South by Southwest, the annual tech, film and music conference held in Austin, Texas, has been canceled due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reported. The unexpected thing in this situation is that it was not SXSW that chose to cancel the conference. Instead, Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued an order canceling SXSW, after declaring a local disaster in the city.
According to CNBC, Austin officials said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Travis County, where Austin is located. But confirmed cases around the world passed 100,000 Friday.
SXSW posted a 2020 Event Update with some explanation of what happened. It started with: “The City of Austin has canceled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.”
…As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.
We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants, we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ…
The event update does not provide any information about refunds for those who were attending. CNBC reported that badges range in cost from $1,395 to $1,725. For many people, that is a significant amount of money to lose. Before the cancellation, Facebook, Intel, Twitter, and TikTok pulled out of SXSW, in part because these companies had limited travel for employees in response to coronavirus.
Are you planning to attend a big conference this year? Keep in mind that there is a chance that the event might be canceled before it starts. When in doubt, try to contact whomever is in charge of the conference and ask them about their plans. SXSW is not the only conference that has canceled this year – but it is probably the largest one.