AIPC | Interview with C Cizeron, GL Events Group

Date: 09/01/2023


Interview with Christophe Cizeron, CEO of venues at GL Events Group.

At the 2022 AIPC Annual Conference, which took place at HUNGEXPO in Budapest, it was officially announced that GL Events would become the very first group member of AIPC as from 2023. GL events is a global player in the event industry and manages a network of 50 venues in France, Europe, South America, Asia and South Africa. Christophe Cizeron, CEO of the GL Event venues, shares his view on industry outlook and challenges in the interview below.

The 2022 results of GL Events were very impressive – do you think that trend will continue in the next years?

As you said, GL events results are impressive in 2022 and the last figures confirm this trend. First of all, the rebound of GL events is a testimony to its exceptional capacity to adapt, to the need for stakeholders to join forces and to the strength of the Group’s business model. Except for China where it is still difficult, business trends are now positive in all countries with international markets: they were accounting for 49% of total revenue at the end of September 2022. For this performance, we owe special thanks to all Group employees whose commitment and professionalism made this return to business levels very close to those of 2019 possible. Despite an uncertain macroeconomic context, we are all fully focused on making it possible for an ever-increasing number of audiences to enjoy high-quality, unique, responsible and sustainable events.

GL events is now expecting growth in revenue of more than 55% (with robust activity by the Live and Venues divisions) and operating cash flow of more than €100m, while continuing to reduce its debt.

The perspectives are very positive for the year to come and for 2024 also. Regarding the Venue division, we are really focused on our mission: being a partner of the territories where we operate and support them in their development and influence. For example, we are launching a huge project in Brazil, in Sao Paulo, building and developing the Anhembi district where you will find the complete refurbished convention and exhibition centres, a sambodrome, offices, hotels, restaurants…

Our division is also very dynamic with our number of Venues growing very fast; from 1st January 2023, we will manage 61 venues in 27 destinations and in 11 countries all over the world: Santiago in Chile with 2 venues, Metropolitan and Parque Fisa and Orléans and Dijon, France, being the last ones to join the network. And we have many projects in the loop!

2023 and 2024 are also years for Jumbo events where GL events will be very involved, as a partner of 2023 Rugby WorldCup or in 2024 with Paralympic and Olympics Games, taking place in France. It’s an opportunity for GL events to bring its expertise, to develop business opportunities and to involve many stakeholders.

The AIPC community is having a hard time attracting and retaining talent. This sometimes even translates into refusing bookings. How is the situation at GL Events?

I won’t say it is easy for GL events. We can all see that is very difficult for the event industry as for tourism or hospitality services in general. The Covid has had an impact: people are looking for more meaning in their work, they require more balance between personal and professional life…

As other companies, GL events is facing the same challenges and is working on attracting and keeping talents. One of the strengths of the group is that you can live several lives in the same company! due to our diversity of activities and jobs’ opportunities. For example, as an employee of the group, you can leave your job for a while and join the organization dedicated to Jumbo events. That is an amazing experience to live!

More generally, we foster internal development: a new venue joining the network is an opportunity for employees to apply, offering new challenges.

We are also working on strengthening our skills by launching in the coming months an internal training school aiming at keeping our expertise in the group, developing new ones, training employees.

We are also very involved in social actions with our territories. In line with its employment policy and CSR goals, the Group signed the Parisian Employment and Business Pact (PPEE) [Pacte parisien pour l’emploi et les entreprises]) last year. In this way, the Group has made a formal, long-term commitment to promoting employment, training and integration, with the support of all the co-signatories of the Pact.

COP27 has just ended. At COP26, the event industry made a pledge to become carbon zero by 2050. Many venues already have a strategy ready, but AIPC research shows that the majority are still looking for a strategy. How far is GL events in determining the carbon zero strategy? And how can AIPC help with this?

Since its foundation, GL events built its activity around a culture of responsibility at every level of the group. In keeping with that mindset, the Group adopted in 2009 a specific sustainable development approach, structured by a dedicated Department.

Facing new challenges of the world and the event industry, the Group makes its approach evolve to an ESG approach (Environment, Social, Governance), proof of the organisation’s maturity regarding its actions. GL events signed the pledge to become carbon zero by 2050 and includes it clearly in its ESG strategy.

3 major actions are linked with the carbon zero strategy: Reduce energy consumption, promote renewable energies, and optimize transport and mobility.

A proactive action plan and significant investments are being implemented, including the transformation of lighting systems on all our venues and the set-up of photovoltaic panels on our most important exhibition centres. At the same time, an energy conservation plan has been developed, which is designed to significantly limit GL events Group’s use of air conditioning and heating.

AIPC, through its global network, can be a real source of inspiration and benchmarking of best practices to help venues establishing their strategy, following indicators, and reaching this ambitious objective. We are not competitors in this, we are all involved in the preservation of our planet.

During the corona crisis, venues have invested massively in digital technology. Today, those same venues face a double challenge: can the investments made lead to income? And what are the new technology trends that we should invest in? Do you have any advice for venues struggling with this?

Venues have faced very difficult situation during the corona crisis. Totally closed during this period, they tried to find new ways to exist and develop new business, answering clients’ needs and fostering new ways of meeting remotely; we did the same by implementing TV studios, developing virtual events with our clients, promoting duplex and multiplex events throughout our network of venues.

After the crisis, people needed to meet in person again, a lot of polls and inquiries underlined the fact that business was so better when people where meeting face to face. Nevertheless, we also noticed the great opportunity offered by hybrid events, allowing our clients to reach an enlarged audience, to engage more people and to increase their impact.

Today we can see that venues are no longer square meters’ providers; they provide so much more: Venues need to operate this change and become platforms for our clients with a range of solutions dedicated to hosting, promoting, and delivering their event. Let’s focus on investments which put the client at the heart of our thinking. Let’s train our teams to level up their knowledge about digital solutions and to help them selling them to our clients.

Digitalization also comes with new challenges such as cyber security? How do you view this?

As venues, we have been developing abilities to work on and mitigate several level and types of risks: terrorism, pandemic… Cybersecurity is one of them, less visible but as strong as others. We consider it very seriously, our IT department working closely with our venues.

We have also developed a Risk mitigation policy to be deployed on all our venues. Starting with an event profiling and risk assessment, it determines the proper measures to be taken for mitigating event specific health, safety and security related risks. It considers the attendance, the number of people, the level of sensitivity of the event, the type of infrastructures needed.  It allows each venue to build with its client a specific plan to mitigate each risk. A specific package is about IT Security, including for example penetration tests.

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