Businesses fearful after CERAWeek cancellation due to growing coronavirus fears

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For the past 35 years, the Who's Who in the energy community have gathered in Houston at the annual CERAWeek conference.

It grew to more than 5,000 delegates from around the world, and was scheduled for mid-March.

It was abruptly cancelled Sunday because of what the organization calls the rapidly mounting concern over the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has prompted travel bans, and extra restrictive border health checks.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said he was informed of the cancellation prior to the announcement and said he supported the decision.

"To bring representatives from 85 different countries, and countries where there is the presence of the coronavirus. Quite frankly, in my conversations with them, I too agreed. Not right now."

It is a hit to Houston's convention center industry, and to the businesses that rely on this conference.

The two downtown convention center hotels suddenly have rooms available. The question is whether they can be filled with other guests.

Cab driver Eric Ogubka believes that will be a challenge. "It's hurting our business because foreigners aren't coming in," he said.

"We've seen it at both airports since the news of the virus was reported weeks ago. People here aren't going to the airports like they had."

For people reluctant to travel, Turner suggests they rediscover the city they call home.

"It's spring break time, and for students and others hesitant to go outside the country, this would be an excellent time for a staycation, to patronize our local establishments, and help them through this," he said.

He emphasized that Houston and Harris County have not had a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

"If we do, I will tell you immediately. But life still has to go forward and life has to go on. We can't live in fear."

IHS Markit said they were "deeply disappointed" about cancelling the conference.

The press release stated:

Over the last few days concern has mounted rapidly about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The World Health Organization raised the threat level on Friday, the U.S. government cancelled a summit meeting scheduled in Las Vegas, an increasing number of companies are instituting travel bans and restrictions, border health checks are becoming more restrictive and there is growing concern about large conferences with people coming from different parts of the world. Delegates from over 80 countries were expected to participate in CERAWeek 2020.

IHS hopes to continue with CERAWeek 2021 in Houston which is scheduled for March 1-5.

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