It's definitive: this year's Mobile World Congress will not be held. Coronavirus has laid waste to Barcelona's largest trade show, in a decision in which one of the key elements was the domino effect of withdrawals by leading companies. Initial concern on Wednesday last week, when South Korean firm LG cancelled its attendance with a statement that referred to the health and safety of its employees, partners and clients, was transformed hour by hour into a global panic that was not mitigated by the medical and political authorities' discourse that there was no danger. In just seven days, it has all gone wrong for MWC 2020, after a week dominated by a steady drip feed of announcements by businesses cancelling their attendance, a list which by the end had the very significant figure of forty names on it.
The cancellation of the Mobile World Congress is bad news, with revenue losses close to 500 million euros for the city of Barcelona, this being the expected spending by the more than 100,000 people due to attend the event over three days in the Catalan capital. It is surprising, for example, that only one week later, in the first days of March, the Geneva Motor Show is to be held, one of the largest automobile fairs in Europe, held annually and which in 2019 attracted 690,000 visitors, 11,000 press representatives from 87 countries and 260 exhibitors, with 135 car presentations. Or that one of the largest trade shows in the world of professional audio and video technology, ISE 2020, is currently taking place with absolute normality in Amsterdam. A trade fair, by the way, which got underway without any hysteria and which is expected to admit 100,000 people through its doors. Among those present there, for example, will be Sony and Intel, two companies which declined to attend the 'Mobile', as well as numerous Chinese firms which have sent staff specially to serve visitors. All in the midst of what, at least, seems to be normality.
These are just two examples, albeit important ones, since we are talking about events with a global dimension. Just as global is the economic crisis that will occur as a result of coronavirus and of which the first symptoms are already being noticed, with China logically at the epicentre. The trade war between the United States and China now has an uninvited guest which will pass a significant bill to Beijing and slow the economy of the Asian giant in the fight for world leadership. In this context, nothing is given for free and companies are sometimes pawns of global strategies that are far more important and decisive for world hegemony.
Although the decision to cancel the MWC belongs to the organizer GSMA alone, given that it is the business association of the sector which reaches an agreement with the Barcelona trade fair company for the holding of its congress in the city, the public authorities are not prepared to get any kind of argument with the decision-maker since their main goal right now is to save the congress for 2021 and, if possible, to extend the current agreement which runs out in 2023. Although GSMA's announcement of the cancellation this year has made it clear that the 2021 show will be held in Barcelona, it is never inappropriate to keep on strengthening the connection to an event that has many suitors. In any case, the cancellation of this year will undoubtedly open a reflection on the importance of the Mobile, clearing away much of the demagoguery that has been practiced on the subject by certain political groups.