The Mobile World Congress is not leaving Barcelona, at least until 2019. The GSMA, which represents the interests of the mobile operators that organise the annual Mobile World Congress, issued a press release on Twitter declaring its intention to remain in the Catalan capital in spite of recent events in Catalonia. The MWC thus sought to quash rumours circulating in recent days that the Congress was considering changing its location.
The GSMA has thereby confirmed that the event will continue to be held in Barcelona, at least next year, in keeping with an agreement it signed to extend the MWC’s stay in the city until 2023. The organisation went on to reiterate that the leading event in the mobile industry’s calendar will go ahead on the previously announced dates: the sector will gather in the Catalan capital from 26 February to 1 March 2018.
In reality, cancelling next year’s edition would be a very difficult undertaking, since the stands occupied by the tech companies at the event go on sale as soon as the previous edition comes to an end. What the GSMA’s press release fails to make clear, however, is what will happen in following editions and if the current contract ending in 2023 is likely to be terminated, invoking certain clauses.
However, the GSMA did stress in its statement that the organisation continues to closely monitor developments in the current situation in Catalonia and Spain and any impact this may have on the Mobile World Congress. Industry sources indicate that the organisation headed by John Hoffman had consistently asked for updates on the events of recent weeks, but that until now it had not made any comment regarding its position.
The MWC’s economic impact on the city and, above all, on the Fira [Barcelona’s trade fair institution] —the Congress accounts for 40% of its turnover— has put pressure on the GSMA to dispel rumours as to the possibility that the event might be leaving. In 2017 the Mobile World Congress closed its doors with a record 108,000 visitors, with an economic impact of more than €465 million for Catalonia and the creation of more than 13,200 part-time jobs.
This is not the first time there has been such uncertainty over the future of the MWC. Questions were raised during the strike called by Barcelona city’s Underground staff during the 2016 edition. At the time Hoffman declared himself to be "disappointed" by the situation that resulted in images of congress-goers packed onto crowded trains and platforms. In spite of the strike, however, the organisation decided to keep the Congress in Barcelona, though the President of the Madrid region, Cristina Cifuentes, wasted no time in calling on the congress to change cities.