Ask the Expert is a DAIMANI Journal series where we discuss how the coronavirus has impacted specific markets for official VIP Hospitality and related services, and what are the challenges and timelines for industry recovery.
Ten Lifestyle Group is the leading, travel and lifestyle concierge service, helping their members to discover, organise, and enjoy travel, dining and entertainment. As well as offering a private membership, Ten’s corporate offerings mean that they also service some of the most valuable customers of the world's leading private banks, premium financial services and luxury brands.
Getting close to 10 years at the Ten Lifestyle Group, Head of Entertainment Partnerships for EMEA, Tom Miller is a perfect candidate for our Ask The Expert series.
The UK's successful vaccination roll out and roadmap out of lockdown seems to have brought about a new optimism in all walks of life. Is the Ten Lifestyle Group seeing this being translated into a clamour to attend live events? How are you measuring demand and what have you seen over the past four weeks?
We have certainly witnessed a surge in optimism from our members in recent weeks in the UK as the government roadmap towards re-opening the country has become clearer. Our members are now far more confident to book events this summer and beyond into 2022 and large numbers of them are extremely keen to make up for lost time and get back to enjoying live entertainment once again. March saw requests for live entertainment from our UK member base nearly triple from February, and with higher levels of demand to continue as more events confirm their place in the calendar.
Given Ten’s position leading position in the global market place, running an operation 24/7, has Covid-19 changed the way you service clients and their customers now and in the future? Has crisis led to innovation and opportunity, and if so what?
Absolutely, with life as we knew it pretty much stopping overnight we had to think extremely quickly as to how we can still remain relevant to our members, and how we can assist them and provide value to them throughout Covid-19 lockdowns. The focus of our propositions switched from going out to staying in and we believe many of these additions to our service will remain even after Covid-19 ends. We successfully launched virtual Book Clubs and Music Clubs where our members have the opportunity to listen to and interact with esteemed authors and figures from the music industry, Michelin-starred virtual cooking classes, all of which we see as adding to our proposition in the long-term rather than only during pandemic restrictions.
The impact of Coronavirus has not been uniform across the territories that Ten operate in – for instance China and other parts of Asia was hit early but recovered quickly, whereas the situation in Europe and the Americas seems more protracted. Can you take us through what challenges this has presented to you and your colleagues and how Ten has had to respond?
It has certainly been a huge challenge as restrictions in our most mature markets have stretched out beyond a year. We have been very proactive in making sure we stay in contact with our partners in order to try and work together in emerging from this crisis, yet as soon as we picked up some momentum in the UK towards the end of 2020 the second wave struck and lockdowns were reimposed. We have really felt the uncertainty of our members throughout this period, but now things certainly feel far more positive in terms of a route back to live entertainment.
As we head out of the restrictions in phased stages in the UK are you expecting customers to demand a new and better live experience to that they have had in the past? What will be the new USP that events have to offer before you will consider recommending them to clients?
I think there will be a period of customers just being happy to be there, savouring live entertainment once again, but this won’t last forever. I think it will be an interesting time to see how live entertainment experiences will have evolved and who used the ‘down time’ to improve what they can offer to the consumers. I think one thing that will stay is the flexibility around refunds as this is what consumers will expect as a minimum moving forward and it is certainly a vital factor when we work with any partners promoting events or experiences.
E-sports and attendance at such (live and on line participation) took off in a significant way in 2020/2021 building on their growth in previous years. Which other experiences do you expect to see grow in 2021 and beyond?
I do think there will be a permanent space from now on for virtual events and virtual entertaining even when all restrictions are lifted and live entertainment returns with full arenas, and I can see these co-existing with one another. I think the demand for exclusive virtual content will remain strong, not as a replacement for going to a gig or the theatre, but as an additional revenue stream for promoters and artists. We are certainly planning to maintain our virtual events portfolio and look to grow this as an addition to our service for our members.
Digital and on line solutions kept the events and hospitality industries connected, talking and planning throughout lockdown. Will customers now more than ever expect simpler, quicker, digitally led solutions when choosing and purchasing experiences? What aspects of the way ‘things used to be done’ do you feel will never return?
I think there is an argument to say that operationally and transactionally there will be an inevitable swing towards digitally led solutions, the most obvious being mobile ticketing for which Covid-19 has been the ultimate catalyst. As a concierge provider we do still see value in providing a level of personal assistance to our members when they are choosing experiences, especially as we emerge from Covid-19. Our members like to talk to our specialists to gain their experience and reassure them as to the current situation and how we see things progressing with the return of live entertainment so, again, I think the two can co-exist.
When restrictions are lifted what will be the live event or experience you personally will look forward to attending?
Two things spring to mind for me personally. The first is getting to a Man Utd game as soon as I can and the second is going back to The O2 Arena to our enjoy our suite once again. I cannot wait.