Events sector will not return until 2022, but one company sees revenues rise 30 per cent

GDS Group

Bristol events company,  GDS Group has seen revenues rise 30 per cent this year, despite most of the sector suffering the devastating consequences of the pandemic, which caused the cancellation of practically all live events since March.

While much of the events sector is struggling badly, GDS says the global events industry will continue to thrive by doubling down on digital and virtual offerings, and it says it’s proved this by switching entirely to digital events which has seen its revenues and employee headcount rise.

According to data published by VisitBritain, the UK events industry is forecast to lose £58 billion in 2020 alone, as additional measures such as social distancing and travel restrictions continue to bite. The business events sector in particular – where GDS operates – saw cancellation rates of 55 per cent in Q2 and Q3.

Many events companies have announced sweeping redundancies as they seek to stay afloat amid flatlining revenues. However, those that have been able to deliver digital events, such as GDS Group, have found themselves able to thrive, and even grow.

In 2019, 80 per cent of GDS Group’s revenue originated from its 60 physical executive summits around the world (half of which take place in the US). The remaining 20 per cent of its revenue derived from its digital events and services portfolio, including its Meet the Boss virtual roundtables. Now all of its revenue will be derived from its digital events programme in 2020.

More surprising is that despite the challenging environment, GDS has not just survived 2020, it is on track to achieve 30 per cent growth over last year. It has also hired 50 more staff at its Bristol HQ during the pandemic period. Its “Meet the Boss” virtual roundtable events grew 300 per cent during H1 2020, fuelled largely by interest during the May-June lockdown period.

Spencer Green, founder and chairman of GDS Groupsaid: “COVID hit us right at the start of our Spring events schedule, forcing us to cancel everything overnight. At this point we asked ourselves; how can we digitally transform the business to deliver the same outcomes for our customers in lieu of physical events? They still needed to find new customers, learn from their peers and understand the latest trends, so we invested in our digital offerings to deliver those same outcomes virtually. The whole business is now committed to delivering virtual events that are more powerful and data driven than our previous physical portfolio, creating an opportunity for the future that will play a key role in how executives approach business post COVID.”

GDS delivers summits to a broad range of industries, including financial services, IT, healthcare, HR, manufacturing, marketing, oil and gas, retail and supply chain. Despite the varied nature of these industries, one topic that has been common to all of GDS’s summits over the last few years has been digital transformation.

“The overriding topic of our summits – digital transformation – has grown in importance for our customers this year, so they are more driven than ever to understand it. Where previously it was something to plan for over the next few years, coronavirus brought it to the fore as a business imperative to deliver today. We expect digital transformation will remain the most important topic for CxOs over the next few years,” he added.

Looking to 2021, GDS expects to continue its strong growth rate bu broadening its digital portfoliofurther with the launch of new digital events and services.