Facebook and Armani the latest to cancel events as coronavirus fear hits global exhibitions and conferences sector

More than 24 exhibitions and conferences worldwide have cancelled or postponed, with more pain expected to come as the coronavirus outbreak spreads to countries outside China.

The coronavirus has infected more than 76,000 people, up from 282 cases a month ago.

Facebook said it was pulling out of next month’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, which follows hot on the heels of the cancellation of its annual Global Marketing Summit also in San Francisco, which was expected to attract more than 4000 participants.

Following a sudden spike in coronavirus cases in northern Italy, fashion designer Giorgio Armani also opted to stage his Milan Fashion Week show without an audience, instead streaming footage of his latest collection online.

“The show will be shown behind closed doors, due to the recent developments of coronavirus in Italy, live-streamed in front of an empty teatro [theater] on the Armani website, therefore please do not attend the show this afternoon,” the fashion house said in a statement.

“The decision was taken to safeguard the well-being of all his invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces.”

Shanghai Fashion Week, which features more than 1200 fashion brands, has also been postponed from its date at the end of March.

The Beijing Auto Show, originally scheduled for late April, was postponed earlier this week, while the Food&HotelAsia-Hotel Restaurant and Cafe expo in Singapore has been moved from March to July.

Speaking to CNBC, Center for Exhibition Industry Research CEO Cathy Breden said the full scope of the economic impact on the US$2.5 trillion global business events industry will be “substantial” but won’t be known until later this year.