South By Southwest, the annual music, film, and tech industry summit in Austin, TX, was canceled on Friday due to mounting concerns regarding the spread of the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. SXSW was set to take place from March 13th–22nd.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon, local officials delivered the news of the event’s cancelation during a briefing on the status of the outbreak and large-scale events within the city. Mayor Steve Adler noted at the press conference that he had officially declared a local disaster in Austin and issued an order canceling SXSW.
Watch a live feed of the press conference below:
City of Austin & County Officials Provide Update On Coronavirus and SXSW
At the time of the press conference, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Travis County, the county in which Austin is located. However, as CNBC notes, the number of confirmed cases worldwide surpassed 100,000 on Friday. SXSW brought in 73,716 attendees in 2019 (and brought many more to the city for ancillary events). Furthermore, more than 19,000 of last year’s attendees traveled in from outside the U.S. for the event.
Widespread worries about the effect of coronavirus on SXSW had already started brewing. Earlier this week, several large companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon withdrew their involvement with SXSW due to the ongoing COVID-19 scare.
SXSW issued a full statement regarding the cancellation, noting that they will “faithfully follow the City’s directions.” The statement did not address refunds for SXSW badges, which cost $1,395 to attend one “track” and $1,725 to attend all three. You can read the full statement from SXSW on the coronavirus cancellation below:
The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.
We are devastated to share this news with you. “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.
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.
We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.
We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.
This story is developing.