Towcester Racecourse managing director Kevin Boothby explains why diversification and community engagement are key to recovery for venues
It is a joy to see event industry venues across the UK back open and welcoming crowds again but for many venues, returning to pre-Covid-19 business models is simply not sustainable.
A lot of venues have built up debt to stay alive and continue to operate in an uncertain economic landscape in which consumer habits are constantly changing.
It means venues must continue to stay on top of their game. Despite some ongoing uncertainty, it is a great opportunity, perhaps to do things we have often wanted to but never quite focused on before because our core offerings were always our main revenue drivers.
For many large venues, where running costs are getting higher by the month as inflation continues to spike, diversification is key to developing a stable business that can grow. I appreciate it is not an option for every venue and some smaller venues thrive by offering a unique and clear USP. But for those with the space and capability it will add strength to your business.
Many event organisers and venues diversified during the pandemic by delivering digital content and hybrid events. The industry is well-versed in adapting to the times. So, to now be able to work with more operational freedom again should be embraced.
While diversification can be a lifeline for venues, it can still just as easily be a financial black hole. Deciding how and when to invest in new offerings is crucial. At Towcester Racecourse, we’ve found empowering colleagues to join in strategy workshops an effective way to help yield fresh business development ideas.
Our approach has been to expand upon and make the most of what we have, by providing the space in multiple ways to create the opportunity to attract different guests.
This has been combined with adding new offerings that support our existing business. It is important to maintain a service that your team can deliver. We have added things such as classic car rallies, foodie festivals and concerts to our events division and created a corporate arm that offers event space for meetings, conferences, weddings and the like.
It is not an overnight fix but does provide a solid platform to build upon. Large venues now need to be in use all day, every day, to be successful.
In addition to diversification, another element I place a big emphasis on is community engagement. Making sure your venue connects with its local community in a meaningful way can be powerful. It is an honour to be the custodian of a venue, but it comes with a responsibility to give back. This can range from providing special rates for community groups and charities, to delivering engagement programmes, working with schools and creating jobs and opportunities.
Venues are not out of the woods yet, but I’m confident those that diversify well will have a positive future.