CES gadget show going digital for 2021 amid pandemic

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A person walks past a sign at a Samsung keynote before the CES tech show, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Published Tue, Jul 28, 2020 (8:45 a.m.)

Updated Tue, Jul 28, 2020 (9:50 a.m.)

The CES gadget show, one of the largest annual conventions in Las Vegas, is going all digital for 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced today.

“With the growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it is not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” the Consumer Technology Association said in a statement.

The group said it plans to return to Las Vegas for CES 2022, combining "the best elements of a physical and digital show."

CES 2021 was supposed to be the first trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center after a $980 million expansion project.

“While it’s disappointing we won’t be welcoming CES as the first show inside our West Hall expansion, we certainly respect their decision in light of the impact the virus has caused throughout the world," Steve Hill, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said in a statement.

"We value our 40-year partnership with CES and look forward to welcoming the show and their loyal attendees back to Las Vegas in 2022," Hill said.

In May, organizers said they planned to go ahead and hold some events in Las Vegas next year, but the thinking changed as COVID-19 cases spiked around the world, Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro said.

In Nevada over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new coronavirus cases has increased 27%. The state now ranks sixth in the country for new cases per capita.

There was also uncertainty over whether employees of big tech companies would be allowed to travel by January. Google, for example, said this week that its employees should work from home until at least July 2021.

Today's announcement is another blow for Las Vegas which, like other U.S. tourist destinations, is suffering as people stay home or vacation locally.

This year's tech industry show, held in January at at the Convention Center and nearly a dozen other sites, attracted more than 4,500 companies and over 170,000 attendees.

It had an estimated economic impact of more than $283 million, according to the LVCVA. Since 1978, CES has drawn about 4.7 million people to Southern Nevada, the authority said.

In its digital format, CES will continue to be a platform to launch products, engage with global brands and define the future of the tech industry, organizers said. It will offer keynotes, conferences, product showcases, meetings and networking opportunities.

“An all-digital CES 2021 will allow the entire tech community to safely share ideas and introduce the products that will shape our future,” the statement said.

The four-day digital version of CES begins Jan. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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