GSMA extends contract with Barcelona through 2024

About two months after the GSMA canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization announced it has extended an agreement to hold the event in Barcelona through 2024. A previous contract had Barcelona as the host city until 2023.

“The GSMA, organizer of the MWC Barcelona, and the Host City Parities agree there is strong momentum to maintain and extend MWC Barcelona into the future and have agreed to hold the MWC event through 2024,” the GSMA announced.

The organization said it looks forward to working with the Host City Parties, the City of Barcelona, and people of Catalonia and Spain for MWC21 and through at least to MWC Barcelona 2024 by extending the current agreement. Host City Parties includes the Barcelona City Council, Generalitat de Catalunya, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, Fira de Barcelona and Tourism de Barcelona.

“In these trying times, it is ever essential to look forward to the future. The GSMA, the Host City Parties, and the MWC Barcelona ecosystem look forward to upcoming editions of MWC, and MWC Barcelona 2021 will be part of the economic recovery process as we exit these trying times,” said GSMA Limited CEO John Hoffman in a statement. “By extending through 2024, we are demonstrating our commitment to our ecosystem as well as the Host City Parties and our strong and mutually beneficial working relationship. We are pleased to report that we have had tremendous support and early commitment with many exhibitors for future editions.”

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Ericsson pulled out of MWC Barcelona 2020 in early February, setting off a cascade of other companies that canceled plans to participate due to health concerns. After saying it was taking measures to help stop the spread of the virus, such as advising attendees adopt a “no-handshake policy,” the GSMA canceled the event on February 12. 

In late March, the GSMA announced a financial package for attendees and exhibitors. The association said at the time that its approach sought to “ensure a long-term relationship with the whole MWC ecosystem for the years to come” and create the best possible opportunity for everyone to return for MWC Barcelona 2021.

But there was a footnote at the end of the announcement: “Eligibility for a cash component to the financial package is for those exhibitors who did not cancel their attendance at MWC Barcelona 2020.”

GlobalData analyst John Byrne noted that while the majority of exhibitors will need to accept a package of rebates – albeit generous – toward future shows, the package looks punitive toward exhibitors that withdrew from the conference before it was officially canceled.

“Put another way: If you chose not to ignore the growing warning signs over the coming COVID-19 crisis and cancelled your attendance before the GSMA belatedly acknowledged the obvious and cancelled the conference, the GSMA is punishing you for protecting your customers and employees,” Byrne wrote.

“To be clear, the ‘take it or leave it’ package offered up by the GSMA is very generous for vendors interested in continuing to participate in the industry’s biggest annual event,” he added.

However, he said it doesn’t account for a number of possibilities, such as exhibitors that may need the cash now to account for downturns related to COVID-19 or those that are impacted by a situation like an acquisition that may mean a company no longer requires exhibitor space at subsequent events.

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MWC Barcelona typically attracts more than 110,000 participants from over 200 countries. Short of something unexpected happening, MWC 2021 Barcelona will take place March 1-4, 2021.