Mobile World Congress Cancelled Over Coronavirus Concerns

The widely attended technology industry event, which takes place each year in Barcelona, was cancelled over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the event’s cancellation on Wednesday.

The Wuhan coronavirus is forcing the cancellation of one of the one of the world’s most widely attended telecom tradeshows.

On Wednesday, the GSM Association announced it was cancelling Mobile World Congress, a 100,000-person event it organizes in Barcelona. The news comes a day after a report in Spanish media [translated] said that the association was discussing its options.

“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,” said GSMA Limited CEO John Hoffman in a statement. “The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision.”

According to TechCrunch, at least 22 vendors have dropped out of this month’s Mobile World Congress (MWC)—among them major names like Sony, Intel, LG, Nvidia, and Amazon—had cancelled as of Tuesday, and even more cancelled since then.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, GSMA had noted the challenges facing the event in recent days due to the coronavirus, though publicly stated it planned to continue the event as recently as February 9.

Prior to announcing MWC’s cancellation, GMSA had also planned to take proactive measures to protect people’s health, including encouraging good hygiene, increasing onsite medical support, and implementing a “no-handshake policy” between attendees.

“The GSMA strongly urges exhibitors and attendees to implement appropriate guidelines and protocols as suggested by the [World Health Organization] and other health authorities to contain and mitigate against any further spread of the virus,” the association stated last week. “The health and safety of our exhibitors, attendees, and staff are of paramount importance.”

Concerns about how the coronavirus could affect the conference industry are rising this week, with The Washington Post noting that many events in Asia have been canceled in recent days. In comments to the newspaper, IACC CEO Mark Cooper noted on Tuesday that a decision to cancel an event taking place in Europe would be fairly unique at this juncture, however. Cooper added that his group, which represents the owners of event venues around the world, was taking the situation seriously.

“It is absolutely a situation that is making the meetings and conference industry stand up, react and prepare,” Cooper said.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!