The South by Southwest annual festival was canceled this year due to the threat of coronavirus. This cancellation is only one example of how fears of COVID-19 are wrecking local economies. Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the cancellation of this year’s SXSW on Friday, March 6.
Small businesses in Austin depend on the large injection of cash local conventions and other events bring. Local musicians, bartenders and gig workers will also feel the strain without the festival. Some will still put on shows for those who show up in Austin anyway.
For local musicians in Austin, the chance to be noticed by people from Los Angeles or New York is all but gone for this year. These musicians need the exposure to boost their careers, so it’s not simply a loss of cash for them. They also are losing big networking and career opportunities.
Food truck operators generally have slow months at the start of the year and depend on the SXSW festival to make up for those lean months and get them back in the black. This year, that may not happen. In fact, caterers, restaurants, and bars that prepared for the festival by purchasing new equipment to handle the load and hiring new employees may find themselves struggling to stay open without the festival.
Even Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts will feel the sting. Photographers and filmmakers are also out of work and will also lose the opportunity to make important connections and get wider exposure.
Everyone set to put on the event itself – all the workers who set everything up and make it work – all of those people are also taking a loss, along with everyone else.
The biggest loser may be the city of Austin itself. The lost tax revenue will be felt, possibly for years to come.