CES tech fair preparing to draw crowds as COVID surges

CES tech fair preparing to draw crowds as COVID surges

CES tech fair preparing to draw crowds as COVID surges

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the world’s largest trade fairs, returns to Las Vegas in person this week under a newly resurgent pandemic that has supercharged the industry but threatens its downsized expo.

Multiple companies, including Amazon, BMW and Microsoft, reduced or canceled their attendance as COVID-19 case numbers broke records, but organizers said safety protocols were in place for thousands of expected attendees.

Masks and proof of vaccination are required at the show that opens on Jan. 5 and was trimmed by one day to end Jan. 7, with expected exhibitors down more than half to roughly 2,200 from the last in-person CES.

“We are confident that attendees and exhibitors can have a socially distanced but worthwhile and productive event in Las Vegas,” organizers said, declining to state the number of cancellations.

The showfloor, which organizers concede may be pocked with gaps after cancellations, was set to include the most buzzed-about tech, such as autonomous vehicles, commercial spaceflight, NFT digital goods, work-from-home tools and the usual array of gadgetry.

Big Tech has been a big winner during the pandemic, with social media, e-commerce and a bevy of online services amassing mountains of users and cash as people stayed home -- but one of its signature conclaves has fared
less well.

The 2022 show was meant to be the triumphant return of an event that hosted some 170,000 people and more than 4,500 exhibitors in one of the last major U.S. events before virus lockdowns hit in 2020.

Last year’s event was online-only, with organizers saying it was “not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas.” But as the Omicron variant-fuelled surge of COVID cases began building in December, major names started to drop out or scale back.

Technology, Fair,