This is one topic I didn’t have any plans on writing about ever but here I am, writing about the Coronavirus. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months or would like to be educated a little more on this worldwide issue, you can read about the Coronavirus here. I’m not going to get into the numbers of how many people and businesses have been impacted by the virus but I think it’s worth a look at how this could impact pop culture conventions in the short term. We have already seen Japanese companies such as Square-Enix and Sony cancel/scale down their presence for a few upcoming video game conventions such as PAX East and GDC. Those decisions look to be staff related and not wanting their staff from Japan traveling outside of the country to attend those events. Your typical local pop culture/comic convention won’t have too many guests traveling from Asia to attend. The exception to this would be local anime conventions who do typically like to bring out Japanese guests. Will we see more of those guests from Japan and elsewhere in Asia decline to attend conventions outside of their home country?
Besides guests and industry staff, we should also look at the impact that this can have on exhibitors. I’m sure right now exhibitor stock is just fine for many of them but the longer this goes on, it might be harder for a lot of these vendors who rely on merchandise that are made in China to replenish their stock. Many factories in China have shutdown in an effort to contain the spreading of the virus and if it gets to that point where stock that exhibitors can’t replenish, you will see less exhibitors at conventions. Another way to look at this as well is maybe merchandise from exhibitors that they sell aren’t from China but the supplies they use to make/produce their stock comes from China. Those supplies are probably also available here in the US but at much higher cost which usually gets passed on to the consumer.
The last part I wanna touch on but maybe the least worrisome for now is just the fact that many of these conventions across the country attract large crowds. It’s no different from going to see a film in a packed movie theater or going to a concert (case in point: BTS). When you are in a large crowd of people, the chances of you catching a cold or whatnot increase just based on the fact you are around so many other people. There are efforts you can make to avoid the coronavirus just like you would the flu which you can read about here. I honestly don’t expect to see any kind of attendance drop in the immediate future due to fears of the coronavirus but I have to imagine, the longer this goes on, people will become more likely to avoid large crowds such as the ones you see at conventions.
Keep your hands washed and stay safe out there!