New York Auto Show cancelled because of Delta Variant

Renewed Covid-19 threat casts shadow on revival for live events; Garth Brooks reconsidering tour schedule

By Dave Sebastian and Anne Steele from the Wall Street Journal, and Mike Colias contributed to this article.

Captions courtesy by the Wall Street Journal

The New York auto show was cancelled Wednesday as the recent rise in Covid-19 cases because of the Delta variant and related restrictions are prompting organizers of live events to re-examine their plans.

Country superstar Garth Brooks said Wednesday (August 4, 2021) that he was weighing whether to finish out his stadium tour this year, citing the resurgence of the virus.

The moves demonstrate the disruptive effect that the Delta variant could have on live events, many of which generate commerce for surrounding restaurants, hotels and other businesses. Such events were largely put on hold after the pandemic hit, but organizers were hoping to bring them back during 2021.

The New York International Auto Show was scheduled to run from Aug. 20 to Aug. 29 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre. Organisers initially took increased vaccinations in New York as a positive sign as they planned for the show, said Mark Schienberg, the show’s president.

“Over the past few weeks, and especially within the last few days, circumstances have changed making it more difficult to create an event at the high standard that we and our clients expect,” Mr. Schienberg said in a statement.

Mr. Brooks said he would hold off selling tickets to his Sept. 4 Seattle date until his team is sure the show can go on. Whether he will go ahead with shows in Cincinnati, Charlotte, N.C., Baltimore and Boston in September and October—for which tickets have already been sold—will be determined in the coming weeks.

“It breaks my heart to see city after city go on sale and then have to ask those sweet people and the venues to reschedule,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s humbling to see people put this much faith in you as an artist, and it kills me to think I am letting them down.”

The entertainer, who regularly sells out shows for 60000 to 90000 fans, said he would proceed with an Aug. 7 show in Kansas City, Mo., and an Aug. 14 engagement in Lincoln, Neb., before a three-week break.

Live events with crowds started to pick up this year and have been expected to increase in the fall. The National Football League, for example, has said it is planning on having its stadiums at full capacity for the coming season. Trade-show organizers have been plotting a comeback for later this year and 2022. CES, the world’s largest tech show, went virtual this year, but organizers have said it will return to Las Vegas in January 2022.

Hotel chain Marriott International Inc. has seen some cancellations for group bookings later this year that could be attributable to the spread of the Delta variant, finance chief Kathleen Oberg told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, even as the company expects a pickup in business travel in the fall.

New York auto show organisers are planning for a return to its regular spring schedule in April 2022, Mr. Schienberg said.

The show’s organisers, in cancelling this year’s show, also cited the increased measures put in place by local officials to stop the Delta variant’s spread. New York City will require people to show proof of vaccination for indoor activities, such as dining, gyms and events, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. The new policy, which will be phased in, will be implemented Aug. 16. By the week of Sept. 13, the city will begin inspections and enforcement, the mayor said.

The seven-day average number of confirmed and probable daily coronavirus cases in New York City now exceeds 1,400, according to city data on Wednesday. That compares with fewer than 250 at the start of July and a peak of more than 6,400 in early January. On Wednesday, the seven-day average for hospitalizations in the city was 47, after hovering between 20 and 35 since the start of June, city data show. The figure was over 300 in January and February of this year.

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The New York show has served as one of North America’s four marquee auto shows, along with those in Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago. It usually is held in the spring, around the Easter holiday, but this year had been rescheduled for August. The 2020 show was canceled because of the pandemic’s onset.

Even before the Covid-19 disruptions, though, auto shows were suffering from declining participation from global auto makers, which historically have used the events as a high-profile venue to reveal new models. Months before the New York show was scrapped last year, German luxury brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi had pulled out.

Car companies in recent years have gravitated toward hosting stand-alone events to unveil important new vehicles, taking a page from Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk.

Chicago hosted its auto show last month, the first of the four major shows to happen since the pandemic hit. It was a scaled-down affair, with fewer auto makers participating and more use of outdoor space for displays and test drives.