The coronavirus is continuing to have an impact on the meetings and events industry, causing exhibitors to pull out of a major technology event; shutting venues in Wuhan, China; and disrupting travel. It is coronavirus fear at its strongest.
Today, Wednesday, February 12, 2020, GSMA, which organizes the Mobile World Congress (MWC), was forced to admit it would have to axe this year’s event after more than 40 companies pulled out citing health and safety concerns.
The MWC, which is billed as “the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry” and which attracts around 100,000 visitors from almost 200 countries, looks set to be significantly affected by the spread of the virus.
Companies that have announced their withdrawal due to this coronavirus fear include Amazon, Ericsson, Facebook, Sony, Intel, Cisco and LG, BT, Nokia, Ericsson, the US chipmaker Intel, Cisco, Vodafone, and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.
The Chinese firm Huawei was scheduled to be one of the event’s biggest exhibitors and had flown employees to Spain to self-quarantine in advance, reported The Guardian.
The GSMA had banned travelers from Hubei, the province at the center of the virus outbreak. Approximately 5,000-6,000 (5-6%) of the attendees each year have come from China.
Tonight, in a written GSMA statement on MWC Barcelona 2020, John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Limited commented:
“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern, and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.
“The host city parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the host city partners will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators and nearly 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers, and Internet companies, as well as organizations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Shanghai, and Los Angeles, as well as the Mobile 360 Series of regional conferences.
The full cancellation will also represent a significant loss to Barcelona and the city’s hospitality industry. The show is estimated to be worth about €500m (US$543m) to the city and provides 14,000 part-time jobs for local workers, reported Spanish media.