The GSMA is pulling out all stops to ensure its showpiece Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2021 goes ahead as an in-person event as scheduled in June, even as some of the biggest names in the sector have already withdrawn their participation.
The Association has managed to persuade the Spanish government to grant all registered attendees “highly qualified worker” status for the duration of the show.
The country has a tough ban in place for overseas visitors, but the GSMA has managed to persuade the Spanish authorities to drop the prohibition to “non-essential” travelers, including those from the US and China and any national from a country outside of the European Union.
In a statement the GSMA said that “whilst there is a current denial of entry to Spain for any national from a country outside the European Union, exceptions apply to specific groups of people…and this now includes MWC Barcelona registrants.”
John Hoffman, the CEO of the Association, said : “This decision is a resounding vote of confidence in the careful planning undertaken to date, and our strong partnership with the host city parties. We will continue to work closely with our partners to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience.”
The GSMA has made major changes to its registration process and share attendees’ details with the authorities to secure the concessions. However, those from “high-risk Covid -19 countries” will still be excluded. The countries included on the Spanish government’s list are regularly updated and changed where necessary.
Whether those “partners” include the myriad of exhibitors that have already withdrawn from the in-person aspect of the show remains to be seen. All attendees will still need proof of a negative Covid test, and all will need to wear masks at all times.
And whether the companies and individuals will feel comfortable traveling to and staying in Spain, which has a high rate of infection, also remains to be seen.
The organizers have indicated they will limit attendance to a maximum of 50,000, well below the numbers usually flocking to attend the annual MWC in Barcelona.
Earlier this year, the GSMA laid out a tough regime to limit the potential risks of catching or transmitting Covvid-19, including negative tests every 72 hours. Numerous rapid testing facilities will be provided.
Companies that have already indicated they will not have a physical presence but continue to participate in the on-line arrangements includes Ericsson (which was the first to withdraw), Nokia, Intel, BT, Cisco, Google, InterDigital, Cisco, Sony and Google.