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EAA’s Olivier Toth warns of ‘another tough year’

Rockhal Luxembourg CEO tells IQ he does not expect to see significant recovery for the arena business until 2023

By James Hanley on 07 Jan 2022

Olivier Toth (chair of EAA) is chairing the panel

Olivier Toth

European Arenas Association (EAA) president Olivier Toth says 2022 is shaping up to be another tricky year for the touring industry as it navigates its way through the Covid crisis.

The Rockhal Luxembourg CEO, who succeeded AEG’s John Langford in the EAA role last September, tells IQ that, despite some positive signs, it will likely take another 12 months for the market to get back to near full strength.

“We are taking a lot of bookings, but we are also expecting to see many postponements as we face new threats such as new variants and spikes in new cases,” he says. “2022 is going to be another tough year, and we are not expecting to see significant recovery until 2023.

“In order for our industry to recover, we are going to need a coordinated reopening 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.”

The next scheduled concert at the 6,500-capacity Rockhal, based in Esch-sur-Alzette, is by French singer Dadju on 3 February. Other acts lined up to play the venue this year include Maneskin, Biffy Clyro, Rag’N’Bone Man, Sting, Texas and Bryan Adams.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for very visible and heightened safety measures”

Toth suggests a number of protocols developed because of Covid are here to stay post-pandemic.

“Arenas are all about safety – we cannot host the events we do without putting safety at the core of all our operations,” he says. “However, the pandemic has highlighted the need for very visible and heightened safety measures, which has led to a new set of safety protocols. Some of these protocols are now legal requirements and some are expected by stakeholders – we call these Mandatory Expectation or MX.

“Throughout the pandemic, our arenas have been incorporating MX into their digital journeys, not only to comply with legal requirements, which are ever-changing, but also to enhance the live event journey and create confidence with all stakeholders – artists, players, staff, partners, fans, and visitors.

“I think we must accept Covid-19 is not going to go away, and as we learn to live with the virus so must we continue to adopt and integrate extra safety measures into the live event journey as seamlessly and painlessly as possible.”

The EAA’s membership comprises 34 arenas in 20 European countries. According to the association, which was founded in 1991, its member arenas host over 2,900 annual events attracting a total audience of 19 million people.

Toth, an EAA board member, is a co-founder of the EAA EU Subgroup which morphed into the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA) during the Covid-19 pandemic to open dialogue with EU governing bodies.

“The lack of unified operating protocols, and the existence of border controls affecting freedom of movement across Europe and beyond is making it very difficult for international tours, big and small, to take place,” he adds. “As a result, we are seeing a rise in bookings of domestic artists as well as cross-border activity.

“The current situation is at least allowing both established and new domestic talent to get out and perform, and we would hope that these domestic acts will eventually get a chance to travel at least across their closest borders in the near future as we work together to create shared protocols and travel requirements.”

The full interview with Toth will appear in the new issue of IQ, out next week.


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