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Bill Bennett

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MWC canned on corona virus fears

This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has been cancelled after mass cancellations from exhibitors worried about the corona virus. GSMA, the organising body pulled the plug on Wednesday, two weeks before the event was due to begin. Before GSMA acted big names such as Cisco, Nokia, Vodafone group and Facebook all dropped out.

The Financial Times (behind a paywall) reports:

The conference’s cancellation will be a big blow for Barcelona, where hotels and restaurants ramp up prices in expectation of a bumper week that attracts high-spending telecoms executives. Local media has estimated that it generates €492m for the city, and creates about 14,000 temporary jobs.

This makes a lot of sense. MWC is a huge four day event, more than 100,000 people from all over the world attend. Many are from China where the virus is most prevalent. Last year the organisers boasted there were more than 1 million business meetings at the event.

If only one of those people tested positive for the virus, all the attendees would need to be quarantined for two weeks. Apart from anything else, the expense and logistics of that would be on an unprecedented scale.

Apart from the financial risk, the danger for GSMA is that cancelling this year’s MWC could put next year’s event in jeopardy. But let’s not dismiss that financial risk, the show’s insurers appear unwilling to pay out for cancellation.

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