Mobile World Congress attendance surpasses 70K, GSMA vows to improve transportation

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BARCELONA, Spain--The GSMA said the 2013 Mobile World Congress attracted more than 72,000 attendees, surpassing the 67,000 who were at the 2012 show and setting a new record. In addition, GSMA Director General Anne Bouverot said the organization will work hard to improve the transportation issues that many attendees experienced getting to and from the Fira Gran Via.

The trade group said Thursday that more than 50 percent of this year's Mobile World Congress attendees had C-level positions, including more than 4,300 CEOs. The show had more than 1,700 exhibiting companies across more than 1 million net square feet of exhibition and hospitality space. According to GSMA, a preliminary independent economic analysis found that the 2013 Mobile World Congress contributed more than $418.6 million (€320 million)  to the local economy here, representing an increase of around $25 million over the economic impact of the 2012 event.

Because the Barcelona subway system does not go directly to the Fira Gran Via, attendees had to be shuttled from the old Fira Montjuic to the Fira Gran Via by shuttle bus or train. At peak times, particularly on the first day of the conference, both modes of transportation became jammed with people trying to get to and from the show. Lines for taxis stretched for blocks.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Bouverot said the feedback on the new venue from GSMA members and exhibitors has been overwhelmingly positive, noting that the wireless industry is a very progressive industry and therefore it is fitting that the conference be at a more modern facility.

She also said the transportation issues will be improved by next year, even though it is uncertain whether the subway, which Barcelona plans to extend to the Fira Gran Via, will be complete in time for the 2014 conference. 

The GSMA also said that 10,500 attendees--14.6 percent of the total-- participated in its NFC Experience. Attendees with NFC-enabled phones were able to use their phones as their badges to enter the facility, pay for food from the food vendors and receive information and coupons.  Bouverot said this was the first time that any conference enabled attendees to enter using an NFC-equipped badge.

For more:
- see this release

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Article updated Feb. 28 with additional information from the GSMA.