The organizers of the World Mobile Congress announced on Wednesday that they had canceled the world's best mobile phone trade show due to fears of the corona virus after an exodus of industry heavyweights.
The mobile communications fair is one of the largest events worldwide, which has been canceled due to the virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people so far.
The announcement came after GSMA, the mobile phone association that organized the annual show, held a meeting to decide the fate of the event, which was scheduled to take place in Barcelona on February 24-27.
"The GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because of global concerns about the outbreak of the corona virus, travel problems and other circumstances making it impossible for the GSMA to host the event," said a statement.
The decision was made "with due regard for the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country" and the host city parties understood the cancellation.
Just a few hours before the meeting, Vodafone, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, British company BT and Rakuten had withdrawn from Japan and followed in the footsteps of Intel, Facebook, Cisco and China's Vivo.
A source close to the event had said the organizers were careful not to leave a cancellation bill of around $ 100 million ($ 110 million). The authorities have faced opposition because of a health emergency in Spain that would allow the insurance company to cover the costs.
So far, Spain has only registered two confirmed cases of infection.
The annual congress in Barcelona usually attracts more than 100,000 people, including between 5,000 and 6,000 from China, the organizers say.
This year, however, participation was affected by the virus outbreak, which infected approximately 44,600 people.
The decision will surely be a big blow for Barcelona, as the big fair is expected to bring in almost 500 million euros, according to the organizers.
"It is the highlight of the year," said Ignacio Arias, manager of the AC Som Marriott Hotel, which is in close proximity to the venue where the conference has been held since 2006.
"During the four days of the congress, the hotel is packed with the highest rates of the year. There is no comparable week," he said in his words, which were repeated by other hoteliers.
"We should accommodate the team that is putting together Sony's booth, but they didn't show up. Ericsson canceled 30 rooms and Intel and LG canceled their meeting rooms," said the manager of another hotel, which they almost didn't want to give the name.
"It feels like we've been working for months for free. So far this year has been pretty sluggish and it will only wipe us out."
Ride sharing companies were also on the rise.
"This period makes up 20 percent of our annual income," said Jose Maria Goni, who operates Unauto, a fleet of vehicles that can be rented with drivers.
Trickle to a deluge
The cancellations began on February 4 when LG Electronics from South Korea, which is one of the largest areas at the show, said it wanted to "eliminate the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel … while the virus continues to occur." Borders ".
At that point, nearly 500 people had died after becoming infected with the virus.
China's leading smartphone maker Huawei and its smaller rival ZTE said their plans remained unchanged, but pledged executives and employees would go through a self-imposed two-week quarantine period while ZTE said its booth and equipment would be disinfected daily.
The organizers also tried to reassure exhibitors by saying that they would strengthen security measures, impose restrictions on visitors from China, and have the staff at their disposal to measure visitor temperatures.
But it wasn't enough, and the trickle of retreats quickly became a flood of dozens of companies pulling out of the show.