As a CEO running a national trade association – the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) – these past 18 months put me on a roller coaster of emotion as I work to lead by example and make decisions that will have positive effects.
In July 2020, I led the decision process to cancel our live, in-person, CES and opt for a digital show instead. This was a difficult choice because I knew it was going to have a negative effect on a lot of people. First, our staff – we had to downsize and lay off employees. Second, the City of Las Vegas – they rely on events like CES to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city and fuel their local economy. Canceling our in-person CES affected the hotels and the hospitality workers and the workers who welcome us each year and help us pull off the most influential tech gathering in the world! Third, the industry – tens of thousands each year gather at CES to see the latest innovation, to meet new business partners and to develop new ideas.
As difficult as that decision was, I knew it was the right one because with no vaccine available it simply was not safe to hold CES during a pandemic. Our only defense against COVID-19 at that time was to minimize contact with people, wash our hands and wear face masks. Canceling the in-person CES was the right thing to do – we wanted to do our part and not spread the disease.
Fast forward a year to August 2021. Vaccines are readily available in the United States and several other countries. More and more Americans are now fully vaccinated. However, as vaccines are making their way around the world, so is a new threat – the Delta variant.
We have seen a spike in cases due to the Delta variant, which is severely hurting the unvaccinated population. Yes, there are breakthrough cases for the vaccinated, but many of those have few or no symptoms at all. And of the vaccinated getting the Delta variant, only a tiny percentage are hospitalized.
We prioritize the safety and security of CES participants. Which is why, once again, my team has confronted a major decision: CES will be in person in Las Vegas in January 2022, and we will require all attendees to be fully vaccinated. We are also assessing proof of a positive antibody test as a requirement and will share more details on this later. Importantly, we will continue to follow state and local guidelines and recommendations by the CDC and will announce additional protocols as we get closer to the show.
We all play a role in stopping the spread – requiring proof of vaccination for CES 2022 is one way we can take responsibility on our part.
Many are clamoring to return to the serendipity and relationship-building of in-person events—so are we. CES is where business gets done. It’s an economic engine for our industry and an opportunity for companies from around the world, both large and small, to launch products, build brands and form partnerships. Tech has also evolved by leaps and bounds in the last year and a half—we need to convene and connect so we can maintain our momentum and continue to inspire innovative solutions for a rapidly changing world.
We know our decision to require vaccines—and potentially positive antibody tests—may not be popular for some, but for many others it will allow them to know they can experience CES once again—and get back to business as usual.
For those who cannot attend CES in person, we offer the CES experience through our digital platform and hope to welcome you back to Las Vegas in 2023. Regardless of how you choose to participate in CES 2022, I hope you find inspiration, make new connections, build your business and step into the rest of the year with a renewed sense of hope for how tech continues to improve all our lives.