What just happened? In what comes as a blow to those welcoming the transition back to normality, Berlin's IFA 2021 tech conference has been canceled due to the ongoing "global health uncertainties." After becoming one of many in-person events postponed due to Covid-19 last year, organizers had planned for a "full-scale return" this September 3 to September 7. Now, sadly, we won't see the IFA of old until 2022.
IFA organizers have blamed "the rapid emergence of new COVID-19 variants" as one of the reasons behind the cancelation. It cites those in South Asia as a concern; the B.1.617 variant, which is believed to be more infections than previous strains, has become the dominant strain across India and has spread to about forty other countries.
The "continued uncertainties about the speed of the rollout of vaccination programs around the world" are also a factor.
Last month we heard that over 80% of the exhibitor space at IFA 2021 had been booked out, and it was expected to reach 100% by the end of May. There's no word yet on whether we'll see an online version this year instead, but it seems likely.
"There simply are now too many uncertainties," said Kai Hillebrandt, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH. "Therefore, right now it has become near impossible for anyone to responsibly plan their participation in any trade show."
"The efforts to contain this pandemic – from the rollout of vaccination programs to the resumption of international travel - did not happen at the pace we had hoped for. Given these developments, this difficult and disappointing decision was inevitable," said Martin Ecknig, the CEO of Messe Berlin.
It'll be interesting to see if the decision has any effect on Mobile World Congress, which takes place in Barcelona between June 28 and July 1. The usual figure of 100,000 attendees has been cut to around 50,000, but with Samsung, Lenovo, Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, Facebook, and Oracle confirming they won't be there, the event is looking very shaky.