Can Barcelona's MWC Survive Coronavirus?

Mobile World Congress (MWC) needs no introduction to any European technologist or marketer. It's massive, and it's the show to go to and be seen at each year. Anyone who is anyone is there, and the fact that it's in one of Europe's most beautiful cities is an added bonus. Where else can you admire Gaudi architecture, tour Barcelona's soccer stadium and sunbathe on a beach, all in the same day?

It's in peril, though, this year and the talk of the town (London that is, not the Catalonian capital) is that the event is going to struggle to run this year. 

We've already seen the great and the good pull out. One of the latest was Facebook, but over the past few days we've had news that LG, Ericsson, Sony and Intel, among many others, will not be attending due to fears of coronavirus.

It's impossible to tell what the thinking of each company pulling out is -- after all, the event is in Spain (or rather Catalonia, as any local will remind you) and not China.

However, the disease is showing signs of being highly contagious, as the case of the British businessman who infected skiing companions in France after a trip to Singapore recently proved.

Presumably, the elephant in the room here is that 5G is the big subject of the day, and that means the Chinese will be turning up in force to show off their technology. To be honest, they'd be going anyway, but one can imagine the rise of 5G would see more companies from the Far East than usual sending more people than usual.

That means the huge corporations have a stark choice, and you can imagine there have been some serious talks about litigation and exposure to HR laws. Imagine if a member of staff were to contract the disease at the Congress and die. I'm no expert on personnel law, but there may well be an angle that the corporation that sent them there should have known better.

Could sending an employee to a conference where so many people from China, and surrounding markets, will be present be seen as neglectful? 

I'm sure many lawyers have been asked for their opinion on that one, prompting some of the biggest names in the game to cancel their attendance. 

That leaves other corporations with two huge questions. Should they still send their people? Is it worth going to if so many big names are not going to be there?

They're very tough questions, and it's now hard to see how Mobile World Congress can still take place later this month.

Those who do send their people may be seen to be taking less care of their employees than those who have pulled out. This may seem even more heartless when you consider the number of people pulling out means the trip was always going to be less fruitful than previously hoped.

It's really hard to see the organiser, the GSMA, still managing to host the Congress this year. Mobile Marketing reports that a meeting is scheduled for Friday where the final decision will be made. 

It's clear the show can no longer be a success with so many high-profile companies not attending and with such a looming shadow hanging over it. 

I'm no gambling man, but I would be surprised if the show goes ahead. That means there will be a lot of mobile marketing and technology execs with holes in their diaries in the final week of February. There may just be quite a few decent deals on cancelled flights and hotel rooms going too. 

Next story loading loading..