SXSW marks latest festival called over COVID-19 pandemic, not covered by insurance

The behemoth music, film, and technology festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), has been called off amid growing fears over a possible coronavirus pandemic, according to myriad local sources. Every March, the event attracts more than 100,000 fans and industry professionals from all over the globe to downtown Austin.

Although there have been zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area, Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared the city a “local state of disaster” at a news conference on Friday, March 6. SXSW organizers were beside themselves at the call, to which they described as “devastating.”

“We are devastated to share this news with you,” said SXSW officials in a press statement. “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”

The development also delivers a financial hit to downtown restaurants, bars, hotels, and other local businesses, whom depend on increased spending during the annual festival and conference. According to a report commissioned by SXSW last year, organizers measured the economic impact somewhere at around $356 million for their 2019 gathering.

People Walk Along Sixth Street on the Last Day of South by Southwest in Austin Texas 15 March 2014
View of Austin’s 6th Street nightlife during SXSW 2014. Photo: Larry W Smith/EPA/Shutterstock.

We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU,” SXSW officials told local news station KVUE ABC.

In later developments, two SXSW founders confirmed to the Austin Chronicle that the organization’s insurance does not cover such a cancellation. SXSW co-founder Nick Barbaro, who also happens to be the publisher of the Chronicle, said the festival’s insurance policy does not cover communicable diseases, viruses, and pandemics.

“We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered,” SXSW co-founder and Managing Director, Roland Swenson, said to the Chronicle.

To watch official statements from the Austin Mayor, Chief Executive of Travis County, and a Public Health official, watch the video below via the Austin-American Statesman.

Via: The Austin Chronicle, KVUE ABC.