MWC 2018: attendance dips and alleged govt subsidies

gsma MWC 2018
Image credit: GSMA

The GSMA is declaring last week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) as a huge success, despite a drop in attendance. In possibly unrelated news, the Spanish government is reportedly paying 165 million euros in subsidies to keep the event in Barcelona until 2023.

The GSMA says that around 107,000 visitors from 205 countries and territories attended MWC 2018. That’s a slight drop from last year’s figure of 108,000. On the other hand, the GSMA also said that over 7,700 CEOs attended, up from 6,100 in 2017. The event also managed to attract slightly more women this year – 24% of attendees and 28% of speakers were women, compared to 23% and 21% respectively last year.

The significance of those numbers will depend on who you ask, as always. For all the talk about MWC having peaked as an event, a drop of 1,000 visitors year on year isn’t exactly alarming. Even so, in a statement, GSMA Ltd CEO John Hoffman opted to put an emphasis on quality over quantity:

“… [W]e are not focused on necessarily having the biggest event – we continually strive to convene the right audience and deliver a high-quality experience across all aspects of the event, the conference, the exhibition, and the many other programs and events at Mobile World Congress.”

Meanwhile the male/female ratio – while technically an improvement – isn’t all that big of a jump, although the GSMA staged a number of Women4Tech events throughout the conference, and even staged a keynote specifically on the topic of women in tech (albeit on the last day of the show).

In any case, the GSMA plans to bring MWC back to Barcelona next year (February 25-28) – which is worth mentioning because Spanish newspaper El Mundo is reporting that the Spanish government has guaranteed 165 million euros in non-refundable subsidies to the GSMA to keep the MWC in Barcelona until 2023.

The El Mundo report, which cites unnamed sources, claims that the central government is contributing 55 million euros to that figure, with the rest split between the Barcelona city council and the Catalan government.

The GSMA has already signed a contract with the city of Barcelona to host the show until 2023, but after last year’s row over Catalan independence, the GSMA hinted it might relocate the show if things became too politically unstable. That said, the alleged payments are apparently unrelated, as the 165-million euro figure covers payments that began in 2011 and will continue until 2023.

Barcelona arguably has a lot to lose if MWC moves elsewhere (Dubai, Munich and Paris are keen to take over, reports Telecompaper). According to the GSMA, MWC 2018 contributed approximately 471 million euros and over 13,000 part-time jobs to the local economy.

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