The cancellation of Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress will obviously have a major effect on the telecom industry, as the year’s major event to hobnob and ink deals won’t take place. But it will also have an outsized effect on another industry: Barcelona tourism, and perhaps European tourism at large.
The event, which was meant to take place Feb. 24 to 27 was cancelled Wednesday due to global concerns over Covid-19, or the coronavirus. The GSMA, which organizes the event, made the call after a slew of major tech companies including Amazon, Nokia, and LG Electronics pulled out over concerns. In a statement, it said the climate of global concern made it “impossible for the GSMA to hold the event” despite increased health, safety, and screening measures it had put forth.
The congress has been held in Barcelona since 2006, and in that time has come to serve as a key part of Barcelona’s visitor economy. In 2019, the event attracted more than 100,000 visitors from 200 countries. It also resulted in an estimated economic impact of 473 million euros ($513 million) and 13,900 temporary jobs. Not to mention the cab drivers, restauranteurs, and tourism businesses which see a swell of patrons.
Events like MWC also serve as an opportunity for Barcelona to showcase itself as a the ideal place for such mega-events, offering nice weather, spacious facilities, and plenty of culture and dining to keep conference-goers happy after hours. Barcelona’s tourism board did not respond to a request from Skift about how much of its visitor economy is comprised by meetings and events.
A press conference happened Thursday morning, held by conference organizers GSMA, Barcelona city hall, and trade fair institution Fira Barcelona. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau indicated the event will return next year during her remarks.
“Obviously, we’re sorry about the economic impact the cancellation will have, but also about the volume of work, so much work by so many people, so much enthusiasm that goes into it, and clearly there were so many people looking forward to coming and exchanging experiences and knowledge, so we’re sorry that’s not going to happen this year,” Mayor Colau said. “Having expressed our regret, and our solidarity with the victims who have died in China, what’s really important is what you’re seeing here today. We’re working shoulder to shoulder, completely coordinated, with maximum loyalty and absolute transparency towards the public, so that next year’s edition of the MWC Barcelona is the best ever, and the first of many more to come.”