South by Southwest (SXSW) the massive film, music and technology festival has been officially canceled amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This news is not entirely unexpected as conferences around the world continue to cancel in the wake of COVID-19. Unfortunately for SXSW organizers, numerous sources have since reported that the 10-day conference will not be able to lean on their insurance policies to recoup any losses related to the cancellation of the event.
SXSW organizers did take out the appropriate insurance policies for the event. However, the Austin Chronicle reported that SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson said that the “…event was covered for such things as property damage, terrorism, injury and weather but not for cancellations due to pandemics.”
This is an issue that’s affecting more than just conference organizers. An increasing number of travelers are canceling their trips out of fear of COVID-19 and finding that their travel insurance policies won’t cover cancellations due to pandemics either.
This lack of insurance could very well be why SXSW refused to cancel the event for so long. Major companies like Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Netflix all withdrew from the conference before it was officially canceled. SXSW was finally forced to pull the plug after Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler declared a local disaster in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Texas. That declaration essentially forced SXSW’s hand.
“The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions,” says the SXSW website.
This marks the first year that SXSW has not happened since the conference began back in 1981. The conference has only grown in popularity, and recently attracts crowds upwards of 400,000 people to the Austin area.
Since the conference was set for 3/13, a lot of people have already purchased plane tickets and hotels which means Austin is still likely to experience an influx of people visiting the area. Anyone going to Austin should exercise the proper precautions, which means avoiding crowding spaces and regularly washing hands.