Access to the Mobile World Congress this Wednesday.Albert Garcia / THE COUNTRY
The Mobile World Congress of the pandemic has come to an end this Thursday. After four days in which the celebration of a large congress has been put to the test under the security measures against covid-19, the congress has closed a transitional edition, with a hybrid format and with much fewer attendees than usual. In 2019, the last time it was held, it brought together 109,000 congressmen, and this time around 35,000 were expected, but the organizing employer, GSMA, has not given final participation data. They argue that the hybrid format makes counting difficult and that they will publish it within a week. The Mossos d’Esquadra, for their part, had 27,000 attendees. However, the GSMA, Fira de Barcelona and the city’s hoteliers consider it a success that it has been held, and see it as the starting point for the recovery of the congress sector. They are already working on the next edition, which will be held from February 28 to March 3, with the hope that it will be a return to normality.
The holding of the world mobile congress, the most important business event in Barcelona, was in question until the last moment due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and the defections of some of the most important operators and technology companies. Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Nokia or Xiaomi declined to participate due to the uncertainty caused by the virus. But the GSMA could not afford a new cancellation after being, in February 2020, the first major event to succumb to the spread of the coronavirus. It was the thermometer that indicated that the pandemic was coming, and its celebration has been the symbol that the final stretch is near.
In the traditional balance at the end of the congress, the general director of Fira de Barcelona, Constantí Serrallonga, has affirmed that the edition has been “a transition towards a successful 2022”. “The balance is very positive,” said Serrallonga, who believes that next February’s edition will record attendance data similar to those of 2019, as a sign of economic recovery. It has also been congratulated that the health protocol against covid 19 has worked correctly.
The congress has occupied only three pavilions of the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona (in recent years there were eight pavilions). The lack of attendees in the positions of the most important companies has contrasted with the dynamism of the 4YFN entrepreneurship hall, for the first time integrated into the mobile congress. In fact, many of those attending the Mobile were young people or startup creators, and especially professionals from the local world, given the lack of international congressmen. The GSMA encouraged the attendance of local attendees with significant discounts on tickets, who have been able to participate in the world mobile congress for 21 euros. During this Mobile, in addition to the 4YFN show, the most outstanding activities have been the debates around 5G and the internet of things, and the conference of the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk.
The unions of the city of Barcelona involved in the operation of the Mobile have valued as a success the mere fact that the congress has been held. In a statement, the Hotel Guild of Barcelona affirms that “it has been an organizational success without nuances, addressing the great challenges it faced.” The launch of the congress “has made it possible to demonstrate to the world that the capacity and attractiveness of Barcelona as a venue for major events remains intact”. The director of the union, Manel Casals, recalls that “business tourism is essential and strategic for Barcelona”. All in all, hoteliers have hardly benefited in practical terms from the congress, as there have been no significant bookings, and there are still only 40% of hotels open, with an occupancy of less than 50%.