Exclusive: GPJ comments on Mobile World Congress coronavirus cancellation

MWC in Barcelona will not go ahead, as one senior agency planner says brands took action after consulting chief medical officers.

GSMA director general Mats Granryd announced the cancellation in Barcelona.
GSMA director general Mats Granryd announced the cancellation in Barcelona.

The Mobile World Congress has been cancelled after big brands like Amazon, BT and Nokia pulled out of the international mobile phone event in Barcelona, which was meant to take place on 24 February.

The world’s largest mobile phone trade fair has seen a number of big tech and telecommunications companies pull out because of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement from the mobile communications association GSMA (an association for mobile communications companies), its CEO John Hoffman, said: ”With due regard to a 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 concerns and other circumstances make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event."

The GSMA and the Host City Parties said that they continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.

More than 100,000 delegates from about 200 countries were expected to attend the four-day event.

Huawei was to be one event’s biggest exhibitors and employees traveled to Spain to self-quarantine ahead of the event, the newspaper revealed, adding that up 6,000 attendees come from China each year.

Companies such as Facebook, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, Cisco, Amazon, Vodafone Deutsche Telekom and BT, EE, all pulled out, according to The Guardian.

Speaking to C&IT, Kurt Miller, George P. Johnson (GPJ) senior vice president of strategy & planning, warned that he had already heard of brands pulling out of the congress.

"Case in point is the current action many brands are taking regarding Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Some brands have pulled out completely, others are removing ancillary activities and keeping core investments, and many are consulting with their chief medical officers to reduce attendance to essential customer-facing employees."

Jason Megson, managing director VP at GPJ UK, added: "The recent cancellation of Mobile World Congress is a disappointing outcome for a significant portion of the European events industry, notwithstanding the more acute impact this will have on the Catalonian economy in the short-term.

"Although we remain cautiously optimistic that governments and health authorities will work tirelessly to bring this epidemic under control, we remain vigilant and are planning for a turbulent start to the 2020 global events calendar.

"It's a fast moving and fluid situation that we hope to have a clearer prognosis of in the next couple of weeks, after which we'll be looking for the health risks to dissipate and a return to our plans for another strong year."

It is thought the congress is worth about €500m (£420m) to Barcelona with 14,000 part-time jobs for workers in and around the city, according to reports.

In other developments, ABC News in Australia is reporting that the federal government is expected to extend its 14-day ban on tourists travelling from mainland China because of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Vietnam Airlines was reported to be losing $10m a week after it gave an early indication of the financial impact on the aviation industry with a loss of 250bn dong ($10.8m) a week in revenue.

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