MWC 2021 in Barcelona at mercy of Spain's Covid situation

The folks at GSMA who host the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona may once again be thrown into a state of anxious suspense, as the Spanish prime minister has reportedly said international tourists won’t be welcome to the country until at least 70% of Spaniards are vaccinated against Covid-19.

The annual mobile conference, which traditionally took place in late February, has been scheduled this year for June 28 to July 1.

Speaking at a meeting of the World Tourism Organization in Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he didn’t expect Spain to welcome tourists until “the end of summer,” according to Euro News.

However, Spain’s tourism minister Reyes Maroto later tried to soften the country’s stance saying he hoped Spain would welcome international visitors at the “end of spring, and especially in summer.”

RELATED: MWC Barcelona gets postponed until June 2021

The GSMA has already hedged its bets, setting up a virtual aspect to the show.

In September 2020, Mobile World Live, the publication associated with the GSMA, said that 78 of the 100 largest MWC exhibitors including Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia have already confirmed participation at MWC 21 Barcelona. But it's unclear whether they will have enough time to meet all the logistical deadlines for an in-person appearance, especially given the ongoing uncertainty about Covid.

A spokesperson for GSMA said to Fierce, via email: "MWC21 is taking place on 28 June – 1 July 2021 in Barcelona, and we are planning boldly and cautiously for an in-person event. The GSMA continues to monitor global circumstances, seeking expert advice and collaborating as information emerges in this dynamic situation. The health and safety of our exhibitors, attendees, staff and the people of Barcelona remain our top priority. We will incorporate the latest guidance, regulations and technologies to create a touchless environment in which collaboration, networking and deal-making can thrive."*

The absence of as many as 100,000 conventioneers will be another blow to the tourism sector in Spain, which has already taken a heavy toll. Sky News reported that in 2020 Spain’s tourist industry revenues fell by more than 75%.

The Spanish people have also been hard hit by Covid. The country has reported 2.59 million cases of the virus, and as of today it’s seen 56,208 deaths.

Yesterday, Spain’s central Health Ministry reported 93,822 new infections, representing a new record high, according to El Pais.

*Story updated after publication to include GSMA's comment.