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‘There will be MWC in Barcelona next year,’ mobile trade show group vows after canceling this year’s event

February 14, 2020, 5:40 PM UTC

The wireless industry trade group that canceled this year’s huge annual Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona over coronavirus fears said it’s determined to revive the event next year.

“There will be MWC in Barcelona next year,” Stephanie Lynch-Habib, chief marketing officer for the GSMA group, told Fortune. “We have had overwhelmingly positive support from exhibitors and attendees looking forward to next year. We believe in the power of the event in person.”

The annual trade show draws over 100,000 visitors to Barcelona from 200 countries in late February every year, including a mix of people from wireless operators, device makers, software developers, and almost anyone else who has a business related to the mobile market. But as coronavirus fears grew over the past few weeks, numerous exhibitors dropped out of this year’s conference including telecom gear maker Ericsson, phonemakers LG, Vivo, and Sony, as well as U.S. tech giants Intel and Amazon

But the primary reason for canceling the show was to protect the health and safety of attendees, not due to financial reasons, GSMA’s Lynch-Habib said.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to make but in the end became impossible for the event to go ahead,” she said. “There was one definitive factor which was the health and safety of the exhibitors and the was absolutely health and safety.” 

“The last reason was anything to do with anything financial, at all,” she adds. The group was swayed in part by recent advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that large events posed a risk of helping the outbreak spread.

The event’s cancellation comes as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan, China continues to roil the global economy. The outbreak has significantly disrupted other economic activity, triggering corporate travel bans, the temporary shutdown of Tesla’s Shanghai factory, and the closure of casinos in Macau.

The Spanish government has questioned the cancellation, noting that the country has suffered few coronavirus cases.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC 2020 because of the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak,” Lynch-Habib said.

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