MWC 2022 aims to attract 55% of the pre-Pandemic attendees

The event expects to receive up to a maximum of 60,000 attendees, halfway to full recovery

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GSMA CEO John Hoffman during the press conference.

L'Hospitalet de LlobregatAfter a minimal edition in 2021 with the aim of saving the franchise, Mobile World Congress wants to return to normality. The CEO of the GSMA (the association of telecommunications companies that organises the event), John Hoffman, presented on Thursday the main lines of this year's event, to be held at the Fira de Barcelona in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat from February 28 to March 3. The most ambitious goal is to recover 55% of pre-pandemic attendance –in 2019 it brought together 109,000 attendees– but it has given more conservative estimates of between 40,000 and 60,000 visitors. The organisers are aware that obstacles to international travel, such as quarantines in some Asian countries, will continue to limit company delegations.

However, Hoffman assured that this year's prospects "exceed expectations" and remarked that the event will occupy seven of the Fair's pavilions (it had used eight before the pandemic). "The whole ecosystem will meet again in Barcelona. We will have a thousand speakers and 95% will be here in person," he said. The GSMA's Director General, Mats Granryd, also stressed that 1,500 exhibitors are expected and that 85% of the space has already been reserved. The main novelties this year will be Industry City, an area for demonstrations of innovation applied to manufacturing companies, and Beat Barcelona, a new space for networking promoted by the City Council.

In fact, during the presentation press conference, the employers' association has given a figure that it had not shared since 2019. The organisation expects this edition of MWC, still halfway to full recovery, to have an economic impact of €240m in Catalonia and generate 6,700 temporary workplaces. To put the data in context, the last year before covid-19 this indicator was €473m. Three years ago, the staging of the event required almost double the number of new hires, a total of 13,900.

This year will also mark Telefónica chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete's debut as chairman of GSMA. Hoffman celebrated the fact that the main telecommunications operators will not miss the event, after some cancellations due to the omicron variant and the change of dates from February to May of audiovisual fair ISE generated doubts around MWC.

Banker among telecom engineers

On the return to pre-pandemic normality, Hoffman explained that, although it is difficult to predict the future in the current context of uncertainty, they have already begun to accept bookings for next year and he is confident that then "the world will continue to open up". The executive has avoided commenting on the negotiations with Fira de Barcelona and the public administrations to extend the contract with Barcelona, which will end in 2024, after having won a year to compensate for the cancelled 2020 edition.

The 2022 MWC will feature speakers who are not so common in technology circles, such as the president of CaixaBank, José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, or the president of Futbol Club Barcelona, Joan Laporta. Among the core themes of this edition, Granryd has emphasised, precisely, the most technological side of the financial sector, but also 5G connections, artificial intelligence and cloud services. "We are in for a fantastic and exciting show," he added.