Industry News

‘Highly restricted’ ticketing produced empty seats in Pyeongchang

The Olympics should embrace the ticketing resale market if it wants to avoid empty seats at its major events, according to business expert Christopher Balding.

Poor attendances plagued the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, which finished over the weekend, despite it being reported that organisers sold 94 per cent of its tickets at the half way mark of the competition last week.

The Games restricted customers in their ability to buy and sell tickets for the international multi-sport competition.

An opinion article for the Bloomberg news service by Balding, an associate professor of business and economics at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, noted that the process of trying to fill stands through “highly restricted, targeted and convoluted ticket sales” produced more empty seats than any other factors.

The IOC allocates a specific number of tickets to each nation and citizens of those countries can only purchase from that allocation.

Therefore, a Norwegian person could not buy tickets from an authorised US reseller and so on. Nearly 80 per cent of tickets were allocated to South Koreans, which limited the number of tickets available to fans from other countries.

Balding said: “The IOC goes to great lengths to limit ticket resales. For an event with more than one million tickets, surprisingly few are available on widely used resale ticket websites such as StubHub.

“That is not an accident. Olympic tickets are tied to the identification of the original purchaser. Consequently, any secondary buyer may be denied entry if he or she purchases a ticket from an unauthorised secondary market.”

Balding pointed out that while Pyeongchang had its own official resale site, only South Korean ticket holders were able to resell there. He noted that this meant international fans that saw their events delayed due to weather, but couldn’t make the rescheduled event were “out of luck” and their seats remained empty.

However, Balding said that he thinks the buying and selling of tickets could be made much easier.

“Offering multiple payment options and, most importantly, increasing market liquidity by allowing buyers to purchase resale tickets from anywhere would quickly fill stands with cheering supporters,” Balding wrote.

“Events were marked online as sold out even when a large number of walk-up tickets remained available. National resellers couldn’t deliver tickets electronically, only by courier.”

Image: Exj