The GSMA announced details of a financial package to visitors and exhibitors signed up to MWC20 Barcelona, cancelled last month due to the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

All attendee tickets purchased will be eligible for a full refund, via the original method of payment.

Meanwhile clients which spent up to £5,000 on the show have two options. They can receive a full refund on their spend at the 2020 event, or they can receive a credit (worth 125 per cent of their 2020 outlay) over the next three years (65 per cent credit for bookings at the 2021 event, 35 per cent credit for bookings at the 2022 show, and 25 per cent credit on 2023).

Companies which spent more than £5,000 also have two options. They can receive the same credit deal as smaller clients or they can claim a cash equivalent to 50 per cent of 2020 spend, capped at a maximum of £150,000.

In an interview with Mobile World Live, GSMA Ltd CEO John Hoffman said he expects smaller companies and start-ups are more likely to accept the cash deal. “We understand that. It’s a cashflow situation. Not only our industry but the whole global financial ecosystem.”

Hoffman noted the credit offering is intended to give larger, more established companies “a very strong incentive [to exhibit] over the next three years, starting with a big one at MWC2021…We are really trying to address all our ecosystem and companies around the world.”

Exhibitors which pulled out prior to the GSMA cancelling the show will be eligible to the credit deal.

In addition, the GSMA is not increasing costs annually: MWC2021 Barcelona booking rates will roll-back to those used in 2019 (the 2021 event will take place from 1 March to 4 March).

New challenges
Hoffman stressed today’s news is designed to offer the mobile industry a “fair” opportunity to get things back on track for MWC2021 Barcelona.

“We had 100 per cent broad-based support from our operator community. And then we’ve been very encouraged from early responses, with several companies already signing up to MWC2021 without this information.” He declared operator support across the industry as being “phenomenal”, citing NTT Docomo, Orange, Telefonica, Telstra and Vodafone Group, among others, as backing a return to form for the event next year.

However, he warned the coronavirus pandemic will undoubtedly have a major impact on the way large-scale events are run in the future.

“The convening ecosystem, the events business, is no doubt changed by Covid-19. We don’t know yet exactly what that means, but we do know that people will still want to come together and network and discuss and debate the future. So while we haven’t figured out exactly what the market is going to decide, we do believe there is going to be an opportunity for us to adjust our business model, to adjust the way we do business and frankly to adjust the way the world will come together.”

Hoffman described MWC as a “bellwether” for events worldwide: “we’ve been one of the leading advocates in the events business on new initiatives and new ways of doing business and we believe we will set the standard going forward and we are taking that challenge very seriously”.

Watch the full interview with John Hoffman here.

MWC20 Barcelona was the first major tech industry trade show to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mobile World Live is tracking daily developments in our industry in this special Covid-19 blog.