Leading venue bosses have given their insight into the Covid protocols that are expected to remain in a post-pandemic world.
Speaking in the latest issue of IQ, key live executives including ASM Global chief Ron Bension, Oak View Group co-chair Jessica Koravos and European Arenas Association (EAA) president Olivier Toth discuss the state of business as we enter a new year.
During the 2020 touring shutdown the world’s biggest venue operator, ASM Global, announced a new series of hygiene protocols, dubbed ‘VenueShield’, at more than 325 of its venues, which include leading entertainment arenas such as Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK; König-Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany; the Globe in Stockholm; the SSE Arena, Wembley in London; Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai; and American Airlines Arena in Miami.
The long-time president of Live Nation’s House of Blues Entertainment, Bension joined ASM Global as president and CEO last March and spells out the need to ensure safety, security, and consumer confidence in venues moving forward.
“We’re particularly proud of our Venue Shield proprietary programme, industry-leading reopening protocol that ensures the facilities are clean and certified at the highest standards for the safety and health of our co-workers, clients, and guests,” he says. “Additionally, some of the service changes on the F&B around pre-ordering, cashless, quick serve, etc, have been accelerated and will surely be here to stay.”
And Bension sounds a positive note regarding the company’s prospects for the year ahead.
“We’re optimistic,” he says. “We put ourselves in a position to hit the ground running in ‘22 with new revenue teams, technology, a focus on actionable marketing programmes, and a new team of skilled professionals in these areas, as well as content acquisition and sponsorships. Through inventive thought and hard work, the power of ASM is to continue to redefine and elevate the live entertainment experience.”
“AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH THE VIRUS, WE MUST CONTINUE TO ADOPT AND INTEGRATE EXTRA SAFETY MEASURES INTO THE LIVE EVENT JOURNEY AS SEAMLESSLY AND PAINLESSLY AS POSSIBLE”
Elsewhere, global sports and entertainment giant Oak View Group (OVG) recently opened the UBS Arena at Belmont Park, New York and the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle – the world’s first carbon-neutral certified arena.
“Public health considerations will remain embedded in our thinking around any new buildings and operations, alongside security,” says Koravos. “We will continue to see app-based entry protocols, contactless concession areas, antiviral and antibacterial material choices, and more intensive cleaning protocols. These are positive developments that are important in future-proofing our spaces and providing a safe experience for our guests.”
With countries across Europe having stepped up their efforts to combat the Omicron variant of coronavirus in the past few weeks, Koravos is keeping her fingers crossed the spike proves a relative blip on the touring industry’s road to recovery.
“I hope that Omicron rapidly spreads through a mostly vaccinated population at a swift rate with relatively mild outcomes,” she says. “I also hope that we are through it by the end of the winter to allow businesses to recover. Importantly, we will only be able to recover if the government rescinds remaining restrictions and advice to ‘exercise caution’ in a timely and decisive manner. Recovery also relies on the UK being a good neighbour and a good global citizen.”
Toth, CEO of Luxembourg’s Rockhal, points out that the pandemic has highlighted the need for visible and heightened safety measures.
“I think we must accept Covid-19 is not going to go away, and as we learn to live with the virus we must continue to adopt and integrate extra safety measures into the live event journey as seamlessly and painlessly as possible,” he says.
“In order for our industry to recover, we are going to need a coordinated re-opening effort that is adopted by all member states across Europe and applied to all those venues wanting to attract international tours and get back to hosting a wide mix of high-quality, full-capacity, safe live events.”
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