Cancellation of international conferences over coronavirus disrupts Edmonton businesses

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Edmonton companies grapple with how to respond to coronavirus concerns
WATCH ABOVE: The coronavirus outbreak is disrupting businesses around the world, including in Edmonton. Several local companies are trying to figure out how to respond. Julia Wong reports. – Mar 2, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, businesses in Edmonton continue to face disruptions.

Many international conferences and events have been cancelled over the virus, which has spread to more than 60 countries. COVID-19 has infected more than 89,000 people globally and caused over 3,000 deaths. Canada had 27 cases as of March 2, with no deaths.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Canada: Here’s a timeline of cases across provinces

CERAWeek, an energy conference held in Houston, was set to start on March 9 but organizers cancelled the event over coronavirus worries. Delegates from more than 80 countries had been planning to attend.

Premier Jason Kenney, Energy Minister Sonya Savage and a delegation from the Alberta government had been scheduled to attend the event.

READ MORE: Alberta premier says frustrating coronavirus stifling oil and gas economy

“We had set up meetings with the CEOs of many of the world’s largest companies as well as key leaders of the American government and foreign governments as well as the Middle East,” Kenney said.

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The premier said the coronavirus is affecting the economy and the province will continue to monitor the situation.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak’s economic ripples gathering into worldwide crisis

The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco was also cancelled amid coronavirus worries.

Beamdog CEO Trent Oster and his CFO had been scheduled to attend the conference but decided Friday morning to cancel their trip.

“We were weighing the, ‘OK, we attend, what’s the positive outcome? We attend, what’s the worst-case scenario?’ And we just judged it just wasn’t worth it,” Oster said.

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The conference was called off hours later.

“I think it was a good call. When I heard they had cancelled it, I was like, ‘It makes a lot of sense.’ Half of the speakers had expressed concern, a lot of them had pulled out,” Oster said.

He said the conference’s cancellation will have a business impact: the company had roughly 12 business meetings set up during the conference.

“It basically is a chance that we’re going to miss to meet those people face to face and essentially establish a little bit deeper relationship with them,” Oster said.

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Other conferences that have cancelled over the coronavirus include a meeting of the American Physical Society in Denver, and YPO Edge, a global CEO thought leadership summit, in San Diego.

Local businesses impacted

Meanwhile, Noodle Feast in south Edmonton has temporarily shut down over the virus.

“Due to the coronavirus outbreak in China and few of our employees including owner traveled to there, we will extend our temporary closure until all our staff back to Canada and safe for serving our valued customers again,” signs on the windows of the Chinese restaurant read.

Would-be customer Ian Hopchin has been eating at the restaurant the last four months. He had hoped to grab a meal there on Monday, only to find it wasn’t open for business.

“I think it’s reasonable. It means they’re taking it seriously I guess, which is a good thing,” he said.

READ MORE: Canada’s COVID-19 plans could include closing schools, cancelling events, but we’re ‘not there yet’

Every two years, Teresa Spinelli, president of the Italian Centre, attends Cibus, a food show that takes place in Parma, Italy. This year, it will take place from May 11 to 14.

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Spinelli said she attends the trade show to meet with suppliers and browse for new and different products. However, Italy is the epicentre of coronavirus cases in Europe and Spinelli said she has not yet booked her ticket.

“Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, we’re not sure what’s going to really happen. If there is travel available, if we book tickets, will they give us a refund if it gets worse? So we’re just going to see what happens,” she said.

Spinelli said a decision on whether she and her staff will attend will be made a month prior to the food show.

Are you or your business impacted by the coronavirus? Email reporter Julia Wong at

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