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Coronavirus batters events industry as major shows get cancelled

Closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often has a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself

Mobile World Congress was cancelled just two weeks before it was scheduled to begin Earlier, Swatch cancelled its ‘Time to Move’ event to be held in Zurich in March, for the media and the retailers Global fashion weeks, the Milan Furniture Fair, the Beijing Auto Show, the Chinese Grand Prix and carnivals-have all been cancelled or postponed

The Coronavirus outbreak has hit the global events industry hard, with many leading exhibitions and conferences cancelled or postponed, and many more following suit. This shutdown has been further accelerated by the fact that airlines have cancelled flights to affected areas and governments have issued travel bans. A CNBC Report reveals that almost 24 global events have already been cancelled or postponed till date “hammering the $2.5 trillion trade show industry and foreshadowing more pain to come.”

Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest show for the mobile phone industry, was set to be held in Barcelona, Spain between Feb 24 and 27, 2020. The high profile show, which attracts some of the world’s leading technology and telecommunication companies was cancelled just two weeks before it was scheduled to begin, underscoring global concerns about the fast-spreading corona virus that is currently on a killing spree. 

Read: Equities fall across the globe as the coronavirus outbreak spreads

Earlier, Switzerland’s famous watchmaker Swatch cancelled its ‘Time to Move’ event to be held in Zurich in March, for the media and the retailers. Last week, the Facebook Global Marketing summit, scheduled to be held from March 9-12 in San Francisco, was cancelled owing to what the company said is “an abundance of caution.” Then again, global fashion weeks, the Milan Furniture Fair, the Beijing Auto Show, the Chinese Grand Prix and carnivals across Europe-have all been cancelled or postponed, to prevent exposure to the dangerous COVID-19. Workday a global tech company, is the latest to pull the plug on a sales conference to be held next week in Florida, that was expected to bring in over 3,000 people. Sadly, the few events that have bravely opted to carry on have run into rough weather, with several guests and speakers opting out. The Singapore, Airshow 2020, for instance, held every two years, went ahead as planned, but not before over 70 exhibitors pulled out of the show, as reported by AIN online, a publication dedicated to the aviation sector. 

Read: GCC residents more likely to see Coronavirus as a major threat compared to Europeans, Americans

The UAE, meanwhile, has said it has no plans to cancel public events and shows and is monitoring the COVID-19 situation thoroughly. Reuters reported that an official from the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said “the UAE was “well prepared and equipped” for the “worst-case scenario” and is closely monitoring the spread of the virus in other countries.”  

The spread of the Coronavirus in the Middle East region is being viewed with a lot of concern, as it is expected to impact the tourism industry, a key driver of economic growth and development. In fact, according to a report from MiceMinds, an event management solutions provider company, “the Middle East remains at the forefront as one of the fastest-growing tourism generators globally and an important source market for any destination.”

Read: Economic effects of the Wuhan Coronavirus on UAE businesses

According to them, “UAE is the second biggest source market for outbound travel from the Middle East, surpassed only by Saudi Arabia. This growth has been buoyed by the growth of the regional airlines as well as the increase in the number of bespoke event experiences that are personalized and designed to attract maximum footfall.” But now with COVID-19 looming large,  there is likely to be a dent in the growth of the travel and events industry, it is feared. 

Read: Fears of a global spread of COVID-19 are fuelling a risk-off episode in markets

An analysis by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination following an epidemic scare is 19 months, though this could be reduced to 10 months if the right responses were introduced at the right time. “We analyse many global crises within WTTC and previous cases have shown us that the economic losses from health epidemics are avoidable, through the effective use of crisis preparedness and management procedures, as well as through managing public panic and making rational decisions through travel.  Previous cases have also shown us that closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often has a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself,” said Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of WTTC, in the report.