South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual technology, music and media festival held in Austin, Texas, has been cancelled after organisers said they had ‘no choice’ but to call it off amid coronavirus fears.
The move was ordered by Austin mayor Steve Adler, who declared ‘a local disaster’, and will be the first time the event has not taken place in its 34-year history.
Last year SXSW drew nearly 74,000 people with over 19,000 coming from outside the US, and, according to a study commissioned by SXSW’s event organisers, in 2018 visitors spent $350m (£270m) during the event.
The US coronavirus death toll stands at 22, but there are over 500 confirmed cases nationwide.
There are currently 22 recorded cases of the coronavirus in Texas, but none are in Austin, where the event is held.
SXSW said in a statement on 6 March that it was ‘devastated’ by the decision to shut down the event.
Event organisers said: “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place.
“We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”
The announcement comes after some of the event’s biggest exhibitors had already pulled out, including Apple, Twitter, Amazon and Facebook. The event organisers has also been receiving pressure from the general public to close the festival, with a petition entitled ‘Petition to have SXSW cancelled amid Coronavirus Outbreak’ receiving 55,126 signatures.
The petition’s creator, Shayla Lee, said: “I’m concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who will be traveling to Austin, Texas in March for the SXSW festival. I believe that having an event like this is irresponsible amid an outbreak.
“So far SXSW has not made any plans to cancel or reschedule the festival. They have not made any plans on how they will prepare against the spread of the virus.”
In addition to SXSW’s cancellation, several other large tech conferences have been shut down in response to the coronavirus, including Mobile World Congress, the Game Developers conference and Google’s Cloud Next conference.