It’s over – MWC 2020 finally cancelled over coronavirus fears

Photo by Chalabala

After a week of ‘will they or won’t they’ conjecture, the GSMA has finally come to its senses and cancelled this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). Mind you, it took a lot of pressure coming to this inevitable decision after the mass departure of both key exhibitors and major mobile operators.

Disruptive.Asia was one of the first publications questioning whether the event should proceed considering world concerns over the spread of the coronavirus now named ‘Covid-19’. We ran an online poll and found that over 80% of respondents wanted the event either postponed or cancelled.

In a statement, GSMA Ltd. CEO John Hoffman stated: “With due regard to the 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 concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”

As Venturebeat points out, ‘impossible’ is a word that was likely selected for legal reasons. Under certain circumstances, legal contracts can be unilaterally exited if it becomes impossible for one party to perform. Bringing 100,000 people together for a conference during an international pandemic may  not have been strictly impossible, but it may well have been “impracticable,” which means hugely impractical or all but impossible.

A number of exhibitors we spoke to were purposely holding off their decisions not to attend fearing that there would be no compensation or credits gained by jumping early. Logically, they and attendees that had already forked out money, will expect either refunds or rollover to the next event.

Sadly, there will probably be little or no compensation from airlines, hotels and accommodation specialists like Airbnb but the reduction of risk may well be worth it. However, Barcelona itself will miss out on its biggest annual pay day. We wonder what the train drivers, pickpockets and demonstrators will do now that their favourite time for disruption has left them.

Get ready now for the slew of virtual events, product rollouts and press releases that exhibitors usually save up for the big event.

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