GSMA wraps ‘hugely successful’ MWC18 despite fewer attendees than expected

BARCELONA, Spain—If you were one of those who thought attendance at this year’s Mobile World Congress was down from last year, it looks like you were right. And also, very observant, because it was down by about 1,000 from the more than 108,000 who attended last year, clocking in at more than 107,000 visitors.

That’s the figure the GSMA released today, with a side note that the figure represents the number of individual attendees at the event, including delegates, exhibitors, contractors and media; it does not represent the total number of entries to the event. The 2017 edition of Mobile World Congress attracted a record 108,000 visitors, a figure that also didn’t represent the total number of entries. 

Regardless of the figures, the GSMA declared it a “hugely successful” event. “We had another highly successful Mobile World Congress, across so many fronts,” said GSMA CEO John Hoffman in a press release. “We are gratified with the number of senior-level attendees, particularly the number of CEOs, as well as the continued strong attendance of government ministers and regulators. However, we are not focused on necessarily having the biggest event—we continually strive to convene the right audience and deliver a high-quality experience across all aspects of the event, the conference, the exhibition, and the many other programs and events at Mobile World Congress.”

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The GSMA also released other figures for the industry’s biggest gathering, and it turns out, it attracted visitors from 205 countries and territories. More than 55% of this year’s Mobile World Congress attendees held senior-level positions, including more than 7,700 CEOs, up from more than 6,100 CEOs in 2017.

About 24% of attendees were female, an increase from 23% at Mobile World Congress 2017; additionally, 28% of speakers in the conference program were female, compared with 21% in 2017.

More than 2,400 companies flaunted their products and services across 120,000 net square meters of exhibition and hospitality space at Fira Gran Via, including the new South Village, compared with more than 2,300 in 2017.

And more than 3,500 international media and industry analysts attended the event—which was clear by the lack of empty seats in the working media center most days. By Day 4, not so much.

Surely shop owners, restaurantiers and hoteliers, among others, should be pretty happy the throngs of wireless folks visited the city, at least for economic reasons. Preliminary independent economic analysis indicates that the 2018 Mobile World Congress will have contributed about €471 million and over 13,000 part-time jobs to the local economy, according to GSMA. 

“On behalf of the GSMA, I would like to thank all of our attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and partners who came together to make the 2018 edition of the Mobile World Congress one of our most successful ever,” Hoffman concluded. “I’m only sorry that we could not arrange the typical beautiful Barcelona weather for this year’s event." 

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