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International Ticketing Report 2021: Voucher schemes & refunds

The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.

Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.

The report, originally published in IQ105, is in lieu of the International Ticketing Yearbook – a standalone global guide to the live entertainment market that will return in 2022.

IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks but subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.

To read the previous instalment of the report on staffing click here.

While the live events industry was among the first to shut up shop in the pandemic – and, of course, the last to reopen – one silver lining to that particular storm cloud was that the vast majority of fans around the world did not ask for refunds for rescheduled events.

Promoters in a number of territories also persuaded governments to allow them to implement voucher schemes, which helped retain at least some of their revenues to steer them through the crisis.

Again, though, the experience varies from country to country, and, off the record, some promoters are admitting, with hindsight, that refunds may have been the smarter move, as the costs for putting on shows in 2022 will be far higher than the ticket prices budgeted for, as they were often set in 2019, long before the pandemic closed countries down.

“In the majority of situations organisers offered refunds and around 80% of ticket sales that had been made before the pandemic were refunded,” reports Weezevent CEO Pierre-Henri Deballon.

“The demand from fans has never waned. Globally, we saw 83% of fans holding onto their tickets for rescheduled shows”

“On the other hand, the organisers who did not offer a refund but proposed a postponement had only a few requests for refunds.”

He cites Hellfest as an example, where only around 100 tickets were refunded out of the tens of thousands for the sold-out festival. “This highlights how valuable these tickets are to the participants.”

Ticketmaster’s Mark Yovich observes, “The demand from fans has never waned. Globally, we saw 83% of fans holding onto their tickets for rescheduled shows, showing the palpable desire from fans to get back to live at the first opportunity.”

Dice’s Russ Tannen reports similar stats. “87% of tickets for live shows that have been rescheduled or postponed until 2022 have not been returned,” he says.

“The voucher solution preserves the vital liquidity that promoters need to continue operating beyond the crisis”

“Our flexible returns and Waiting List functionality mean that on Dice fans can often get a refund any time before the gig, so many fans will hold on to their ticket in the hope that they’ll be able to make the date of the new show, if they can’t, they’ll offer it to the waiting list.”

Lauding the voucher concept, CTS Eventim‘s chief operating officer Alexander Ruoff says, “We very much welcomed the decisions in a number of European countries on voucher schemes for cultural, concert, sports and leisure events.

“It was a very important step towards preserving cultural diversity. At the same time, the voucher solution is consumer protection in its purest form because it preserves the vital liquidity that promoters need to continue operating during and beyond the coronavirus crisis.

In Germany, the voucher solution is valid until the end of this year. We have observed that many of the vouchers issued have been, and are being, used for replacement events. Therefore, the extent of the refunds is not yet foreseeable.”

“As the restrictions have continued for longer [in Hong Kong], larger numbers are now asking for refunds”

Benjamin Leaver, the newly appointed CEO of Event Genius & Festicket, comments, “We had a number of countries that initiated voucher schemes, most significantly Germany and Portugal. These vouchers were usually only valid on events by the same promoter and mostly were valid until the end of 2021, however, some are running until the 2022 rescheduled dates.”

Yovich comments, “Where voucher schemes were mandated, we implemented this quickly and effectively. However, in most markets, we offered fans cash refunds for rescheduled shows with no questions asked. While being a global business, having local presence on the ground meant that we were able to work closely with our clients to tailor refund policies in each of our markets according to the legal framework and their wishes.”

The reality in Hong Kong was somewhat different. “Customers were initially keen to hold on to tickets pending events coming back, but as the restrictions have continued for longer, larger numbers are now asking for refunds,” says  Total Ticketing sales director Martin Haigh.

“Whereas only around 20% were asking for refunds early in the pandemic, this has now grown to around 80%. We have not needed to implement voucher schemes, instead preferring to refund customers on-request to maintain customer confidence. This has not been the case with all ticketing companies in Hong Kong, but in general customer trust and confidence remains strong.”

“[Skiddle] has had a total of £140,000 (€166,000) claimed in booking-fee credits”

Skiddle had its own approach. “From the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we’ve had to refund a total of 165,000 tickets,” says Skiddle’s head of marketing Jamie Scahill.

“However, during the pandemic, we introduced the ticket industry’s first booking-fee credit system.

“While it remains an industry-standard among ticket companies to retain booking fees when events are cancelled or postponed in order to cover costs, during Covid-19, we rejected this practice, seeking instead to put money back into the accounts of our customers.

“Now when a customer claims a refund, Skiddle will give them the option to claim the full booking fee amount as credit, which can then be used on a future purchase, up to 12 months later. Since we started this system in 2020, we have had a total of £140,000 (€166,000) claimed in booking-fee credits.”


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