The network operator association GSMA has rejected media reports about another postponement of MWC Barcelona. Last late summer, the association moved the leading trade fair for the mobile communications industry, originally planned for March 2021, to the end of June. According to a Spanish media report, the summer date is now on the brink. The GSMA is already looking for an alternative date in the last quarter of the year, reports the news portal The Spanish.
The background to this is the ongoing uncertainty as to whether and how major events such as the MWC, which recently had 109,000 visitors, can be held under the pandemic-related restrictions and hygiene regulations. Furthermore, it is questionable whether the predominantly international audience of the MWC can and wants to come. Two thirds of the visitors to the fair come from abroad. A third of this came from visitors from the five most strongly represented countries, the USA, Great Britain, China, Germany and France.
Travel restrictions until autumn?
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez caused a stir in January with remarks that, given the slow progress in vaccination, he did not expect tourist traffic to normalize before the end of the summer. Thereupon it was speculated in the Spanish media that the government was planning further entry restrictions, which would affect the MWC as well as mass tourism. Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto had then emphasized that Spain hoped to be able to receive tourists again by the end of spring and especially in summer.
The GSMA is also sticking to the summer date. A spokeswoman for heise online rejects media reports about a planned postponement as “speculative and incorrect”. “MWC Barcelona continues to enjoy exceptionally strong support from exhibitors and sponsors,” said the GSMA spokeswoman. “We are working with our partners in Spain to have a safe and innovative MWC at the end of June.” The GSMA is currently preparing the MWC Shanghai before, who is swapping dates with MWC Barcelona this year and is now supposed to start on February 23.
Vaccination or test as a prerequisite?
However, there is the possibility that entry to Spain or participation in major events could only be permitted with a stamp in the vaccination certificate. The Spanish government will think twice about such drastic measures in view of the large tourism industry, but so far this cannot be ruled out. Industry insiders have so far assumed that at least one negative test will be required to participate in the MWC in Barcelona.
The exhibitors are planning a two-pronged approach. Telekom prepares “basically all events as hybrid events,” said a spokeswoman. “This year we will continuously monitor the global pandemic situation and then decide at short notice how we will participate in the Mobile World Congress 2021.” Even with the Spanish Telefónica, for which the MWC is traditionally something of a home game, the die has not yet been cast.
The major suppliers are extremely important as core exhibitors. If the fair takes place, Huawei will be on site as usual, said a spokesman. Ericsson also expects a presence fair. “Ericsson has registered for our regular area in Hall 2 for MWC 2021 and is planning accordingly,” said a spokesman. “Should there be any signs that the global pandemic will remain a risk factor the closer we get to the event, we will review our decision on this.” Nokia does not want to comment specifically on this, but is “examining” its “options”.
MWC 2020 was canceled at short notice in February of last year after important exhibitors withdrew in view of the growing number of cases in Asia and increasing uncertainty. The GSMA’s decision, which was sharply criticized in Spain at the time, turned out to be correct and responsible in retrospect. MWC Barcelona was the first major event of its kind to be canceled, with many others following suit.