CES Organisers Say the Show Will Go On as Major Attendees Bail Over Covid Threat

CES Organisers Say the Show Will Go On as Major Attendees Bail Over Covid Threat
Image: Robyn Beck, Getty Images

January 2022 is supposed to mark the first time in two years the Consumer Electronics Show would welcome in-person attendees back to tech’s flagship event, but like so many things, the rapidly spreading omicron covid variant is threatening to upend those plans. Major attendees have begun dropping out left and right, but the event’s organisers say they plan to press on nonetheless.

In a statement sent to Axios, the Consumer Technology Association, the organisation that runs CES, said it has no plan of postponing the event or moving to virtual programming.

“CES will still take place Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas with strong safety measures in place,” the CTA said. The organisation added that it has received thousands of new event registrations in just the last week.

Those safety measures include providing two rapid tests to every attendee in addition to requiring all attendees to be fully vaccinated and masked at all times according to AdWeek. The organisers have also reportedly widened aisles and enhanced the venue’s ventilation system. Oddly, attendees will also wear a sticker that shows whether or not they are comfortable with a handshake. And despite concerns raised from some attendees, CTA’s Senior Vice president of Marketing and Communications Jean Foster claimed the total number of exhibitors topped 2,100 on Monday.

“At this point, we’re very much focused on having this show and doing it safely and putting the right protocols in place to ensure that people feel comfortable with it,” Foster told AdWeek. The CTA first announced its plans to return in person back in April.

At the same time though, some of the organisation’s biggest names have already bowed out. So far, T-Mobile, Amazon, Meta, Twitter, Pinterest, iHeartRadio, and others have all announced they won’t attend the event in person.

In its statement, CES staple T-Mobile said that while it is confident event organisers are taking precautionary steps it would nonetheless “significantly limit” its in-person presence in an effort to prioritise the safety of its team and others in attendance. Its departure means CEO Mike Sievert will also no longer offer his planned keynote speech.

Meta and Twitter both provided statements to Bloomberg explaining their rationale for cancelling in-person attendance. (Meta said it is still exploring ways it could potentially participate virtually. You know, because that’s their whole thing now). Amazon and its subsidiary Ring also made the decision to pull its in-person presence due to “uncertainty around the Omicron variant,” the company told Bloomberg. Several organisations like Nvidia meanwhile had reportedly planned to attend the event virtually before the variant started rearing its ugly head.

Other large names like Samsung, Google, and Sony are still slated to attend the event but told Bloomberg they are currently “monitoring” the situation. So far: Qualcomm, OnePlus, and HTC all appear poised to attend the event in person. LG, usually a major player at the event, told The Verge it’s still planning on attending the event but said it is making use of QR codes and AR in place of a traditional booth.

Media organisations are also rapidly pulling out of the event. So far CNET, Engadget, TechCrunch, The Verge, Tom’s Guide, and TechRadar have also announced they won’t attend the event in person.

Gizmodo will also be covering the show remotely.