With the number of cases of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, on the rise outside of China, there are increasing fears of a global pandemic. As a result, events and conferences are being cancelled around the globe to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
The spread of coronavirus has imposed big changes on industry players, not only altering workplace policies, but severely impacting what was originally going to be a busy slate of conferences and events in spring 2020.
February was set to hail the beginning of a busy year, with Mobile World Congress, the annual mobile event, being held in Barcelona. The event welcomes over one-hundred thousand visitors throughout the 4-day event. It was cancelled on February 12, two weeks before it was supposed to take place.
In what looks like a domino effect, and in line with efforts to ensure health and safety of the public, event organizers in the UAE and all over the world have been postponing and cancelling their events, owing to coronavirus. Most large gatherings are being flat-out cancelled, and others are being transitioned into virtual events, with live-streamed content.
The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the risk of the new coronavirus to "very high," which is its highest level. Though not yet termed a pandemic, more than 100,000 cases of the current coronavirus have been reported with 3,600 fatalities.
The WHO issued a document with key recommendations for large gatherings in the context of the current Covid-19 outbreak, stating that there is a “potential for serious public health consequences if they are not planned and managed carefully.”
However, for most organizers, there is too great of a risk that they will be held liable for an outbreak of the virus where thousands of people have come to gather in one area.
One aspect of the cancellation that is out of the control of event organizers is how the airlines and hotels respond. Most business travelers who want to preemptively cancel trips to tech conferences cannot expect to receive a full refund, resulting in further financial loss.
A report places the economic loss of the events cancelled in 2020 so far over coronavirus concerns at $1 billion, a number that doesn’t include the simultaneous negative effect on airlines, hotels and transport companies alike.
On the prospects for MWC Shanghai, due to take place at the end of June, the GSMA said this: “As for MWC Shanghai, coronavirus has had a significant impact in China, with many events and public gatherings cancelled. We are hopeful that the circumstances will improve and are monitoring the situation carefully.”