Representatives from festival associations and key outdoor event operators have expressed optimism about the coming event season, regardless of whether Covid passes will be mandatory.

Speaking on the Festival Season 2022 panel at the online ESNS conference, today, Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed said, “With the removal of restrictions in the UK, there’s growing confidence about the season and that there may not even be much in the way of operational mitigations, even Covid passes – which the majority of festivals did implement on a voluntary basis in the UK last year.”

Christof Huber who is the organiser of festivals including Switzerland’s Open Air St. Gallen, and represents more than 100 European festivals as chair of European Festival Association Yourope, also sounded a positive note.

He said, “If we look at the fact that Omicron numbers are falling and it has milder symptoms, and as an industry we have big learnings from the last two seasons, I don’t see any reason why big events shouldn’t take place this summer.

“We talked to our members during the winter and, despite the fact that it was quite a difficult situation over Christmas, the feeling was positive – everybody is quite confident that the summer will be there. It will be a busy one.”

Despite the widespread positivity that the summer festival season will be able to go ahead pretty much unhindered by restrictions, Stephan Thanscheidt (pictured), head of festival booking and CEO of FKP Scorpio, which runs numerous huge European festivals including Germany’s Hurricane (cap. 68,000) and Southside (60,000), said the diminished health of the supply chain was making planning for the summer a challenge.

He said, “Much of the supply chain isn’t there anymore and also prices have gone up drastically in all kinds of production areas including materials and personnel. A lot of challenges we are facing are because we postponed the festival’s two times, and the ticket prices were based on what we calculated in the second half of 2019. Now we’re facing enormous costs, with hygiene related charges on top.

“Also, sponsorship is not the same at the moment – it’s getting better, we getting more confirmed, but some sponsors are maintaining a waiting position to see if this summer really happens.”

Asked how the company was coping with the additional costs, Thanscheidt said, “We are financing it with the money we made in the years before the pandemic.”

Codruta Vulcu, founder and festival director of ARTmania Festival (5,000) in Romania, said that the increased operating costs meant that her team had to take a firm stance on artist fees for the coming event: “We didn’t negotiate new fees with the artist or accept any increases.”

When asked about consumer confidence, Huber said, “The first thing is to show that the events are happening. During Omicron, festivals reduced their marketing efforts and some only published part of their line-up. Now our job is to go out there and do the promotion for the festivals.

“We hear sales are solid but during the last two months they slowed down. We need to show artists, the audience, and sponsors that we are confident these events are happening.

“Many fans aged 16 ­to 18 have not experienced festivals. We need to be thinking about how to get in contact with them and encourage them to visit festivals, otherwise we will lose a generation of festivalgoers.”