SXSW Canceled Over Coronavirus Fears

After a week of people and companies from all over the world pulling out of the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival, the event has officially been canceled.

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This comes just one week after Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the show would still go on. As fears over the coronavirus have escalated, so has the pressure on festival organizers and city officials. In fact, according to CNET, it was Adler who ordered organizers to cancel the festival, which was scheduled from March 13-22.

“Based on the recommendation of our public health officer and director of public health, and after consultation with our city manager I’ve gone ahead and declared a local disaster. And along with that issued an order that cancels SXSW this year,” Adler said during a press conference on Friday afternoon.

This is the first time the event has been canceled in its 34 years, according to a statement from the conference organizers. SXSW organizers said they are looking into ways to reschedule the event and “working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU.”

“We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts,” the statement read. “We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

Earlier this week, we touched on the fact that startups and venture capitalists were following the lead of large companies such as Twitter and Facebook by backing out of the conference.

The event draws an estimated 400,000 people to the Texas capital each year, and the economic impact on the city will be huge. The 2019 South by Southwest festival had a $355.9 million impact on Austin’s economy, according to an October report referenced by the Austin American-Statesman.

In fact, the 2019 event had the biggest economic impact in SXSW’s 33-year history. Further, SXSW “is the most profitable event for the city’s hospitality industry,” according to the Greyhill Advisors report and as cited by the Statesman.

Rumors in the Austin community indicate that organizers waited for Mayor Adler to declare a disaster before canceling for insurance purposes.

Anecdotally, the results of a Twitter poll that Crunchbase News Senior Reporter Mary Ann Azevedo posted earlier this week supported the decision. Out of 101 votes, 70.3 percent of respondents said that SXSW should be canceled or postponed.

Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias

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