Nostalgia is a strong and emotional aphrodisiac. It captures hearts, dreams, energy and money in a way nothing else can. In 2018, nostalgia is back in a big way and is taking on a new form of entertainment. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard about the next entertainment revolution—esports. That “phenomenon” that our parents told us would not prove worthy of our time or would not be a career move has reared its head and now dominates global headlines. It has truly proven our parents’ theory completely wrong after all these years. We have entered a new world where it is cool to play video games and to make a ton of money doing so. According to Forbes, the esports market is on its way to being a $1 billion dollar industry in 2018, and it will continue to grow in the future. Everyone is throwing money at this electronic gold mine.

For those who have trouble understanding this market, I can best describe it from a hotel industry veteran and “esports event mom,” Kim Meltzer, the CEO of KidKesty Productions, Inc. Meltzer says, “It’s as if corporate America married the entertainment industry and produced an oversized baby called ‘esports!’” It is a bit rowdy and unconventional with rabid fans who take video gaming to a three-dimensional experience in an event setting. Events within this market are coordinated internally like a corporate event but are logistically complex and have all the glitz and glamour of any live entertainment production.

Even though the production value of some esports championships is spectacular, it is not only about the tournament, lights, streaming and content capabilities. It’s about the feeling the video gaming community can interact with, seeing their favorite team battle it out on a physical level. It’s corporate America (brands) capitalizing on and capturing the essence of the overall gaming experience. It’s smelling the food, seeing the stage lit up, watching the game being played, buying merchandise and the feeling of the clothes. It’s about tasting your favorite drink and feeling the rush of hearing the crowd roar with excitement. That is what esports is truly about. We cannot deny that esports is the next big entertainment value.

As with any live event, there are many moving parts to make it successful. Hospitality and travel are some of the key elements logistically, gluing the production team, players, sponsors, developers and vendors together to ensure the event is successful. There is an untold amount of blood, sweat and tears that makes these live events spectacular. The live event is successful when there is an experienced hospitality and travel team backing their production colleagues.

The travel and hospitality team emotionally and mentally supports everything around the production to ensure an experience like no other. Without the travel of the teams, sponsors and talent, there would be no live production. Without a hotel to house them for multiple days there would be no production. Without strategically timed flight schedules, ground transportation and mentally stable gamers there would be no production. Without additional experiences around the actual production, there would be no event.

There is a logistical road map in pre-planning every event, and hospitality and travel thrive on the principles of old-school hospitality. This is something a travel agent could never provide. Experiences, deadlines and logistical steps should be crafted to ensure that before, during and after the event, every step is solidified and handled without incident, and the unknowns are handled. The team should always be 30 steps ahead of everyone else. They see problems before they arise. This attention to detail undeniably provides a memorable experience to the gamers who have worked so hard to attend the tournament. Hospitality and travel are more than booking overly inflated airline tickets. They are more than booking hotels via the internet, paying insane fees and throwing money out the door. There are few people in the esports industry who have worked in the hotel, destination, production and entertainment industries in their career that can navigate this complex web.

What have we learned? You would not expect a Ford Focus to provide you with the same amount of a luxury feeling as a Maserati. It is just a different kind of experience. Esports is still learning this concept. Dollars over experience do not equal a winning formula. Amongst all of the noise and millions of dollars being spent, there are a select few who can truly take the global event to the next level. The right experts work both sides, in tandem, to ensure the event is seamless and something no one will ever forget. It’s about being the 13-year-old qualifying for his first championship game for the first time on a live stage, while his mother accompanies him. It’s helping the developers activate their game in a three-dimensional experience to support fan engagement. It’s helping brands activate their marketing ideas at an event where attendees can create real sales.

There are a few hospitality and travel teams that silently support everyone in the industry. They are consistently creating memorable experiences in this space for not only the players, but for their parents or guardians as well to ensure the event runs seamlessly. There are a select few who are historically experienced on all levels and are so deep in the community you would not even know they are there. They are the unsung heroes of esports creating financially superior experiences that keep the gamers focused, comfortable and ready to slay their competition while working toward their goals.

So, as everyone runs to add esports to their business card collection, destinations and organizations around the world are scrambling to understand the undeniable profitability of this new emerging market. Look for those unsung meeting/event planning heroes of the underground who are the ones making it all happen seamlessly. They support this industry in a way most can’t. There are many large companies, in multiple industries, trying to navigate through this billion-dollar phenomenon. You cannot put esports in a box and create normal expectations. It’s rowdy, creative, unconventional and hates structure.

What’s your take away? Look for the experienced professionals who know the industry and the history behind the hype and nostalgia.


Jamie Oakley is the owner and president of Revolution RFP, a full-service meeting management and experiential marketing company and has more than two decades of experience in the hospitality and events industry. His background includes providing services for a variety of small- and large-scale events for clients including Anime Expo, Twitch, Google, DreamHack, Vainglory and Rocket League. His experience also includes hotel operations, sales and long-term management goal-setting for luxury and multiple-unit resort properties. He has held national and global sales roles for hotels, resorts and convention and visitors bureaus as well as multiple board positions for The Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE).

Oakley will be appearing at the eSportsTravel Summit, July 17–18, at the Luxor Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. For more information, click here.