IATA postpones World Cargo Symposium as registrants withdraw over coronavirus

Speaker at air cargo conference

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced Tuesday that it is postponing its World Cargo Symposium, scheduled for March 10-12 in Istanbul because of risk from the coronavirus.

The news follows the cancellation of another major freight transportation conference, IHS Markit’s TPM conference for container shipping in Long Beach, California. 

“Although there have been no reported cases in Turkey, we have taken the decision to postpone the event,” IATA said on its website. “There has been an increase in the number of participant cancelations over the past few days for reasons including company travel bans and senior delegates needing to stay close to base during the crisis. Therefore, we feel that it would be best to postpone the event.”

The trade group said it will provide more information in the coming days about potential next steps related to the conference.

The World Cargo Symposium attracts hundreds of air cargo professionals from around the world. IATA’s North American subsidiary Cargo Network Services holds its annual Partnership conference April 26-28 in Dallas/Fort Worth. No changes have been made to date, but officials are exploring contingency plans, President Michael White said.

The increasing number of conference cancellations is hurting revenue for airlines and the rest of the hospitality industry. Airlines are scaling back capacity in line with reduced demand in an effort to stem losses to their bottom lines. Fewer passenger flights also translates into fewer shipping options for companies that rely on the space below the main deck to move goods.

On Monday, the International Housewares Association canceled its annual trade show scheduled for March 14-17 at Chicago’s McCormick Place where 60,000 people and 2,200 exhibitors from around the world were expected to participate. During the past weekend, the American Physical Society canceled its meeting in Denver; 10,000 people were expected. Workday canceled its sales conference this week in Orlando too.

IHS Markit also canceled its big energy conference, CERAWeek, in Houston. It was scheduled for March 9-13 and is typically attended by more than 4,000 people.

Other conferences are taking place this week, but attendance is lower, according to multiple reports and sources.

There are more than 80,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide and nearly 3,000 deaths so far. The respiratory illness is spreading around the world, but  it appears to be slowing down in China – giving optimism to officials at the World Health Organization that it is being contained at the place of origin.