In this post:  cancelling a festival or an event – what’s involved? Are people willing to go out in their hometowns? safety concerns? health concerns for family and friends? generational interest in attending festivals and events? how many potentially would attend? when do people plan to travel? what do consumers expect to do in the next 3 months? travel budgets? practices for safety and cleanliness at live events? perceived safety of travel activities? when will people be comfortable traveling for live events and festivals?

Cancelling a festival or an event? Below, I’ve detailed the decision making process of one festival organizer.

As 2021 began, an event organizer was hopeful that he’d be able to hold their outdoor festival in the spring. Something was nagging at him though. It just didn’t feel right. Soon he’d need to commit to the ad schedule and move into the final stages of event prep.

Last year, he was the one who ultimately decided to cancel the festival after a number of factors quickly came into focus when the pandemic struck. As this event runs on a circuit, the event quickly locked in the 2021 dates and posted them on their website. He was confident that by the following year, the situation would be much improved. To help the vendors that rely on the festival for income, their website’s home page now featured each of their exhibitors’ businesses, highlighting the merchandise and contact information.

Near the end of 2020, he was hopeful that the event would be held as planned as the paperwork submitted to the state had been approved. The challenge was that one of their sizable funding sources had voted to not release the money. The festival is a major event for its small community. City hall was supportive because it would draw out-of-town visitors and fill hotel rooms and restaurant seats. However, the support came with a catch. The city manager promised to bring a vote before the commissioners but gently suggested that the festival ad budget be cut drastically.

For awhile now, I’ve served as a sounding board for the event organizer. In recent weeks, he shared the situation and then asked for my thoughts. Probably not what he wanted … my response was a series of questions, including one on the new Covid variant discovered in his state.

Having sat through numerous travel research seminars since last March, and having a fresh batch of data available, I offered to pull relevant information so he could get a sense of what the event was up against. By providing him factual, and not emotional commentary, my hope was to help the event reach a final decisions – go or no-go.

My thanks to Destination Analysts, a travel research company, for the data collected January 22-24, 2021, that I shared with the event organizer the following week. My comments are in italics.

Comfort Home Community – only 46.1% want to go out – Less than half the people are willing to attend the festival.

Cancel A Festival


“Safety” Concerns Related to Small Towns – Extremely important and important 56.3% – Not sure if those are the people willing to go or no-go.

Cancel a Festival


Health Concerns for Family & Friends contracting the virus – 74.3% and for Themselves – 71.1% See both screen shots below. In my mind, these are a deterrent to people attending a festival.

Cancelling a Festival or Event

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Interest in Trip Characteristics to Attend Festivals & Special Events

Boomers + Older – 26.4%
Gen X – 51.4%
Millennials + Younger – 38.2%

The people soonest to get the vaccines are least likely to attend while those who ARE NOT eligible to get the vaccine would potentially GO OUT and SPREAD the virus.

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Interest in Trip Characteristics to Attend Festivals & Special Events – 37% – Less and less numbers of people are likely to attend and will result in shrinking ticket sales.

Cancelling a Festival or Event


What months do you plan to take a trip? – March – 14%, April 13.6%. Timing in the spring doesn’t look favorable. 

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Leisure Trips in Next 3 Months
How many expect to take Leisure Trips in the next 3 months – ZERO TRIPS – 52.5%
How many expect to take Regional Leisure Trips in the next 3 months – ZERO TRIPS – 26.6% and ONE TRIP – 37.5% – totals to 64.1

See three screen shots below. Data indicates a much smaller audience to pull from and almost mirrors the data – when deducted from 100 (35.9%). This is very close to the 37% number above for Interest in Trip Characteristics to Attend Festivals & Special Events.

Cancelling a Festival or Event

Cancelling a Festival or Event

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Leisure Travel as a Budget Priority – Ticket sales prices would be a consideration in whether to attend.

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Operational Practices Desired at Live Events – Covid-19 operational expenses are a new hard cost to event organizers.

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Perceived Safety of Travel Activities – While festivals aren’t specifically mentioned, the data reveals the types of things consumers aren’t interested in attending.

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Received Safety of Trip Types – This data is from July 20, 2020, and provide a useful comparison from 6 months ago.

Cancelling a Festival or Event


Perceived Safety of Trip Types – Lastly, this data is from one week prior, January 17, 2021.

Cancelling a Festival or Event

The event organizer also took into consideration other major events that had cancelled – Coachella and Mardi Gras; postponed – New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival; cut back attendance – Super Bowl; or went virtual – film festivals. While their event is much smaller, the information remained relevant.

After reviewing the above data, the event organizer came to a decision based on the following:

  • More ad dollars, and not less, were needed to promote the event to a drastically smaller audience.
  • COVID-19 precautions were going to be a sizable expense.
  • It wasn’t wise to put city commissioners in a difficult political position – to publicly support the event, possibly resulting in negative ramifications from their constituents.
  • Keeping the festival’s favorable reputation, earned over many years, was more important than the downfall created by negative media and social media coverage.
  • Finding enough volunteers to man the event wasn’t going to be easy … especially those facing the real possibility of altercations with someone insisting he or she wasn’t going to wear a mask.
  • Some sponsors would rather not risk impugning their brand name by being affiliated with an event during challenging times. Would dollars be better spent supporting those in the community truly in need?
  • Outdoor event ticket sales usually occur close-in to the event once weather conditions are known.
  • The online ticket option added a sizable fee consumers would pay or avoid if purchased onsite. The later might involve more close people-to-people contact.
  • The time commitment required of the event organizers due to Covid-19 was significant.
  • The likelihood of revenue being able to cover expenses was slight; the greater chance was for a budget deficit.

The ultimate decision was, while cancelling the event would again be a burden on the vendors, it was smarter to cancel the event for 2021.

The message below, which I was involved in crafting, was added to the festival website and each of the vendors and sponsors were sent a lengthly letter explaining how the event organizer arrived at the gut wrenching decision to cancel.

After considerable deliberation, it is with heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of [Festival Name 2021].

The decision was not made lightly and only occurred after consulting state and local authorities, previous participants, our sponsors and staff and other key partners. Unfortunately, in the current environment, we do not feel that we can deliver the same outstanding experience everyone has come to know and expect.

We look forward to returning in 2022, assuming the world is in a much improved place. It is our promise that the [Festival Name] will be an event worth the wait! Please add us to calendar for Day to Day and Month Date-Date, 2022. See you then.

How Long Before Festivals and Events Can Return?

Finding Sponsors and Volunteers During the Pandemic

The Role of Travel Research in Recovery

Obstacles Lie in The Road Ahead

A Line Clearly Divides Indoor and Outdoor Events

Indoor Events Will Face the Biggest Challenges

Meetings & Conventions … the Last to Recover

Visit Indy Accepts the Event Challenge Head On

How Long Before Events Can Return?

To learn more about event and festival management, check out “Secrets to Successful Events:  How to Organize, Promote and Manage Exceptional Events and Festivals.” For those with event planning experience, consider, “Secrets to Successful Events Resource Guide: 42+ Easy-to-Use Tools and Resources.” Both are written by internationally known author and speaker Lynn Fuhler and are available on Amazon and at major booksellers.

To obtain a copy of The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide, click here.

To learn more, or to review a copy of the full travel research report for the Jan 22-24, 2021, click here.  For the prior week’s report, click here.

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