Planners throughout the world are stepping up efforts to deal with complications stemming from the spreading coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) by cancelling and postponing events, as well as keeping a close eye on those that are still scheduled to take place.
The outbreak has caused a widespread disruption in the global economy, which has affected the meeting and hospitality industries. Airlines, most notably United and American, have cancelled flights and cruise ships have restricted travel to China—with some cutting out travel entirely. Hotels are bracing for the spread of the virus, ranging from taking precautions with employees and guests to, in China, temporarily closing more than 60 percent of the hotels.
MWC Trade Show Cancelled
The world’s largest annual trade show for the mobile phone industry, MWC Barcelona 2020, has been cancelled due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.
The Mobile World Congress event was scheduled to take place Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain, but the organizers, GSMA, announced Wednesday it would no longer be holding it due to the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“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,” GSMA said in a statement.
Debate Over Possible Cancellation of 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Whether the Summer Olympic Games should be held amid the outbreak is up for debate. In an interview, Dick Pound, senior member of International Olympics Committee, told the Associated Press that he estimates there is a three-month window for a decision about whether to hold the Olympics, giving decision-makers until May.
According to Pound, if the Olympics do not take place as scheduled, it is more likely they will be cancelled rather than postponed or moved. “You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics. There are so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons and television seasons. You can’t just say, ‘We’ll do it in October,’” he said.
Nor is moving the Olympics to a different location a viable option, “because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on,” Pound said.
Responding to Pound’s comments, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a Wednesday press conference that the Olympics will be held as planned in July, according to Nikkei Asian Review. “We would like to prepare steadily for the event, including offering information abroad regarding our measures against the spread of the coronavirus,” Suga said.
Japan has spent between $12.6 billion to $25.2 billion to build facilities and make other preparations for the Olympics. If the Games are cancelled, sponsors could lose out financially, according to Nikkei, which cited analysts who said there would be little recourse for sponsors to recoup their money.
Tech Companies are Drawing Out of Events
GSMA cancelled its Mobile World Congress (MWC), which was scheduled for Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, after many companies pulled out. But Britain-based Telemedia Magazine then threw an unofficial party, The Unofficial MWC Party. Many tech companies bowed out, LG being one of the first by pulling out in early February. ZTE cancelled its press conference at MWC. Amazon, Sony, Vivo, Intel, Cisco, Nokia and Ericsson, one of the events largest exhibitors, also cancelled.
RSA Conference, a cybersecurity event scheduled to take place Feb. 24-28, will still take place, despite major players, including IBM, Verizon and AT&T, drawing out. Cisco Live, which was set to begin in early March in Melbourne, Australia, has been cancelled.
Facebook cancelled its March Global Marketing Summit, which was set to take place in San Francisco March 9–12. Its annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, Facebook’s largest event of the year, which is set for May, has not been cancelled.
Gaming Events are Seeing Major Dropouts
Game Developers’ Conference (GDC) and PAX East are seeing the impact of the virus, as numerous companies are dropping out of the events. Much of the Chinese industry will not be at GDC, and will either send their North American representatives to run booths or cancel participation altogether.
Electronic Arts, Facebook/Oculus, Kojima Productions and Sony have all dropped out of GDC. Facebook said it still would like to make announcements, but via digital formats.
Although Capcom, Square Enix and Kojima Productions have dropped out of PAX East in Boston, planned for Feb. 27–March 1, the event will still take place.
Europe Cuts Gatherings Short
As the virus spread to Europe, various events across the country have either been cancelled or cut short. The two-week Carnival in Venice ended two days early. Many other events, including opera performances, walking tours, cruises and parades, have been cancelled, as well.
For the first time in 45 years, Giorgio Armani cancelled his live show in Milan and streamed it online on Feb. 23 in what normally is a packed theater. Shanghai Fashion Week, which was scheduled to take place March 2-April 1, has been postponed indefinitely. Paris Fashion Week, which is being held between Feb. 24-March 3, is still going strong. Seoul Fashion Week was scheduled for March 17-21, but has been cancelled.