Mobile World Congress Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Fear

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The logical part of our brain tells us that when an epidemic strikes, we are unlikely to get the disease while we are taking the necessary cautions. That being said, there is also the “what if” that consumes us.

It’s this “what if” that has led many of the giant tech companies to pull out of the Mobile World Congress and thus causing its eventual cancellation.

Mobile World Congress was due to take place on the 24th of February 2020 in Barcelona. It is the world’s largest mobile phone trade fair with over 100,000 attendees from approximately 200 countries expected.

Since the Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, began late last year, people from all over the world have started to fear the worse and restrictions have been put into place to try and prevent the disease from spreading. GSMA, the organizers of the event attempted to put some preventative solutions in place. Handshakes were going to be banned and attendees would have had to have had their temperatures taken. An increased cleaning and disinfection program were also implemented. Not surprisingly, these measures were not satisfactory.

Huawei had already flown its staff from China over to Spain in order to self-quarantine them in advance. Yet this was still not enough as GSMA took the decision to ban anyone traveling from Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the epidemic. China was set to have a huge presence at the Mobile World Congress 2020, not only for the buzz related to 5G from Huawei but also because around 5,000-6,000 of the total attendees are from China. This makes up around 5-6% of participants.

But the final straw for this year’s Mobile World Congress was when big names started to pull out. Companies like Amazon, BT, LG, Sony, and Nokia not taking part in the world’s largest tech mobile event was going to have a massive impact on the overall success of the four-day event. Other significant names included BT, Facebook, Ericsson, Intel, Cisco, Vodafone, and Deutsche Telekom.

In total over 40 companies made the choice not to attend the MWC, stating concerns over health and safety. Still, the cancellation has major knock-on effects, most specifically on the tourism industry.

MWC is the biggest event of the year in Barcelona. The estimated income from the mobile conference was set to bring in 500 million euros. Hotels that were usually fully booked at their peak rates find themselves with empty rooms just 12 days before the start date. Transport companies take 20% of their annual income at this time. It has been a devastating blow.

It’s already been a difficult time for Spain’s tourism industry. Adverse weather has caused major damage, Thomas Cook and Brexit have also played their part. For those who have been working hard for months in preparation for the MWC, this is just drained the last ounce of motivation out of them.

Nevertheless, looking at the bigger picture, is the cancellation a bad thing? Coincidently, on the 12th of February, the same day GSMA canceled the event, there was a huge spike in confirmed cases of CONVID-19. The 600% increase was mainly due to a difference in diagnosis. On the 12th of February, the death toll was at 1,357 and still contained in Asia. In 8 days, the death toll has increased to 2,130, with only one death in Europe.

For those who were relying on the income from the World Mobile Congress 2020, the cancellation has been a disheartening blow. But what would have happened if with the influx of tourism and income, came a deadly disease that we are still unable to control?