CORONAVIRUS

Virus Worries Force Cancellation Of Major Tech Show In Spain

Feb 12, 2020, 2:51 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2020, 10:36 am
FILE: A general view of the Huawei stand on February 26, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.  Mobile World Co...
FILE: A general view of the Huawei stand on February 26, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Mobile World Congress 2018 is the largest exhibition for the mobile industry. (Photo by Robert Marquardt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Marquardt/Getty Images)

LONDON (AP) – Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China.

The annual Mobile World Congress will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24-27.

“Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, head of the GSMA organizing body, said in a statement Wednesday.

The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancelations by Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Britain’s BT on Wednesday. Other companies that dropped out earlier include Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The companies cited concerns for the safety of staff and visitors.

Organizers and government officials had sought to hold out against growing pressure to cancel the annual tech extravaganza, which had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China. The show normally represents a huge source of revenue for hotels, restaurants and taxi companies. Authorities have estimated the show was to generate 473 million euros ($516 million) and more than 14,000 part-time jobs for the local economy.

Spain’s vice president, Carmen Calvo, said there was “no public health reason” to call off the show. She said Spain had a good health response system and was following all of the recommendations from the World Health Organization.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said before the cancellation that the show could have gone on.

He said that while no mass gathering is ever risk-free, with the potential for food poisoning, injuries or building collapse, most events “can continue if the proper measures can be applied.”

Spanish labor unions said that the show was called off due to the panic of the major technological companies. The CCOO union’s regional leader, Javier Pacheco, denounced “the alarmist attitude of the technological companies that from their position of global supremacy don’t care about the local impact.”

But Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, said cancellation was prudent with all the unknowns surrounding how the new virus is spread and the fact that many companies had already pulled out.

These days, most big companies hold their own product launch events anyway, as Samsung did Tuesday in San Francisco. But Bajarin said Mobile World Congress was still an opportunity for many people in the mobile industry to meet in one place.

“It allowed for a lot of networking and business dealings, so in that context, it was a significant loss,” he said.

The GSMA, the wireless trade body that organizes the fair, had said it was meeting regularly with global and Spanish health experts and its partners to ensure the well-being of attendees. It had already urged participants to avoid handshakes and planned to step up cleaning and disinfecting and make sure speakers don’t use the same microphone.

Earlier Wednesday, Nokia said it had decided to withdraw “after a full assessment of the risks related to a fast-moving situation.” The company said “the health and well-being of employees was a primary focus” and that canceling its involvement was a “prudent decision.”

The departures of Nokia and Ericsson had left China’s Huawei, a major sponsor of the fair, as the only remaining major network gear maker still planning to attend. But even Huawei was scaling back by assigning European staff to the show instead. Its chairman had planned to hold a media briefing by video because he wouldn’t get to Spain with enough time to undergo a two-week self-quarantine period.

Organizers were caught between risking potential backlash over public health concerns if they went ahead or facing big financial losses if they canceled, said Stephen Mears, a research analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

Even before the cancellation, Mears said his five-person team was considering dropping out or shortening the trip as many participants they wanted to meet wouldn’t be there, including those from China, which accounts for an increasing share of the global smartphone and mobile network industry.

“It’s becoming less and less valuable for people like us to attend if we’re not able to get meetings with the high-level executives,” he said.

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said companies now have to figure out “the best way to salvage something from this difficult situation.”

Randy Nelson, head of insights at mobile data firm Sensor Tower, said his company had planned on having a booth at Mobile World Congress. He said his firm expected to recoup the exhibiting fees since it hadn’t pulled out, but had not heard from organizers yet.

While the cancellation was a disappointment, Nelson said, the work that went into planning for the show can still be useful for future events, including the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in March.

___

Mae Anderson reported from New York. Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

RSV and flu...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Flu season intensifies, holiday gatherings could make it worse

Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that's worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide.
21 hours ago
Protesters hold up blank papers and chant slogans as they march in protest in Beijing, Sunday, Nov....
Jessie Yeung and CNN's Beijing bureau

Rare protests are spreading across China. Here’s what you need to know

From Shanghai to Beijing, protests have erupted across China in a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party.
21 hours ago
Police officers block Shanghai's Urumqi Road on Sunday. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)...
CNN's Beijing bureau and Nectar Gan

Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy

Protests erupted across China throughout the weekend, including at universities and in Shanghai where hundreds chanted "Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!"
2 days ago
Salt Lake City Police at the University of Utah Hospital due to a possible bomb threat. (Salt Lake ...
Michael Houck

Police: Unattended bag led to bomb squad response at U of U Hospital

Salt Lake City Police responded to a possible bomb threat at the University of Utah hospital Tuesday afternoon.
14 days ago
Evusheld...
Elizabeth Cohen and Naomi Thomas, CNN

COVID-19 medicine for immunocompromised patients is losing effectiveness

Judy Salins considers herself a smart, empowered patient, but until this week, she had no idea that the medicine she takes to defend herself against Covid-19 isn't protecting her as well as it used to.
18 days ago
Paxlovid, the antiviral pill that reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19, also...
Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

Paxlovid reduces risk of long Covid, Veterans Affairs study finds

Paxlovid, the antiviral pill that reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19, also reduces the risk of long Covid, according to a new study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Virus Worries Force Cancellation Of Major Tech Show In Spain