the valid­i­ty of a tick­et for one year, thus avoid­ing hav­ing to refund all atten­dees and the poten­tial cash­flow prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with this.

The advantages and disadvantages of postponing an event

Choos­ing to post­pone an event has the advan­tage of ensur­ing that a num­ber of tick­ets remain sold for the next edition.

On the oth­er hand, post­pon­ing an event leads to three restrictions:

  • The ser­vice offered as a replace­ment must be “of the same nature and cat­e­go­ry as the ser­vice planned under the can­celled contract”
  • Its price must not be high­er than that of the orig­i­nal service
  • The new offer may not give rise to any price increase

Tak­ing these aspects into account, the organ­is­er must there­fore find oth­er ways of mak­ing up for any cash loss­es as well as offer­ing atten­dees a sim­i­lar event, even in the most uncer­tain times. 

The advantages and disadvantages of cancelling an event

Can­celling an event allows the organ­is­er to com­mu­ni­cate more eas­i­ly with their audi­ence. One mes­sage for all attendees.

This option also has the advan­tage of allow­ing the organ­is­er to change the nature of the event by offer­ing a dif­fer­ent for­mat. For inter­na­tion­al music events, for exam­ple, this rep­re­sents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to offer events that are small­er and with a dif­fer­ent for­mat com­pared to pre­vi­ous editions.

Can­celling an event, how­ev­er, means hav­ing to deal with dis­ap­point­ed tick­et hold­ers and the con­sid­er­able logis­tics and organ­i­sa­tion­al tasks asso­ci­at­ed with this.

What­ev­er the deci­sion organ­is­ers chose, Weezevent offered them a wide range of mate­ri­als, blog arti­cles and cus­tomer ser­vice to help them with the admin­is­tra­tive pro­ce­dures linked to their choice.

In the end, 40% of organ­is­ers chose to offer a post­pone­ment, with 60% opt­ing to can­cel their event.

3. Attendee refunds

When events were post­poned due to Covid event organ­is­ers were not required to refund tick­et hold­ers. How­ev­er, more than 99% of our clients decid­ed to do so, main­ly because they want­ed to main­tain a rela­tion­ship of trust with their audience.

Automatic refunds or refunds on request?

Organ­is­ers of can­celled or post­poned events wish­ing to offer refunds could adopt either auto­mat­ic refunds or refunds on request by tick­et holders.
Among our clients, there was an even split of 50% choos­ing each option.

How­ev­er, for event can­cel­la­tions, 80% of organ­is­ers offered auto­mat­ic refunds, com­pared to 20% who offered refunds on request.
Auto­mat­ic refunds were wide­ly favoured, thanks to the sim­plic­i­ty, con­vic­tion or sim­ply a lack of tools. The 20% of organ­is­ers who opt­ed for refunds on request did so in par­tic­u­lar to seek the gen­eros­i­ty of their audi­ence, with the option of donat­ing part of their tick­et price to the event in sol­i­dar­i­ty with the organisers.

Focus on refund requests

As for can­cel­la­tions of events with non-auto­mat­ic refunds, it’s inter­est­ing to note that an aver­age of 15% of tick­et hold­ers did not make a refund request. This is main­ly due to two vari­ables: for­got­ten requests, and a desire to finan­cial­ly sup­port the organiser.

For post­poned events, an aver­age of 55% of tick­ets were kept. In oth­er words, refund requests were only made for 45% of tick­ets, con­trary to the organ­is­ers’ ini­tial expec­ta­tions who might have thought that most atten­dees would opt for a refund.

On the oth­er hand, for sold out events with high demand, such as Hellfest, 98% of tick­ets were kept. In this case, this type of tick­et is con­sid­ered valu­able and a hold­er will keep it for as long as they can to avoid the risk of los­ing it and being unable to buy it back when tick­et sales reopen.

4. Donation systems

Whether their events were can­celled or post­poned, 50% of organ­is­ers asked their audi­ences to sup­port them by set­ting up a dona­tion system.

We not­ed a great deal of sol­i­dar­i­ty: 15% of atten­dees decid­ed to make a dona­tion with these dona­tions aver­ag­ing 23% of the tick­et price. This rep­re­sent­ed 3.5% of over­all tick­et rev­enue (in addi­tion to the aver­age of 15% of rev­enues linked to cas­es where no refund was requested).

This meant a total of 18.5% of addi­tion­al rev­enue for organ­is­ers who chose to offer refunds on request to their attendees.

5. Conclusion

Aside from the pan­dem­ic that we are emerg­ing from, can­cel­la­tions or post­pone­ments of events are still a pos­si­bil­i­ty and are by nature unpre­dictable. By mak­ing this data pub­lic, we want to give you the infor­ma­tion you need to make these cru­cial deci­sions, as opposed to rely­ing on your own hunch­es and feelings.

To learn more about the options for post­pone­ment and can­cel­la­tion offered by Weezevent, con­tact our cus­tomer service.

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