SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Days after a major mobile technology conference was cancelled in Spain, IBM announced Friday it would not be sending any of its employees to San Francisco for the upcoming RSA gathering of top cyber security experts over fears of the coronavirus.
On the conference’s website, organizers for gathering from Feb. 24-28 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center said they were constantly monitoring the outbreak worldwide.
“RSA Conference continues to monitor and assess new developments pertaining to the Novel Coronavirus originating in China,” the website posting said. “We want to keep our community up to date on the latest information regarding the situation and our approach to help keep our attendees healthy and safe.”
“We feel that it is important to communicate that there were nine companies from China signed up to exhibit at RSA Conference 2020,” the statement continued. “Of those nine companies, six have canceled due to travel restrictions.”
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But American tech giant IBM wasn’t going to take any chances.
“The health of IBMers continues to be our primary concern as we monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19),” the IBM statement read. ” As a result, we are cancelling our participation in this year’s RSA conference taking place February 24 – 28 in San Francisco.”
Organizers said the conference was still going to go on as scheduled, but that is not the case for a conference Facebook was set to hold in San Francisco in March.
“Since our last update, the number of individuals, including those from IBM, who have canceled their registration is approximately 0.79 percent of the total number of expected attendees. Also, the total number of exhibitors, including IBM, that have canceled their participation as a sponsor or exhibitor is eight. Six of them are from China; one of them is from the U.S.A.; and one of them is from Canada,” RSA said in a statement.
The conference added that they’ve added several new health and safety measures for the event, including disinfecting registration counters and floors through the event and offering disinfectant wipes and sanitization stations at several stations and rooms. Around 42,000 people are still expected to attend RSA.
Facebook announced Friday it was canceling an annual marketing conference over concerns about the coronavirus. Organizers anticipated that the gathering would bring 5,000 attendees to the city.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we canceled our Global Marketing Summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus,” Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison said in a statement to Recode.
The San Francisco Travel Association sent an email in response to the cancellations, saying, “Naturally, we are disappointed by this decision, a short term cancellation will have an impact on hotels, restaurants, retail stores and attractions.”
Kevin Carrol, president and CEO of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, says t his isn’t the first time he’s seen a last minute cancellation.
“The hotels are pretty nimble. They can always find people to fill rooms but if it’s closed in, like with the way this has happened, that may not be something that the hotel can recover from that quickly,” Carrol said.
Nearby restaurants are bracing for potential loss of business due to the absence of so many people in the area.
“When any convention cancels, it affects our business big time!” said Osman Zughayer, co-owner of the Oasis Grill across from Moscone Center.
On Wednesday, the Mobile World Congress, one of the technology industry’s biggest annual events, set to be held in Spain was called off because of the coronavirus outbreak.
More than a dozen major tech companies including Amazon, Ericsson, Facebook, Sony, Intel, Cisco, and LG had withdrawn from this year’s event before it was finally cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.
“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” MWC organizer and mobile operator lobbying group GSMA said in a statement Wednesday.
“Huge brands are saying they can’t afford to risk sending their executives to the show,” CNET Senior Editor Claire Reilly told CBSN Bay Area. “Some Chinese brands like Huawei, they’ve said they are going to limit their presence at the show. Oppo, a Chinese manufacturer, is going to thermal screen people are they come into the event. It’s (coronavirus) is really impacting what we are going to see in the tech space this year.”
MWC had been scheduled to take place in Barcelona from February 24-27. It typically draws more than 100,000 attendees and over 2,400 companies, including the sector’s biggest players who use it to launch new products and showcase their latest innovations.
The event’s cancelation is a “huge disappointment,” Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, said in a statement.
“It’s the highlight of the mobile industry calendar,” Wood said. “The impact on small companies who have invested a disproportionate amount of their budgets and time on this event should not be underestimated. MWC is an anchor event for many and now they face the challenge of having to figure out what the best way to salvage something from this difficult situation.”
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. KPIX 5’s Don Ford and CNN contributed to this report.