The number of international companies pulling out of this year’s Mobile World Congress is slowly growing. First ZTE said it would be scaling back its attendance at the show, cancelling its press conference and implementing a range of measures to ensure the health and safety of its executives, staff, local staff and visitors.
At least ZTE’s still going to be at the show. LG has already pulled the pin completely, out of an abundance of caution for its staff and visitors. In the last 24 hours, Ericsson has pulled out citing similar concerns, and just today, Nvidia has confirmed it’s out, too.
Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm in a statement said the company was withdrawing from MWC over fears around the novel Coronavirus outbreak:
“The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority.
We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”
GSMA has acknowledged the decision, though it doesn’t believe it’s entirely necessary:
“The GSMA regret to see Ericsson’s decision not to attend MWC Barcelona this year as they are an important player in our ecosystem.
We respect their decision and are reassured by their commitment that they will be at MWC Barcelona 2021 in full force and our rebook trends for next year’s event remain high.
Ericsson’s cancellation will have some impact on our presence at this time and will potentially have further impact.”
With such a big player pulling out – Ericsson’s presence is huge not only in terms of its influence, but also in terms of the floor space it takes up at the conference venue – there were bound to be others pulling out too. Nvidia joined that list today, citing similar concerns:
We’ve informed GSMA, the organizers of MWC Barcelona, that we won’t be sending our employees to this year’s event.
Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern.
For our part, we’re waiting to see which other companies pull out. Best practice – which ZTE is following – suggests that those staff attending MWC (and particularly those from mainland China) should be travelling to Europe two weeks ahead of the conference and self-quarantining for that period to ensure they’re healthy and well when the conference begins.
However, with accommodation already super expensive this time of year, and an even bigger demand due to companies following this practice above, it’s likely that those prices will skyrocket, if accommodation doesn’t sell out completely.
This will have a flow on effect. Companies wanting to attend early (and which haven’t booked for this contingency) simply won’t be able to do so. They’ll have little choice but to quarantine elsewhere in Europe (at considerable expense), or simply not travel at all.
We’ve not seen any other announcements yet, but as the conference dates approach, I know that we – and many others – will be watching the travel advisories and health news carefully so that we all can make an informed decision on whether to attend.