The Mobile World Congress held last week at the Fira de Barcelona facilities in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat brought together only 20,000 in-person attendees, who were joined by 100,000 from the virtual platform. The number of face-to-face participants, which was made public this Tuesday by the mobile industry employer, GSMA, does not meet the expectations set by the organization of the congress, which had planned some 35,000 people. The mobility restrictions due to the covid 19 pandemic, and the decision of important companies in the sector not to attend the business meeting place the 2021 edition as the smallest. In spite of everything, the GSMA considers its celebration a success and sees it as a starting point for the recovery of the economy.
“The GSMA celebrates the safe and successful return of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona,” the employers said in a statement. Traditionally, the attendance figures were known in the afternoon of the last day of the congress – that is, they should have been made public last Thursday – but this time the organization decided to delay the publication of the data for a few days. “I am proud of the team for building a high-quality event in an extraordinarily complex environment. The pandemic has indelibly changed the way we come together. We had to develop new health and safety protocols and a hybrid platform, but we did it! ”Says Mats Granryd, General Director of the GSMA
In 2019, the last time the congress was held under normal circumstances, 109,000 attendees attended. The February 2020 edition was canceled just before the beginning, beset by the pandemic that was spreading throughout the world and by the casualties of most of the companies that had to participate. The organization was summoned to February 2021, but this edition was also postponed for fear that it would have to be canceled again. Finally, it was held in June. The employers could not afford a new cancellation, since a good part of their income depends on the congress, and a cancellation would have led to demands for reimbursement from the participating companies.
The organization already anticipated a significant drop in participants: it estimated that 35,000 people would attend, and promoted unprecedented discounts on tickets to the hall, making a special appeal to technology professionals from the closest environment given the impossibility that international congressmen could come. Finally, expectations have not been met and the total count has been 20,000 face-to-face and 100,000 virtual attendees. 165 countries have been represented at the business meeting, of which 117 in person. The congress has consisted of more than 1,000 exhibitors and partners. According to the organization’s data, more than half of the participants were company directors, and more than 1,500 senior executives have attended.
The organization carried out a security deployment that included antigen testing every 72 hours for all participants, a mandatory FPP2 mask, and indoor safety distance control. Only three Fira de Barcelona pavilions were occupied (normally there are eight). “The GSMA appreciates the cooperation of all who attended. We have all played a role in creating a safe environment, which has allowed us to be together for the first time in 15 months, ”the statement said.
The low attendance at the most important exhibitors at the congress contrasted with the dynamism of the 4YFN entrepreneur room, which for the first time was integrated into the Mobile World Congress – it had always been held in other facilities and without a direct connection with its older brother – and which was the great success during the four days of celebration.
Both the GSMA and the Fira de Barcelona, in addition to the city’s hotel and restaurant associations, who did not see an increase in reservations due to the congress, consider that this edition has been a success only for the mere fact of being held, and they see it as a transition for the February 2022 appointment, which will be held between February 28 and March 3.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.