GSMA expects 40-60K attendees for MWC22 in Barcelona

The stands for Ericsson and Nokia are being built at Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona, and the GSMA, the organization behind the event, is eager to welcome everybody back.

“We think that it is important for the world, it is important for our industry … to come together to physically start to create new business, to innovate,” said Mats Granryd, director general at the GSMA. “We call that responsible leadership.”

Granryd made the comments during a press conference on Thursday where he and GSMA CEO John Hoffman described a show that’s not only getting its physical attendees back, but doing so on a nearly worldwide basis.  

That worldwide representation was one of draws that made the show so valuable before the Coronavirus pandemic scuttled it for the most part back in 2020. Last year, the show, traditionally held in February, was pushed back to late June, when it attracted about 20,000 in-person attendees.

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This year’s Mobile World Congress will be held February 28-March 3 at the same venue it was held in past years, the Fira Gran Via. The GSMA is expecting somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people this year, Hoffman said.  

That’s a far cry from the numbers they were putting up in 2019, when more than 109,000 people showed up representing 198 countries. But it’s starting to get back to more normal pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s a physical show. We want and will have people from around the world coming together in person, but we also recognize that the world is not completely opened up,” so once again, as it did before the pandemic, keynotes will be live-streamed, Hoffman said.  

More than 150 countries will be represented, and it will have 37 country pavilions. They’re expecting 1,500 exhibitors and more than 1,000 speakers. Of those speakers, 95% of them will be physically present versus showing up via video, so it’s not a predominantly hybrid event.

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They’re improving the gender balance, with 35 percent of keynote speakers being female, which “is still not great,” Granryd said, but better than years prior. GSMA also gets points for trying to manage the “booth babe” phenomena prevalent at so many trade shows, setting out years ago to institute guidelines for exhibitors.

Of course, the economic boost the show brings to the local region always has been a big part of the show. Hoffman said it’s on track to deliver an economic impact of $274 million and create 6,700 part-time jobs this year.  

Health and safety is paramount to the show, and they’ll be heeding the guidance from the local health authorities, such as social distancing inside and masks. “We will follow all of the protocols that have been developed,” Hoffman said. “We know how to put on a safe, secure environment.”

That’s what the folks at Parallel Wireless believe. “We saw first hand at MWC21 the extensive measures the GSMA put in place to protect attendees, and have faith it will once again put health and safety at the forefront of its plans for the show this year,” said Eugina Jordan, SVP Marketing at Parallel Wireless, in a statement. “We still see immense value in the face-to-face meetings that are held at MWC, and we’re looking forward to exhibiting in Barcelona once again.”

Things are looking up. “We do believe that the world will continue to open up. We’ll just have to see how that happens,” Hoffman said, adding that they didn’t expect to see the virus variants that occurred over the past 12-18 months. “But we do think the pandemic is waning a bit.”

While they’re clearly centered on this year’s event, organizers are already starting to book space for 2023. If that’s any kind of sign, things are indeed looking up.