CES will go ‘online only’ for 2021

The blockbuster trade show will not land in Las Vegas next year.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

The Consumer Technology Association has announced that CES will no longer go ahead in January 2021 as previously planned. CES is the world’s biggest consumer technology show, dominating much of the news agenda at the start of the year. In a statement, organizers say that the 2021 show will now be an “all-digital experience.”

“Amid the pandemic,” says CTA chief Gary Shapiro, “it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January.” Some might say that the decision has been a long time coming, since a number of other events have been pulled as the pandemic has raged on. As recently as June, the CTA said that it was expecting CES 2021 to take place live, in Las Vegas.

It didn’t help CES’ cause that, back in April, there was a news story suggesting that the 2020 event had helped supercharge the spread of the virus. Given that the event had 182,000 attendees from all over the world, all of whom were packed like sardines into trade show halls, it’s certainly plausible. It didn’t help that video footage emerging from Las Vegas casino floors showed a number of patrons not wearing masks, and all in close proximity to one another.

The CTA had said, for CES 2021, that it was expecting to take a number of extra precautions to enable the show to go ahead. That included wider aisles, more space in meeting and breakout areas as well as regular sanitation of booths and tables. Despite this, it’s likely that a number of companies would prefer to stay at home rather than spend a lot of money sending their employees to the event.

We’ll wait to learn more about how this digital-only event will take place, and how the CTA will encourage discovery of lesser-known startups in this new format.