CES 2022 Still on for Las Vegas, Amid Wave of New Cancellations Over COVID Concerns

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[UPDATE, Dec. 31: The Consumer Technology Association announced that CES 2022 will close on Jan. 7, one day earlier than previously scheduled. The in-person event now will take place in Las Vegas on Jan. 5-7, 2022. “The step was taken as an additional safety measure to the current health protocols that have been put in place for CES,” the CTA said.]

With less than a week before it’s set to kick off, the 2022 CES trade show remains set to take place in person in Las Vegas — even as more companies continue to bail on the conference because of the resurgence of COVID infections.

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The latest companies to axe their CES in-person plans amid the surge in COVID cases in the U.S. and elsewhere tied to the the omicron variant include AT&T, AMD, BMW, IBM, Lenovo, Mercedes-Benz and Procter & Gamble. The Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that owns and produces CES, has tried to reassure attendees and exhibitors that it is employing extensive safety measures on the ground in Las Vegas for the event.

On Thursday, research firm GfK announced that it will shift its CES presentation on automotive tech into virtual client event. “Acting on growing concerns over employee health, GfK will not present in person at CES 2022 in Las Vegas,” the company said.

Previously, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Amazon, iHeartRadio, Meta (Facebook’s new corporate name) and T-Mobile were among those announcing that they would not be attending the show. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert had been on tap to deliver one of the confab’s keynotes. In addition, MediaLink canceled its 2022 CES events and Variety is shifting the CES Entertainment Summit to a virtual streaming event on Jan. 27.

LG, Sony and Samsung are among the major exhibitors that as of this writing are still planning on having a presence at CES. This Monday, Samsung released a teaser video promising “an extraordinary surprise” from the South Korean consumer-electronics giant at the trade show. Panasonic shifted its press day to a digital-only event but for now expects to have “limited” on-site staffing at CES.

According to CTA president/CEO Gary Shapiro, canceling the trade show would “hurt thousands of smaller companies, entrepreneurs and innovators who have made investments in building their exhibits and are counting on CES for their business, inspiration and future.” On the other hand, “If we do not cancel, we face the drumbeat of press and other critics who tell the story only through their lens of drama and big name companies,” he said in a Dec. 24 post on LinkedIn.

“CES will and must go on,” Shapiro wrote. “It will have many more small companies than large ones. It may have big gaps on the show floor. Certainly, it will be different from previous years. It may be messy. But innovation is messy. It is risky and uncomfortable.”

Regarding companies that have reduced their physical presence at CES 2022 to protect their employees from COVID infection, Shapiro wrote that “we understand their concerns.” He also said CTA staff have “raised this issue with me, and I told employees that anyone with concerns would not be required to travel to Las Vegas.”

In a Dec. 22 announcement, the CTA — which touts CES as “The Most Influential Tech Event in the World” — reiterated the precautions it is taking to prevent the transmission of COVID.

“CES 2022 will be in person on January 5-8 in Las Vegas with strong safety measures in place, and our digital access is also available for people that don’t wish to, or can’t travel to Las Vegas,” the trade group said. “Our mission remains to convene the industry and give those who cannot attend in person the ability to experience the magic of CES digitally.”

In his Christmas Eve post, CTA’s Shapiro asserted, “I will feel safer at CES with our vaccine and masking mandate than I do when I’m running everyday errands, including food shopping!” He added that the trade org’s consultants “concluded CES would have no measurable effect on Las Vegas and its ability to deal with any new spike in COVID-19.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Qualcomm had canceled plans to be at CES 2022. In fact, according to a company representative, “We have not pulled out and will be at the show, hosting a press conference on Monday [Jan. 3] at 11 a.m. PT.”

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