Virtual events hosted in the US and UK attracted more than 30 per cent of their attendees from other locations around the globe throughout the last few months, according to Eventbrite’s 2020 Inside Look Report.

With no practical physical limitations, interested customers can search for and attend virtual events from almost anywhere in the world. Prior to the pandemic, virtual events were not considered central to many creators’ businesses, but when COVID-19 hit and many interactions shifted online, the virtual realm became a natural place for creators to convene.

The report provides insight into how consumers and the event industry at large have adapted to 2020’s unprecedented cultural, political, and social change, focusing on how the disruption of live and in-person events transformed daily behaviour and connection. It analyses data from the more than one million global virtual experiences on Eventbrite in 2020 and a YouGov1 survey of more than 3,000 consumers across Australia, the UK and US.

Julia Hartz, co-founder and chief executive of Eventbrite, said: “Perhaps the silver lining of this pandemic is that online events have the power to globally engage communities in new ways, helping creators bring people together from small town America to far reaching corners of the world. That’s something to celebrate as we continue to work toward the safe return of in-person events.”

In 2020, Eventbrite platform data revealed that virtual business and professional events reigned supreme in most markets. Together, they comprised a quarter of the firm’s global online inventory for 2020. Half of them were either seminar/talk, or class, training, or workshop formats.

The report found that creators of visual and performing arts events hosted nearly 4,000 events in April and that trended upward throughout the year, growing 74 per cent from April to November.

Events related to film, media, and entertainment also loomed large with 2,000-3,000 of them a month — each month since April.

According to the survey, 48 per cent of US respondents said they have become more informed on social justice issues and political issues since the pandemic. Three of Eventbrite’s most-attended virtual events of 2020 centered on social justice, with “Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist” took the top spot, with more than 277,000 people registered to attend.

Sports and fitness events consistently recorded the highest share of paid tickets for virtual events, with about one third of all events paid. Virtual events in the spheres of film, media, and entertainment also raked in more income, with the percentage of paid tickets in that category more than doubling from 16 per cent in March to 34.4 perc ent in November.

For example, by October, at least a third of all virtual museum tours charged a fee — a stark shift from April, when almost all of them were free. This may be proof that people are willing to pay for previously gratis content — especially when the physical doors of theatres, museums, and other venues remain shut.

Eventbrite said in the report: “With the future of COVID-19 still uncertain, virtual events are likely to remain a popular supplement to in-person events. The results of this Eventbrite Inside Look Report make it clear that creators may miss out unless they invest in virtual events.

“When the pandemic draws to a close — whenever that may be — creators with strong online presences may be in a position to leverage their demonstrated success and improve their businesses’ long-term bottom line. But the benefits of online programming go beyond financial incentives.”

According to Corey William Schneider, chief executive and founder of New York Adventure Club (a community-driven club that offers tours, history seminars, and exclusive events focused on and in New York City), “virtual tourism is not just here, but here to stay.”

He continued: “COVID-19 forced the world to stay indoors and pursue all forms of entertainment from home, and when the pandemic subsides, I believe there will be events that people will prefer to do from home instead of in-person.”

Due to the success, Schneider said he is keen to build on the momentum. He added: “I plan to restart our in-person events with the goal of complimenting our virtual side of the business. I’m still figuring out the details on the rollout, but feel the future is a hybrid approach.”

Image: Eventbrite